April 2005

Portrait

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The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) India


AKF is part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN, www.akdn.org), a group of eight private, non-denominational, international development agencies that are committed to promote health, education and rural development in low-income countries of South and Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Established in 1967 by His Highness the Aga Khan, the Foundation with support of local and national government authorities provides grants and funding, specially to grassroots organisations for development projects and seeks to foster an innovative approach to social and environmental problems. The Foundation has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and branch offices in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kyrgyz Republic, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania and Syria and has affiliates in Canada, Portugal, Tajikistan, UK and USA.

The India office of the Foundation was established in 1978. It has made substantial investments in education, health, rural development and the creation and strengthening of civil society. The Aga Khan Foundation's education programme seeks to promote the holistic development of children by improving the quality of education from the pre-school to primary level and focusing on minority and disadvantaged communities. In health, it supports the strengthening of integrated community-based health service delivery and environmental health through programmes like Gujarat Health Systems Development Project, Community Led Initiatives for Child Survival Programme and Gujarat Environmental Health Improvement Project. The health programme focuses on the sustainable improvement of well-being of children under three and women in the reproductive age group by involving private and public health service providers and village communities. The implementing partner for rural development programme is the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The programme focuses on the reduction of rural poverty through promotion of rural livelihood and community based natural resource management and improvement of national and state level practices and policies.

Programme for Enrichment of School Level Education (PESLE)
The objectives of the education programme are to ensure better early caring and learning environment for young children, to increase access to education, to keep the children in school longer and to raise the levels of academic achievement. Keeping these objectives in mind, AKF has developed Programme for Enrichment of School Level Education (PESLE, www.pesle.org) in India. It is a community based school improvement programme that works for improvement of quality of school education (both private and government schools) by involving teachers, students, administrators, parents and communities. The focus is to provide special attention to children, specially from disadvantaged and minority communities, by addressing the three key challenges: enrolment, retention and learning achievement. The programme is running in 1,071 schools in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan involving 2,27,500 students (Source: AKF). There are four factors that are being addressed to improve the quality of basic education: the location, timing, curriculum and content of teacher training; professional development for all categories of educators and caregivers; the role of governments, NGOs, communities and parents in financing and managing education; cultural and economic relevance of the curriculum.

The programme partners under PESLE have initiatives a series of innovative approaches and experiments to improve school effectiveness. Modules have been developed to train and mentor teachers, educators and administrators on the job. Several 'resource centres' have been established for training teachers on student-centred teaching, in-classroom support and follow-up. Communities have been made active stakeholders in the education process. They regularly provide feedback and qualitative inputs to enhance teaching-learning processes in the classrooms. Regular interaction with the community in the form of meetings enable the community to take decisions for school improvement including those related to infrastructure, facilities and schooling processes, thereby consolidating the progress made in schools. Parents have been also mobilised to enhance their role as care givers. In order to educate girls, participation of mothers has been prioritised. At the classroom level, a co-operative spirit among the students is encouraged allowing the expression and pursuit of natural curiosities, thereby enhancing cognitive and learning outcomes. Programme partners are encouraged to take into account the socio-cultural contexts of the children while developing the curriculum so that it is in conformity with child's interaction with society.

Under PESLE project, AKF is currently working through four implementing partners: Bodh Shiksha Samiti, working in the slums of Jaipur and rural areas of Rajasthan; Dr. Reddy's Foundation for Human and Social Development, providing education to working children of Hyderabad in collaboration with Andhra Pradesh State Police Department and the State Education Department; Society for All Round Development (SARD), providing education to poor children, particularly girls of one of the most marginalised communities in Rajasthan; and Aga Khan Education Service, India, whose schools are located in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

To take a hard look at the performance, the Aga Khan Foundation has designed and installed a Management Information System (MIS) to measure impact across schools. Trends of participation rates in terms of gender, attendance pattern and academic performance of the students have seen a marked improvement. Among the beneficiaries, 36% is from Muslim minority group and 82% of the Hindu students are from disadvantaged section. Girl's enrolment is as high as 63% compared to the all India figure of only 42%. Average attendance of students is 82% compared to the all India figure of only 51%.

With these positive outcomes, AKF's school Improvement Programme has set the framework for greater interaction with the wider school education system to enhance quality of learning.

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