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Nurturing a Billion Dreams

2023-11-24 By RUSTOM KERAWALLA (Founder Chairman)

Nurturing a Billion Dreams - RUSTOM KERAWALLA (Founder Chairman) | Ampersand Group

Imagine the power of a billion ignited minds. The sheer energy, innovation, creativity and boundless possibilities that await.

As we celebrate National Education Day, I recall the vision we at Ampersand Group saw at the start of our journey, 20 years ago. A vision that saw the potential of a billion aspirations, with education as a key to open the doors to a brighter, more prosperous future.

At that moment, we made a commitment.

To nurture young minds, making them ready for a dynamically changing world through a holistic, value-based approach to education. To enable the transformation of lives at an individual, family and community level.

A commitment to nation-building.

Today, the Ampersand Group is a leader in the education sector and is an active partner with Central and State Governments in several skill development and livelihood projects pan-India.

Does that vision of a billion ignited minds hold good today, in the face of a rapidly changing world? Here’s how the education sector can stay true to this commitment:

  • Focus on holistic development curriculum, including Academics, Sports, Performing Arts, as well as students’ Social and Emotional development and their interactions with teachers, peers, families and communities.
  • Adopt an interdisciplinary approach to apply subject knowledge across the boundaries of disciplines to solve complex issues in the real world.
  • Stay flexible. Bear in mind the 5 Cs of 21st century learning i.e. Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Character.
  • Prioritise students’ physical and mental health. It is imperative for every school to offer resources and support to ensure that students stay both physically healthy as well as emotionally resilient.
  • Update curricula and pedagogy frequently, to keep pace with a world that is transforming at an unprecedented rate. This adaptive innovation in education is vital to help our students discover and retain the joy of learning.

What are the other best practices that an educator can use, given the various steps of a student’s Education to Work journey?

With the Government’s efforts achieving nearly universal access to education at the elementary level, Pre-Primary educators can enable a sound start to their young wards by:

  • Adopting multi-sensory foundational literacy and numeracy programmes, combining Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic tools for our younger students.
  • Imparting basic life skills such as time management, organization, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills promotes creativity, self-expression and develops self-regulation and resilience amongst young children.
  • Inculcating social and ethical values in the foundational stage of learning as it helps in shaping the personality and character of an individual.

In addition, here is how secondary and higher education policy makers can ensure skill development and livelihood opportunities for young adults:

  • Integrate vocational training into the high school curriculum. NEP 2020 envisages it as a part of mainstream education and has set an ambitious goal, by 2025, at least 50% of students are expected to have exposure to vocational education*.
  • Strengthen Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). PPP can play a pivotal role in building Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at secondary levels by creating an ecosystem of vocational trainings, industry partnerships, skill development along with better employability and livelihood opportunities.
  • Industry alignment and innovation further encourages the integration of industry-relevant skills and vocational training, brings in industry expertise and increases internship and placement opportunities. This allows educational programs to align with evolving job market requirements.
  • Balancing private interests with social objectives should be at the core of the education sector. Every stakeholder, be it a private organisation, government body, NGO or citizen, has to play their part in strengthening the education sector.

In a world that is becoming more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, education can prove to be the inflexion point. As we prepare the next generation for the future, so must our educational institutions be willing to adapt to a changing world.

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Ensuring Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

2023-06-22 By Aanchal Vasandani (Vice President Academic Content)

Ensuring Foundational Literacy and Numeracy - Aanchal Vasandani (Vice President Academic Content) | Ampersand Group

The G20 Education Working Group (EdWG) meeting was held from 19th to 21st June in Pune, with the theme 'Ensuring Foundation Literacy and Numeracy (FLN)', especially in the context of ‘blended learning’. India’s G20 Presidency provided an amazing opportunity to demonstrate leadership in this area.

India’s national mission, under NIPUN BHARAT1 along with the NEP-2020 guidelines for ECCE to address the problem and the challenges of foundational literacy are innovative and visionary. The vision of the NIPUN BHARAT mission is to ensure that every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing and numeracy at the end of Class III.

In the backdrop of this, it is important for us to know

  • What FLN is?
  • Why it is important?
  • How can blended learning help achieve FLN goals?

Early childhood is a critical period of child development with literacy and numeracy development beginning in the first three years of life. Parents, home and school environment, social interactions of children and interactions with various materials such as books, puzzles and games are the building blocks for the development of language, reading, writing and numeracy skills.

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy is more than just the child’s ability to read basic texts and solve number operations. Young children are very eager to share their thoughts, ideas, needs, and feelings. Through language, they learn to organise their thoughts, ideas and communicate their feelings.

Foundational Literacy refers to phonics development, decoding sounds, reading fluency, reading comprehension and writing. It helps them decode meaning from the text and voice, based on their experiences of the language.

Whereas Foundational Numeracy is all about developing number sense, understanding shapes, spatial relationships, measurement, data handling etc.2 It also encompasses the ability to use mathematical skills to solve problems.

