Akanksha: A ray of hope in Hailkandi

Hailkandi is considered as one of the most backward districts of Assam with 50% of the area reserved as forest. It is a part of Aspirational Districts Programme initiated by NitiAayog in partnership with Piramal School of Leadership to improve the performances in key indicators that measure development including education. The same district registered a 30 percent increase in learning outcomes of students at lower and upper primary levels in December 2019. Named Akanksha, an Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) launched by the district administration and Department of Education in collaboration with Piramal School of Leadership in September 2019 has yielded positive outcomes. The programme was launched to tackle the gap in foundation skills of language and numeracy of students of primary and upper primary schools.

Akanksha is a 45-day course focusing on language and numeracy. Students of elementary government schools are taught by local volunteers under this program. The Accelerated Learning Programme is envisioned to assist students to achieve expected competencies in core academic subjects. The unique component of the programme is the specially designed learning experience customized for children’s special needs.

Local youth teaching students of government schools has become a common sight in Hailkandi for past five months. Most of these students hail from Below Poverty Line with their parents working in either tea plantations or other daily wage labour jobs. The program is driven by power of youth on display.

In the first phase of Akanksha, from September to December 2019, 230 education volunteers and teachers were involved in raising the learning outcomes of students of lower and upper primary levels in 100 government schools across the district. “Following the successful implementation of Akanksha Phase I, the education scenario has changed considerably at the elementary stage. The learning outcomes of students of lower and upper primary levels have registered a 30 percent increase in a span of 45 days,” tells Sadasiva Reddy, Program Leader, Kaivalya Education Foundation. The programme with a focus on language and mathematics is aimed at extending additional help to students who have performed below par in language and mathematics and are lagging behind the rest of the students in a normal class situation. “The program helps to raise the language and numeracy levels at an early stage to increase the pace of learning of the students in the aspirational district,” adds Reddy. The programme also uses the Google BOLO app to increase reading levels.

The Accelerated Learning Programme improved student learning outcomes by 30% in 100 Happy Schools, thereby causing an impact on 15,000 students. In appreciation of their efforts which directly contributed to the improvement in the learning outcome for the period September to December, the district administration organized a certificate distribution event for the volunteers. Of the 230 volunteers, 180 received certificates from the Deputy Commissioner.

The Akanksha Phase II of the program is set to impact another 230 schools. The ALP is envisioned to assist students to achieve expected competencies in core academic subjects. Skills and competencies are mapped through NCERT parameters. “Language framework enables students to read two sentences with three to four words while Maths framework helps them to do simple two-digit addition and subtraction with borrowing,” tells Reddy.

The program has helped to accelerate the pace of learning of students who lagged behind others in a normal class situation in language and numeracy. Phase II of Akanksha is set to create greater impact on the learning outcomes of Hailkandi with the willpower and energy of youth volunteers at display.