The mission of The School Project is to create a model for high-performing schools that redefines what is possible for children from low-income communities, and has the potential to drive wider systemic reform.
In India today, 96% of primary school age children are enrolled in school. The quality of learning indicators, however, is of persistently low levels– with low standards of education, up to 25% absenteeism amongst government school teachers, a 50% drop out rate between grade 1 and grade 5, and 90% dropout by grade 10.
A few years after the millennium, there began a trend amongst people living in low-income urban communities of putting their children into low-fee or ‘affordable’ private schools. Today, approximately only 40% of the 1.1 million children living in the city of Mumbai attend government schools. In response, The Municipal Corporations of Pune (PMC) and Mumbai (MCGM) acknowledged the insufficient supply of English-medium schools and have initiated setting up of new municipal schools of this kind.
Based on this organizational history and environmental context, Akanksha decided to step back and redefine its approach to its mission of equipping all children with an education that has the power to fundamentally transform their life trajectory.
In 2006, Anu Aga, an Akanksha board member, approached the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to adopt a municipal school through the Thermax Social Initiatives Foundation (TSIF). The PMC granted permission for TSIF to run the KC Thackeray Vidya Niketan Municipal School, serving the scholarship students across the municipal schools in Pune from Standard 3 and above. Although Akanksha was initially an unofficial partner in this initiative, the seeds of The School Project were sown with the opening of the first school in June 2007.
In the first year of the school opening, TSIF and Akanksha chose to administer a 3rd party assessment called ‘ASSET’, an assessment, fairly new at the time, taken by a small pool of elite private schools. On this baseline assessment, the children performed anywhere from 30-70% below the mean. Eight months later, the students had bridged an achievement gap of nearly 25 percentage points— with some students performing near the mean. These promising initial results built confidence in the potential of schools to provide the kind of environment that children from low-income communities needed.
In 2008, Akanksha decided that working within the government system offered more scope to reach more children and one day be an advocate for education reform from within the system, using the case study of the Akanksha Schools as a model of what can work in public education. With 13 schools across both cities, this model continues to grow and thrive today.