According to India’s 2011 census data, there are approximately 99 million children in the three-six years age group. While the government runs ‘anganwadis’ to provide pre-school education to over 35 million children, most of these lack basic infrastructure and have severe manpower issues resulting in only 31 percent of children attending these centres regularly.
Private organisations in the pre-school segment are largely unaffordable for low-income communities with fees ranging anywhere between Rs 24,000 and Rs 1,50,000 annually.
According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)-Rural, 2017 study, 86 percent of youth in 14-18 age group are still within the formal education system. Yet, a substantial proportion of them are also working (42 percent), mostly in agriculture or household chores.
The poor quality of education, teaching techniques and lack of proper infrastructure and facilities among others are the reasons why education in rural areas still lag behind.
Here is a list of startups that are striving to improve this situation and bridge the gap between rural and urban education.
1. Learning Delight
Harshal Gohil and Vandan Kamdar started Learning Delight in 2010 to provide digital learning tools such as riddles, quiz, animation, etc that aid teachers, and help engage students in rural areas. Based in Rajkot, Gujarat, Learning Delight is currently functional in over 4,400 rural government schools spread over nine districts of Gujarat. Learning Delight selects schools with the government-run Computer Aided Learning programme, and installs the software incorporated with e-books and multimedia components in those schools. During installation, they train teachers on how to operate the software. Initially bootstrapped, they started getting funds from various organisations later on.
2. Hippocampus Learning Centres
Bengaluru-based Hippocampus Learning Centres (HLC) was founded by Umesh Malhotra in 2010 with the idea of opening pre-primary schools in the Tier IV towns. Umesh today runs around 300 primary school centres with 700 teachers in Karnataka alone, benefiting over 11,000 children. The startup recruits, trains, and manages a network of teachers in rented village centres, and charges an affordable monthly fee for quality educational services based on international best practices. HLC has raised a total of $21 million from multiple investors.
3. Sudiksha Knowledge Solutions
Sudiksha Knowledge Solutions, based in Hyderabad, aims at providing affordable and accessible pre-school education and improving the overall quality of educational standards at both urban and rural levels. Established in 2011, Sudiksha presently owns and manages 21 preschools in and around Hyderabad that are managed by local women entrepreneurs. Founded by Hyderabad based Naveen Kumar and Nimisha Mittal, Sudiksha Knowledge Systems has raised $285,000 from multiple investors such as Pearson and VilCap Investment.
4. Paathshala Learning Solutions
The brainchild of Rajib Choudhary and Sonal Seth, Paathshala is a technology-led consulting organisation that began operations in 2012. Paathshala focuses on inculcating various value education, competency development and life skills programmes among children of different age groups. Based in Pune, it aims to address three basic needs in the education sector – need for value education in schools, need for improving employability and professional skills in college students, and the need for improving teacher quality. To cater to these needs, Paathshala has designed, developed and introduced a slew of programmes such as life skill development programme, yoga, experimental learning, etc.
Chennai-based Classle’s mission is to bridge the gap between learners and educators; employers and skilled people. This eliminates barriers of logistics, time, language, and technological reach. Bootstrapped and founded in 2009, Classle is an online social learning platform, which later included mobile services to students in the rural parts of India. Started by V Vaidhyanathan, Classle has a two-faced model. One side has individual student users while the other side has customers who are potential employers of these students. Currently, Classle has over two lakh registered users over 100 partner colleges in their network. It has also received angel funding from Chennai Angels.