The school enrolment in India  is inching towards the target of universal coverage, but around half the children drop out of schools before completing grade five. Various studies have revealed that a large proportion of children in grades four and five can not read with comprehension even a simple paragraph in their first language, or perform simple arithmetic operations with two digits. This is true for not only relatively backward states like UP and Bihar , but also Southern States and Gujarat . Such children would revert to illiteracy within a couple of years of leaving schools. Therefore, around half of adult India  could remain functionally illiterate even in 2025-2030 if the present trends continue.

At present, around Rs. 6000/- is spent per year as primary education budget for each child enrolled in government schools. In metro-cities, this amount is higher. At this unit cost, bringing all 5-14 year olds in the school system would cost upwards of Rs. 1200 billions. This is simply beyond the budgetary capacity of government in India  even if the government raised education budget to 6 per cent of GDP.

Universalization of literacy and primary education in India , therefore, needs transformation of current primary system, both to (i) raise the education quality and (ii) reduce unit cost per child. Gyan Shala aims to contribute to this transformation. Gyan Shala hopes to facilitate and enable a private-public partnership in transforming the structure of basic education delivery system in India  that would combine market-based solutions with state funding to meet the public educational goals, specifically for children from poor families.

Gyan Shala would focus first on addressing this challenge in urban areas which are growing very fast, absorbing the bulk of poor migrants from villages, and where even poor parents are send children to private schools if the government funded schools do not provide acceptable quality education.  Gyan Shala would also evolve equally effective solution for rural context.

Detailed reports and presentations about Gyan Shala are given in the reports section, that include :

  1. A conceptual analytical exposition of GyanShala presented as a conference paper at MIT.
  2.  An analysis of the impact of Computerized learning package developed  by Gyan Shala by Dr. Leigh Linden of Columbia University for Infodev (World Bank).
  3.  Excerpts from a paper by Sushil Vachani and Craig Smith published in California Management Review.
  4.  A powerpoint presentation about Gyan Shala program selected for Harvard Centennial Celebration,
  5.  Excerpts from a power-point by Prof. Amika Bhargava of Oakland University presented at many conferences.
  6. Gyan Shala Program Review report by Dr. HridayKant Dewan and Dr. Sanjiv Phansalkar.
  7.  A review report by Dr. Rashmi Paliwal, and
  8.  Annual Report of the program.

Mission & Strategy

The mission of Gyan Shala is to ensure the quality of basic education to the children from poor rural and urban families on par with what is available to high income or elite social groups. This would be ensured through the school based education, as the children do not receive educational support from family or parents, who themselves have not been to school. Gyan Shala aims to meet this goal while keeping the cost per child at around 1/3rd to 1/4th of the cost incurred by the government, which alone would ensure that the systemic solutions evolved by GyanShala have a good chance of being applied on a mass scale.

Gyan Shala project has three objectives. First, it would evolve a system of education that ensures high quality on a mass scale, at a moderate cost, affordable in India . Second, Gyan Shala would develop institutional model and capability to run a large number of classes for poor rural and urban slum children, and demonstrate the functioning of its approach in a credible manner. In the process, it would offer the best possible value for money to its donors. Third, having established that the approach works on a significant scale without any loss in effectiveness, GyanShala would promote large scale adoption of its approach through partnership with the governments and other stake holders.

To maximize the impact of its efforts, Gyan Shala first focused on the foundation years in the primary cycle in its early years. The education aim in this stage is to enable each participating child to become an independent reader and writer in his/her local language within the first three years of school cycle. Children also attain appropriate level of skill in handling numbers and arithmetic operations and analytical-observation skills that constitute the building blocks of scientific understanding of the physical and social world, and are required for normal life transactions.

This would ensures that children retain life-long literacy and numeracy skills throughout their life, even if they drop out at the end of primary, which is typical for many children from poor families. Strengthening the foundation years would also make children more suited to join higher grades IV-V in the mainstream primary system. Gyan Shala will slowly extend its expertise to cover the higher school classes. Gyan Shalawould also work with the government schools to introduce such elements of its practice that demonstrably raise the quality of education there.

Gyan Shala made a modest beginning by starting primary school-classes in ten slum locations in Ahmedabad in June 2000. Around 255 classes, covering both the slums and rural areas, were functioning in 2005-2006. This number rose to 300 in 2006-07, and is expected to rise to around 500 in a couple of years. In Gyan Shala design, each group of 500 classes covering around 14000 children would act as a decentralized, self-contained and autonomous education unit, which can be replicated to cover larger number of children without any deterioration in quality or increase in cost.

By providing value for money, and having a modular structure, Gyan Shala makes its expansion and financing a feasible proposition. Starting with a base in Gujarat , Gyan Shala aims to expand later to low literacy rate states of northern India .