FLN skills are foundational for learning and have been scientifically correlated with better educational outcomes in later years. However, a lack of learning opportunities and appropriate exposure to proper stimuli during early years’ hampers children’s academic progress throughout life.

The Ampersand Group recognises that a multifaceted approach that focusses on multi-lingual, play-based, observational and outcome-based learning with interactive, hands-on and experiential pedagogy methods works best.

VIBGYOR Group of Schools, a part of the Ampersand Group, uses a comprehensive, researched-based personalised approach to achieve FLN through its proprietary curriculum incorporating blended learning models. In Blended Learning models, we use a mix of traditional face-to-face and online learning, combining the best of both. Teachers use online audio-visual resources like rhymes, theme-based stories, and interactive exercises, carefully blended into the offline curriculum.

We at VIBGYOR Group of Schools has developed e-learning assets in-house, with a family of animated characters as a hook, incorporating play, discovery and activity-based pedagogy, linking it to daily life situations of children.

Our carefully-crafted curriculum is based on extensive research of best practices by philosophers and theorists in the field of education and child development, to address the four important aspects of FLN:

  • Foundational Literacy
  • Foundational Numeracy
  • Fine Motor and Basic Life Skills
  • Social Values

VIBGYOR Group of Schools has specialised multi-sensory programmes, combining Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic tools for development of each of these skills.

  • For literacy:

    Our balanced literacy program focuses equally on listening, speaking, reading and writing skills through appropriate mix of phonics and the whole language programme.

  • For numeracy:

    Our activity-based models teach numbers, operations on numbers, shapes, spatial understanding, measurement and data handling.

  • Fine motor skills:

    These are crucial for foundational literacy, as they support the development of handwriting, letter formation and eye- hand coordination. Activities such as tracing letters, drawing, and using manipulatives along with audio-visual aids are used for the development of fine motor skills.

  • Basic Life Skills:

    These encompass a range of practical abilities like personal hygiene, time management, organization, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills. Engaging in group activities, music, games, arts and crafts, promotes creativity, self-expression and develops self-regulation and resilience among children.

  • Social Values:

    Inculcating social and ethical values in foundational education is important as it helps in shaping the personality and character of an individual. We encourage values such as honesty, fraternity, empathy, gratitude etc. by respecting parents, teachers and elders, saving water, showing empathy to animals and so on.

With the world moving towards digitisation, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, coding skill sets in the near future, it will transform the way we live and the way we work and teach. Hence, our children need to harness the spectrum of skills like empathy, creativity, social skills, problem-solving and innovation skills from their early years itself. Our endeavour is to support the building of such skills by providing a suitable learning environment and structured age-appropriate learning interventions through an enhanced and balanced curriculum.

Implementing a Blended Learning approach to ensure Foundational Literacy and Numeracy requires careful planning and execution, taking care not to over-expose the child to excessive screen time.

Our Blended Learning models aim to strike a balance between screen time and hands-on, play-based learning experiences. Children get a maximum of 10 minutes of screen time each day, out of a 4-hour programme.

With a meticulously crafted implementation plan and continuous ongoing support, blended learning can ensure that every child receives a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy, for them to be successful and life-long learners. We, at Ampersand Group, envision an exciting future for our young learners, one in which they will make a positive contribution to society as responsible citizens while polishing their academic aptitude and by placing focus on building 21st Century Skills.

The broad objective of the G20 Education Working Group (EdWG) conference was to reflect on two important themes-teaching learning approaches and pedagogy for FLN in the context of blended Learning. We, at Ampersand Group, closely followed panel discussions and outcomes of the conference so as to incorporate best practices to address the learning gaps in FLN.

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Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in Education

2023-10-11 By Raj Ahuja (Group President & Group Chief Financial Officer)

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in Education - Raj Ahuja (Group President & Group Chief Financial Officer) | Ampersand Group

The Indian economy is one of the fastest growing major economies in the world.

This rate of growth requires rapid improvements and additions to both the physical and economic infrastructure capabilities in the country. However, infrastructure’s ability to keep up pace with the #Indianeconomy has been heavily constrained by the availability of resources with the governments for investments in creating public goods. This necessitates the requirement of private players to partner with various central and state governments and help in creating infrastructure to meet the growing demands of the nation. This leads to an important role, which can be played by Public Private Partnership (PPP).

What is #PPP?

In simple words, PPP is a symbiotic relationship where the public and private sector work together to optimally utilise each other’s knowledge, resources, skills and expertise for the provision of public infrastructure in various areas and/ or related services for the benefit of the public.

Many governments across the world turn to PPP for the development of public assets and related services, especially where resource constraints are prevalent.

A prime case in point is the #education sector, where India spends close to 3% of its GDP, which is less than the proposed 6%, mandated in a number of policy documents. Due to resource constraints, central and state governments have now begun to recognize the significance of PPPs in education.

