Empowering Early Learners: The Journey of Enjoy English Content Creation

‘Enjoy English’: An innovative Ed tech project
How did we learn our mother tongue, our first language? Did we learn the ABCs of it and how to form words and then read, write and speak the language? Were we taught ten new words every day and asked to repeat them? Quite contrarily, we acquired it through constant exposure in a given environment. We heard others speaking in our home and neighbourhood; we started experimenting with the language ourselves. Mimicking was our first attempt at communication. When this is the natural way a language is acquired, why should the process for learning a second language be any different?
The idea of ‘Enjoy English’ stems from the same belief: that students need to have contextual and regular exposure to the oral language to help them recognise and acquire the language. Hence, the programme prioritises oral development through exposure to real experiences, before moving on to the script of the language, and insisting on grammatical correctness.
The vision of project ‘Enjoy English’ is to offer a solution to the problem of poor English literacy among early first generation learners of English who have little to no exposure to English in their immediate environment, through significant focus on oracy (listening-speaking skills). The programme aims to build all the 4 necessary language skills in children (listening, speaking, reading and writing) but with a greater emphasis on laying a strong oral and aural foundation.
A multifaceted approach to Oracy-Centric Curriculum
With the vision of the oracy-forward curriculum in mind, the team tried to include as many different components as possible that would provide the students exposure to the language. Exposure was given through animated videos with a storyline, rhymes, audio-visual inputs to introduce phonic sounds, short stories to expose them to the communicative form of the language and finally, this was enhanced with a range of games, quizzes and activities on tablets.
Unveiling the thought process: A behind-the-scenes glimpse into the
content creation
Making it contextual:
A lot of animated videos can be found online, like ‘Dora the Explorer’ and ‘Sesame Street’. But the challenge in using something like that, in a government school classroom in Tamil Nadu, is that some depictions, characters, objects and accents may be utterly alien to the students. We wanted to ensure that our content was rooted in the child’s environment. So we decided to produce the animated videos, ensuring the characters and scenes were contextual and also had an element of surprise to make it more interesting.
It was also made such that the same characters got repeated week over week and the students became intensely familiar with the adventures of Chikku, Chinni, Lola the parrot and Lee the alien – the characters that carried the programme through.

All the animated videos revolved around these 4 main characters: ‘Chinni’, ‘Chicku’, ‘Lola’ and ‘Lee’.
Not only were the animated videos contextual, but the images in the activities and other stories were also created to make the students feel like they were part of the story.

An image from a story where children are eating vada as an evening snack.

Since the project was piloted in government schools of Tamilnadu, the images were also made contextual by replicating the government school uniforms of the state.
Pathway to mastery:
We created the overall progression after observing well-known curricula worldwide and modifying them to fit our context. The themes for each week’s lessons followed the progression from ‘Knowing myself’ to ‘The world through my eyes’, then ‘My neighbourhood’, and finally ‘My Earth’. This progression was thought through such that there was a steady development in what the students learn, beginning from
themselves, then their immediate surroundings and finally moving on to the larger world. The weekly vocabulary and sentence structures were also designed to follow the same progression. The sentences and actions the children would use daily, describing themselves, people and things in their neighbourhood, were introduced first, followed by sentences based on their experiences.
Even the sounds and letters introduced were based on a well-accepted phonic progression (slightly modified) starting with letters a, t, p and n, which ensured that they were first introduced to the sounds most common and those that could be made into words, rather than following the alphabetical order. On a similar note, we consciously ensured that any word introduced for learning was only based on already introduced sounds. For example, on a day when the sound of the letter ‘n’ was introduced, the words used would be – nap, pan, ant and so on instead of ‘nest’, which has ‘e’ and ‘s’, which hadn’t been introduced yet. This was to ensure that there was a steady shift from ‘known’ to ‘unknown’, an extremely effective way to lower children’s affective barriers.
The characters and scenes for every single content were thought out carefully to ensure equal representation across gender, religion, colour and disability. The main character of the animated video is in a wheelchair, and there are scenes which we have intentionally removed for stereotypes, to normalise different situations and actions.

Chicku, Chinni and Lola the parrot playing a board game to meet their alien friend Lee.

