This year, India Development Marketplace (IDM), the
long-term programme supported by the World Bank Group, shortlisted 30 out of
264 proposals seeking finance to scale or replicate inclusive and sustainable
business models in Bihar, Rajasthan and Orissa. Keeping in perspective the
parameters of social impact, sustainability, growth potential and innovation,
the expert jury selected 13 of the most innovative proposals with the highest
potential for scaling up in a financially sustainable manner.

One of the winning entities was Educate Girls, whose
model was identified as a cutting-edge solution to the most pressing social and
economic problems in India. The NGO was awarded a $50,000 grant to replicate
its cost-efficient and sustainable model and boost learning levels in Jalore,
the district with the lowest literacy rates in Rajasthan.

The Mumbai-based NGO leverages existing community and
government resources to improve the quality of girls’ education and
infrastructure in government schools in the state of Rajasthan. Since 2007,
Educate Girls has worked with about 2,400 government schools in Pali District
in Rajasthan, where the introduction of creative learning and teaching techniques
is claimed to have increased learning outcomes by 25 per cent.

Safeena Husain, founder and executive director of
Educate Girls, commented: ‘Seeing the dramatic impact our village trainers have
in Pali, the grant helps us to provide enough village-based teaching and
training resources for boosting literacy levels of almost 600,000 marginalized
children.’

Founded in 2007, the NGO works to improve girls’
enrolment, retention and academic performance in government schools. Educate
Girls recently won the EdelGive Social Innovation Honors 2011 in recognition of
the significant improvements achieved in girls’ education in rural Rajasthan.

Educate Girls states its ‘theory of change’ thus: ‘By
empowering village communities to improve the quality of girls’ education and
infrastructure in government schools, more girls can be educated at a larger
scale. As a result health, income levels and overall livelihoods of rural and
tribal societies improve.’ Violence and political extremism decline as well. Moreover,
educating girls accelerates overall literacy: mothers with primary-school
education are thought to be five times more likely to send their children to
school.

With community mobilization and sustainability as the guiding
parameters, the NGO aims to, among other things:

1)  enhance enrolment and retention
of girls through individual tracking, community mobilization and quality
improvement;

2)  reduce gender disparity in schools and project areas, and improve
the level of life skills and competency of the girl child; and

3)  ensure increased participation
of children, families and communities in plans and actions for holistic
education.

The period from 2005 to 2007 saw Educate Girls
implementing a pilot project for the Rajasthan government in 50 schools. By
2010, the project had expanded to about 2,400 government schools in Pali
District, touching the lives of over 125,000 girls. In 2010 alone, the NGO
identified 11,243 ‘out of school’ girls in a door-to-door survey. Enrolment
plan was developed for all the identified girls and more than 500 village
meetings were conducted to formalize the plan and ensure community
participation. Further, nearly 550 teachers were trained in child-centric creative
learning teaching (CLT) techniques.

As Husain explains, ‘The CLT approach is
not rote memorization that’s prevalent in many school systems. Rather, we work
to improve school quality by incorporating life and work skills, with a focus
on creative learning, which increases involvement and keeps the children in
school.’

The Educate Girls model regards people in
the community as the greatest asset in education. By engaging all the
stakeholders—communities, teachers, children and government
officials—individual programmes in any of the locations will continue. Equally
critically, the programme helps educate large numbers of girls at a very low
cost by leveraging the investment that the government has already made in
teachers’ salaries, physical plant, textbooks, etc.

Educate Girls has identified 26 most
backward districts in India in terms of gender gap in education. Nine of these
districts are in Rajasthan. The immediate five-year plan is to be able to cover
all these areas and also put in place a detailed child-centric curriculum for
children at all levels.