EkStep Foundation was founded in 2015 with the audacious goal of improving literacy and numeracy by enhancing access to learning opportunities for 200 million children across India. A goal this audacious needed an equally audacious solution: to build a solution for scale, one with the potential to reach 200 million students, 10 million teachers, covering 20+ regional languages and 60+ educational boards.
To reach this goal, they had to find a way to enhance and amplify the efforts of educators by making high-quality resources accessible and cultivating a space where they can connect with and learn from one another. They had to find a way to restore the agency of all within the education system. But, how? By solving the Platform way.
The quest for the core interaction
The moment of truth for education is when the teacher enters the classroom and faces the child. At that point, can a new pathway emerge instead of rote learning and just repeating what’s written in the books? Can capability be built in teachers to teach differently, agency be restored in children to learn differently and capacity be created in the classroom environment to enable both of them?
To solve with speed and at scale, leveraging technology was critical to the EkStep Foundation team. However, it wasn’t simply a matter of replacing traditional teacher-to-student instruction with technology. Their approach was to build an open, digital infrastructure that could support and amplify the work of all the existing actors and enable the co-creation of a wide range of solutions. This led them to build Sunbird.
Levering Sunbird, the Government of India launched a National Teacher Training Platform in 2017 called DIKSHA. DIKSHA operates on a public private partnership between the Ministry of Education, EkStep and NCERT. It brings together content providers, learners, expert communities and governments and encourages them to develop new and exponential ways of solving problems. DIKSHA has since been adopted by 35 states/UTs as well as by CBSE and NCERT.
A collaborative approach was vital to provide relevant contextual content to teachers and students. EkStep Foundation energised co-creation among diverse actors: the central education departments, state ministries, NGOs and teachers, by reducing frictions in the education ecosystem. Today, DIKSHA’s content is curated by multiple public and private organisations and even teachers from all over India. It’s the teachers who attest, validate and confirm the content that is uploaded. As of 2022, 11,000+ contributors have made contributions to the platform, bringing unparalleled variety and depth to the content.
The data generated by the platform also gives the educators and administrators a way to see and sense in real-time how the learning is happening and what the gaps are.
After decades of rote learning in classrooms, what will make teachers and students engage actively and how will that reach everyone? The answer was a +1 on traditional learning: Energized Textbooks!
A billion textbooks are printed and distributed to children across India for free every year. A child may lack many things but a textbook is unlikely to be one of them. QR codes were embedded inside the textbook, which on being scanned, give the teachers and children access to more interactive and relevant content about chapters. The content can change dynamically to show explanations at the start of the year and revision and mock tests at the end of the year. With increasing smartphone penetration, a small (+1) shift in the behaviour was able to unlock huge value for the children.
As schools closed down during the Covid-19 pandemic, Energized Textbooks provided the teachers with a tool to reimagine teaching, gave access to a virtual library of content to the students and revitalised the entire system.
Providing every child in the country access to quality learning resources required EkStep to let go of control and connect over a shared vision with the ecosystem to bring their mission alive.
EkStep Foundation is a great example of Societal Platforms in action. Learnings from the journey of Ekstep Foundation and other large-scale movements and platforms such as Aadhaar, StoryWeaver, the civil rights movement etc. helped us to abstract the knowledge as a set of values, design principles and a model. Over the last 5 years, we have worked with a diverse set of change leaders to apply this new way of thinking, Societal Thinking to a wide variety of problems.