Lee the alien friend and an alien Postperson in alien land.
From inception of the characters on a storyboard to the final output
All the content created needed to be accessible to students in all possible ways because if it weren’t, all the efforts wouldn’t reach the intended outcome. This was not just physical accessibility but more nuanced factors, like the number of words that would be the ideal length for the content’s intended audience. The sentence lengths and the total number of sentences and words for each story created were
limited as the exposure to the English language would have been limited, and the intent was not to let students feel overwhelmed with large chunks of incomprehensible parts in the lesson.
We noticed that the animated videos played as part of the lessons, though engaging, did not reach its intended purpose. We realised that since the whole video was in English, the students could not follow it entirely and were frequently distracted. To tackle this challenge, we introduced bilingual videos summarising the stories and instructions for the activities to support students with comprehension. This improved the students’ interaction with the videos and encouraged them to follow the story keenly.
We further ensured that the activities aligned with the students’ skills pertaining to their development stage. There was a steady flow from known to unknown contexts so what they saw and learned in the classroom was not wholly alien but a balance of new contexts to aid learning.
And of course, fun and entertaining:
We kept the content simple and short so students could handle all the new information they received in a new language and made sure that each piece of content was engaging. We included a mix of games and actions throughout each section of the content to help students get a variety of activities to do in one class. Considering each piece’s engagement factor, it was always varied and explicitly designed. It also gave opportunities for students to practice dialogues and conversations.
A glimpse into the impact of the content:
At the end of the day, after all the care and effort put into each piece of content, it is worth it when we see students interact and engage with the content excitedly. The students could identify the characters and would look forward to the adventures of Chikku, Chinni, Lola and Lee. They loved being transported to the alien world and following along on the adventure while learning new words and sentence structures.
Learning would happen so naturally that the students never felt stressed about these classes but looked forward to even the assessments on the tablets. While the focus was an oracy-forward curriculum, we still ensured that reading and writing skills were also introduced during the course to promote holistic language development among the students.
As a cherry on top, the data collected from a set of control groups and the group that was part of the Enjoy English treatment showed significant improvement in learning among all indicators, including Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. However, a combination of factors contributed towards these numbers; the way the content was designed; keeping the student as the central focus undoubtedly played a role in the improved performances.
Children in ‘Enjoy English’ classrooms performed more than 2x better in speaking and expression of the language as compared to their peers in the control group. This is a testament to the careful and thoughtful planning of the experiences to ensure every child is a fluent speaker of the language.
The graph below shows the % of improvement observed in students performance across the 4 learning indicators

Source: Enjoy English MEL Report
Though on first look the content for the classroom might seem like just a few different items each week, the thought and work that has gone behind each of it is a lot more than what meets the eye at first.

Posted by Swetha A

Facilitation 101: First-hand Experience of a First-time Trainer

It’s been two years for me as an Associate for Content Development and Capacity Building at Madhi, and in this time I have had numerous opportunities to create grade, context, and level-appropriate content for children across Tamil Nadu, but I have had only one opportunity with respect to capacity building. This was as a resource person at the Tamil Nadu Education Fellowship in Hosur. The Tamil Nadu Education Fellowship (TNEF) is an initiative undertaken by the School Education Department for the efficient implementation and delivery of all critical educational initiatives through people with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

I still remember the day we were told about this. I never imagined that I would get to facilitate sessions for about 160 fellows. It was a great opportunity for me to interact with people of all ages, from 25 to 60 years with backgrounds not just limited to the educational and social sector. It gave me a new perspective into the kind of work that people do, and how the experiences that they have in very different situations can all come together to understand and reform the one major cause we are all working towards- ensuring basic literacy and numeracy for all our children. It all happened unexpectedly fast. The TNEF fellowship is a government initiative, and Madhi’s role here was to plan, organise and deliver a strong induction program for the Fellows. I had volunteered to help out the organising team at Madhi who was hosting this fellowship in, Mathakondapalli Model School at Hosur, an industrial city located in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu. I was to observe other facilitators take sessions along with helping out the planning committee with any support that they required. It was then that I was asked to facilitate a few sessions during my stay there.

I still remember the anxiety, nervousness, and stress that I was surrounded by. I definitely had doubts as to what kind of job I’d do. I wanted to give my best, but since I had no prior experience as a facilitator, I couldn’t understand what a facilitator’s best practices looked like. It was then that I began to observe sessions taken by other facilitators.

I was able to pick some of their best practices to engage the audience, such as coming up with interesting and new attention grabbers every time they address their audience, summarizing the points shared by the participants once they are done sharing to close the learning loop, keeping the participants on their toes at all times by asking them questions, giving them opportunities to lead a few tasks and most importantly, how to bring the audience back to the session after a serious and engrossed discussion or debate. Each of these practices was best shown in the styles of different facilitators. These were a few tactics I learned that helped me hook my audience on the essence of the session and ask guiding questions in order to make the interaction more reflective in nature. I knew I couldn’t exactly do as the previous facilitator, but I got a strong sense and idea of how I could mold it to best suit my style and presentation skills. And voila! Just like that, I found my inspiration. I knew exactly what I had to do. I walked in with confidence, planning, preparation, and resources, and borrowed ideas to facilitate my first session- the spectrum activity.