To understand PPPs in the context of the Indian education ecosystem, let us consider:

  • Importance of PPPs in education
  • Preferred PPP models
  • Success stories examples of PPPs in education

Importance of PPP in education:

PPPs play a crucial role in the context of Indian education ecosystem due to the following reasons:

  • Bridging the quality and infrastructure gap: PPPs can bridge quality and physical infrastructure deficit by using underutilized school infrastructure across India especially, in major metropolitan areas such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune and Ahmedabad. For new infrastructure, PPPs ensure that public resources are optimally utilized and #infrastructure is developed at a faster pace, improving access to well-equipped schools.
  • Increasing access to education: India has a high dropout rate at the #secondaryschool. Now that the Government’s efforts have made access at the elementary level nearly universal, the focus now needs to shift towards increasing learning outcomes and higher enrolments at secondary and in higher education. PPPs can increase #GrossEnrolmentRatio (GER) at secondary levels by inculcating vocational trainings, industry partnerships, skill development for better employability and livelihood. PPPs can also play a vital role in expanding access to education, particularly for marginalized segments and under-served regions by supporting infrastructure for schools in remote places, scholarship and educational initiatives specifically for these groups; thereby ensuring education reaches every child, regardless of their socio-economic background or geographical location.
  • Augmenting teaching quality and methodologies: Private sector participation brings fresh perspectives, innovative teaching methodologies, and technology integration to education. Through PPPs, schools and colleges can benefit from the private sector's expertise in curriculum development, #teachertraining, pedagogy and instructional design. This leads to enhanced teaching quality, better learning experiences, and improved academic outcomes.
  • Industry alignment and innovation: PPPs encourage the integration of industry-relevant skills and vocational training, bring industry expertise, connections and increases internship and placement opportunities, allowing educational programs to align with evolving job market requirements. This collaboration equips students with practical skills, enhances employability, and contributes to the country's economic growth by producing a skilled workforce.
  • Risks and rewards sharing: PPPs distribute risks and rewards between the public and private sectors. Governments can transfer financial and operational risks to private partners thereby reducing the burden on public finances. At the same time, private partners can be incentivized through revenue-sharing models or performance-based contracts, aligning their interests towards operational excellence.

Types of PPP models in education:

India has experimented with various PPP models. Implementation of these models vary on parameters such as ownership of institutes, infrastructure, types of teachers, type and extent of aid, operating model and so on. Some prominent forms of PPPs are as follows:

  • School Infrastructure Initiative:

    Here private partner builds, owns and operates (BOT) school infrastructure and government pays a fee for these services to the private players.

  • Capacity Building:

    Government pays the private partner for provision of specific support or services like teacher training, curriculum building, textbook provision, sports etc.

  • Purchase of Educational Services:

    Government sponsors students to attend private schools through financial aids.

  • Voucher-like Programmes:

    Government provides vouchers to parents to pay school of their choice. The reservation of 25% of seats in private schools for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) under #RTE2009 is an example of this.

  • School Operations and Management:

    Private player manages day-to-day operations of public schools which are publicly owned and funded.

Success stories in PPP model

Although PPP projects are not very popular in the education sector unlike that of energy, road, physical infrastructure or tourism projects, there are some examples of PPP in Education that have seen success:

  • Atal Tinkering Labs:

    The Atal Innovation Mission, a flagship initiative of the Indian government, promotes PPPs in education through #AtalTinkeringLabs. Private partners collaborate with schools to provide mentorship, infrastructure, and industry connections, fostering a spirit of innovation.

  • Model Schools:

    Private partners invest in infrastructure development, teacher training, and technology integration, enabling schools to offer quality education.

    Ampersand Group has played a crucial role as PPP in the Operations and Management of government schools in Punjab.

  • Early Childhood Care and Education:

    The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Ampersand Group public-private-partnership has given a veritable facelift to over 575 #Balwadis in the city. With a structured curriculum, #phygital (digital and non-digital) learning resources, multilingual content with integrated assessments, use of local materials for teaching aids, these Balwadis students have shown substantial improvement in their #language, #literacy and #communication skills, along with #cognitive, #sensory and #perceptual development.

    Studies show that a strong foundational-level learning environment goes a long way in enabling the school-readiness of young children and the increase by 100% in enrollments at a school-entry level is a valid testimony to it.

    PPP can be a wonderful tool to bridge the gap between government, private service providers and industry requirements. However, it requires determination and a long-term vision. Successful implementation of PPPs in education requires overcoming challenges such as funding models, equitable access, quality assurance and regulatory frameworks. Balancing private player’s interests with social objectives and ensuring accountability are also essential considerations. Regular #stakeholder consultations, sharing of best practices, and knowledge exchange forums can address these challenges.

    Altogether, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) have emerged as a powerful catalyst for the Indian education ecosystem. By leveraging the strengths of both sectors, PPPs are expanding access, enhancing learning outcomes, fostering innovation, and preparing students for the challenges of the future.

    As India strives to provide inclusive, equitable and quality education to all its citizens, PPPs will continue to play a pivotal role.


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