Edtech-focused accelerator to back foundational learning for kids from low-income communities
This consortium, which benefits from the expertise and support of founding partners Reliance Foundation and UBS Optimus Foundation with design and implementation by Central Square Foundation, British Asian Trust as fund manager and the US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing technical assistance to support the fund design and management.
A consortium of leading non-profit and philanthropic organisations in the Indian education sector has launched an edtech accelerator to support foundational learning of children at-home. The consortium will invest Rs 20 crore over two years for solutions solving some of the most complex problems in the foundational learning edTech space. This consortium, which benefits from the expertise and support of founding partners Reliance Foundation and UBS Optimus Foundation with design and implementation by Central Square Foundation, British Asian Trust as fund manager and the US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing technical assistance to support the fund design and management.
According to a statement from the consortium, achieving universal Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills for children is critical to bridging the learning gap exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. EdTech solutions that can be used at home have significant potential to bridge this gap. The accelerator will fund eight high-quality edtech solutions from both non-profit and private organisations that aim to build, pilot, measure, and test innovative ideas. According to the statement, impact-focused grant funding and dedicated mentoring support will be available in Year 1, and grants to further scale up this work will be available in Year 2, thereby reaching up to 2.5 million children by 2025. It also said applications are now open for the edtech accelerator.
The accelerator forms an integral part of 'Back-to-School Outcomes Fund', which is the first collaborative initiative, alongside the government of India's NIPUN Bharat Mission to achieve FLN goals for all children in India. The programme aims to support edtech solutions that are seeking to provide access to affordable and quality learning solutions for low-income segments. It will also help organisations innovate to address challenges, and build evidence on learning outcomes, benchmarks and cost-effectiveness, thereby supporting the education ecosystem to improve access to quality education at scale.
Organisations are invited to apply at edtechaccelerator.org, the statement said, adding the edtech accelerator will be accepting applications until January 8, 2023. Shaveta Sharma-Kukreja, CEO and MD, Central Square Foundation, said, "Among over 9,000 edTech organisations in India, only about ONE per cent focus on foundational learning, and even fewer have built products for low-income segments. NIPUN is an ambitious programme and home learning will be critical to help our children. The accelerator adopts a unique approach catalysing supply of diverse high-quality solutions and galvanising demand for at-home learning."
The Accelerator is committed to nurture a vibrant ecosystem of mission-aligned edtech organisations offering high-quality solutions. Jagannatha Kumar, CEO, Reliance Foundation, said, "India has seen a significant increase in edTech solutions especially to address the concerns of the past two years. The challenge remains to democratise the edTech solutions across households. New solutions need to address scale, adoption and contextualisation for equitable access and opportunity. Through co-founding the edTech Accelerator, we are committed to supporting the development of evidence-backed pedagogically sound and contextually relevant solutions to create a vibrant ecosystem to address this need."
Dhun Davar, Head of Social Impact and Philanthropy India, and Middle East, UBS, and Head of Social Finance, UBS Optimus Foundation, emphasised that the time is right for such catalytic Investments. He said, "Globally, and in India, there exists evidence to suggest that at-home learning and engaging parents in the learning process helps reinforce the skills learnt by children in school, thus improving learning outcomes of children. By enabling scale-up of contextually relevant edtech solutions to support foundational learning at home, the accelerator will help address the significant learning losses due to the pandemic, especially for children from low-income communities in India owing to the sharp inequities in technology access."
USAID/India Mission Director Veena Reddy said, "At USAID, we believe education is a foundational driver of development outcomes. With the world's largest youth population, supporting foundational learning in India is an investment in the world's future. Through partnering with the private sector and civil society to develop innovative learning models, the edTech Accelerator will enable improved educational outcomes and a more equitable and accessible learning environment." Speaking on Back-to-School Outcomes fund, Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive, the British Asian Trust, added, "Achieving universal foundational literacy and numeracy skills is critical for the wellbeing of millions of India's children and in the longer-term, for India's economic growth. To mitigate the learning gap which increased with Covid-19, we need rapid innovation and collaborative action from civil society, private sector partners and philanthropic organisations working alongside the Government of India. Innovative social financing is the mechanism enabling that, nudging boundaries and fostering innovation in new ways by changing the whole edtech marketplace to in turn learning outcomes for those children most in need." (ANI)
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