This activity contains questions for a deeper discussion or reflection among the fellows to critically analyze their past week and learnings. Here the facilitator asks about 5-6 questions that help the audience think and reflect. Once they do, they have to place themselves on a scale of 1-10 on where they stand. They also get to share their insights with a large group.

It was safe to say that I did a good job. I could extend the discussion above and beyond the given questions in this activity for a much deeper analysis. I was also able to bring the audience back into the session wherever it felt like the discussion was going off track. One such instance was when the audience was asked about how they felt about the sessions being organised for them. The discussion started off on the right track but strayed in the middle when the Fellows began to jump to topics that were outside our discussion. I collected all the pointers and brought back the discussion to the focus point which was- the Fellows’ reflection on the sessions organised for them.

Facilitation for adults came naturally to me. I was also able to constantly engage with each and every Fellow, and create spaces for individual, small group, and large group sharing in each of the sessions I took with the experience I had as a teacher to 7th and 8th graders. Every time I came out of the hall, I used to feel powerful. There was a sense of power, pride, and satisfaction I used to walk out with. I used to think that having prior experience or training by a professional for capacity building was extremely necessary. It definitely would have helped (there’s no denying that!) but I also realized that observation, self-reflection as well as understanding one’s meaning of best practices was extremely important to be a good facilitator.

The biggest takeaways from my own Fellowship experience were the quick thinking that I could apply in unfamiliar situations like addressing technical questions related to the fieldwork that I did not have much clarity on, strong reflections with other colleagues as to how else can I make the sessions more meaningful for the Fellows, what kind of research do I need to do in order to be able to clarify as many doubts as possible or individually to look back at what I did in each session, what could have been better and what I would do going forward, willingness to participate by volunteering to pitch in wherever necessary even if it meant improvising and learning on the go, and asking for feedback that I saw everyone present there- Fellows as well as facilitators exhibit. It taught me the most important aspects that I would need going forward to keep improving professionally.

I honestly don’t think I could have learned how to be a facilitator better anywhere else. I always thought having a fixed framework and medium of instruction is what makes a capacity-building session wholesome. It definitely provides a ground for the work to begin, but it is so much more than that. It is a culmination of what you see, hear, and practice on an everyday basis along with technical support like structures and references to go back to when in need. Kudos to the entire organising team as well as the facilitators and the participants for creating a wholesome environment for new learners like me and actually giving us an opportunity to learn and exhibit at the same time.

Posted by Damini Krishnan

Government partnership – done right

What are some risks that the government seemingly overlooks while collaborating with a non-state partner? As non-state actors, what can we do to quell apprehensions and make the engagement purposeful and beneficial to society?

A typical conversation that I have in any social gathering goes like this:

Someone: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “I work with the school education department”.
Someone: “So, you’re a government employee?”,
Me: “No, I work for a non-profit that strengthens public education systems. We support the government in areas like curricular reforms, teacher training, conceiving technology solutions…”
Someone: “But if you do what the government does, what are the government employees doing?”

And that’s how the role of non-state actors is most commonly confused, contorted and misunderstood. As the recently published report1 by UNESCO says, ‘apart from building and running schools, non-state actors also provide supplementary services such as textbook publishing, content creation, teacher training, Mid-Day Meal (MDM) preparation, support for Information and Communications Technology (ICT), managerial inputs, and overall policy support, among other things’.

Along similar lines, an article2 by Ms Yamini Aiyar critically examines the increasing involvement of consultants working with the Union and State departments. While she states that “Crucially, consultation, engagement, innovation and dialogue in policymaking are an essential democratic act and, in a limited way, the “consultant” is part of this democratic process”, she also carefully looks at the “risks it poses to the goal of building State capacity and bringing evidence and innovation in policy.”

Both the report and the article raise some legitimate concerns about the ownership shown by the government in building a welfare state. Is the state being let off the hook by collaborating with consultants? Are we downplaying the importance of state capacity building by opting for quick fixes over deeper, more sustainable transformation? Is the larger goal of equity traded off for a unilateral focus on efficiency? This article aims to shed some light on practical strategies that can be opted to allay these concerns.

Equity versus Efficiency
Efficiency is producing quality work with optimal resource utilisation. It is a long-held belief in economic theory that efficiency comes at the cost of foregoing principles of socio-economic equity. The report states, ’While non-state participation, especially the engagement of the private sector, brings with it some resources, the culture of functioning that is focussed on efficiency and the achievement of outcomes, comes with a price. The price is equity.’

Some economists have also held that efficiency is a means to an end, not the end unto itself. While focusing on socio-economic upliftment, efficiency cannot be an outcome or the end goal. Equity should be an outcome that a state strives to achieve. From policy formulation to project implementation and evaluation, a robust end-to-end project lifecycle should be enforced to promote efficiency in the government to realise the goal of equity. Non-state actors can contribute effectively towards improving the efficiency of service delivery. For instance, in a project currently run at Madhi Foundation, focusing on providing opportunities for higher secondary school students to enter institutes of academic eminence, we look both at process and engagement outcomes (Timely issuance of Govt. Order/Department. Circulars, Attendance of training etc.,) and impact outcomes (Number of students across various categories who successfully enrol into premier institutes) – keeping efficiency as a means to attain the larger social goal of equity while tracking success indicators for both.

Augmentation of capacity
The role of a consultant need not be seen as a ‘replacement’ to the department personnel. In a Conclave organised by Madhi Foundation, Ms Pooja Kulkarni IAS., the current MD & CEO of Industrial Guidance and Export Promotion Bureau (GUIDANCE), Tamil Nadu, stated, “Complementarity will come if the private partner’s project implementation can improve the government’s resource. The expectation is that nonprofits have the capacity to improve the capacity of government resources, not replace them.”

As an organisation, Madhi Foundation strongly believes in augmenting the state’s capacity rather than supplementing it. Working with the state resource personnel to achieve a common goal through co-creation and co-design is hard but not impossible. Sharp roles and responsibilities with a clear vision of what the programme intends to achieve can make capacity augmentation a reality. For instance, when Madhi was a part of the curriculum revision process in 2017-19, we supported the resource group of the state to conduct reviews, track progress, and conceive ideas. The subject matter experts of the state shared ideas deeply rooted in the context of the teaching-learning realities of the system. We provided targeted tracking mechanisms and shared best practices from across the world. This experience was an eye-opening exercise for the organisation – it showed us how to leverage the state’s institutional knowledge while working on projects at scale. Being open to learning and adaptive also helped us build trust and credibility with various stakeholders.

Power dynamics
Where there are people, there is politics, and it is true in any social set-up, whether family or work. Age, experience, and qualification contribute to the hierarchical dynamics in a state’s machinery. The power struggle between department personnel and consultants is a known risk. As mentioned above, the department personnel have a wealth of institutional knowledge critical to envisioning any policy reform. Leveraging the strengths of each team member in the project, be it the state personnel or the consultants, will help achieve a common goal. Most importantly, rooting all conversations in empathy – be it the personal secretary of an officer or the officer will build trust that can also reap dividends in the long run.

Ms Aiyar, in her article, also puts forth a two-pronged argument – one being ‘doing the job of the State lets the State off the hook’ and the second being that the private player and the government are each accountable to different parties.

The state’s job is to formulate policies promoting public welfare. The consultant’s job is to support the state in maximising its capacity towards achieving that outcome. In a functional democracy, a state can never be left ‘off the hook’ because the government is answerable to its people.

In cases where the government has hired a private player to provide services, they are expected to produce detailed work reports. They have personnel salaries linked to meeting certain success criteria defined by the department. Additionally, private or non-profit organisations also have a reputational stake in any government engagement that encourages them to work with diligence.

Sunset clause
What are non-state actors doing in their capacity to ensure the sustainability of their intervention? In a country like ours, where policy reforms are long-drawn and complex, adopting a sunset clause is yet to see the light of day. As a country, we have not reached a point where sunset clauses are effectively promulgated. Much little can be achieved by organisations which are minuscule in scale compared to governments to bring life to this clause.

As a collective, over the course of their engagement, non-state actors should commit to ensuring that strengthening the state’s capacity is a priority area, if not immediately, atleast over the horizon.

Understanding the context
We’ve had an officer who jokingly remarked that consultants come with a cure for headaches when the ailment is stomach ache! Elaborate diagnostic tests and needs analyses will allow contextual interventions to evolve. The non-state actors should align their projects to the needs of the state and work towards targeting quality benchmarks set by the State and the Union.

Government is a gargantuan machinery, and any private entity is a mole-hill in comparison. There is no doubt that the government can successfully roll out welfare schemes without private players – the RTE’s success in ensuring access to schools across most states, implementation of the mid-day meal scheme, and eradication of polio are stellar examples of the same. However, with social problems becoming complex and multifaceted in a world reeling in the aftermath of a global pandemic, the need of the hour is to ensure urgent redressal through sustained efforts by both parties. The onus on the state is to legitimise the role of consultants after carefully evaluating their service to work together for the larger good. Innovation, creativity, and efficiency should go hand in hand. It is the collective responsibility of society to hold the state accountable towards ensuring that the last mile citizen is centric to its development.


Government by ‘Consultant’ can hollow out the State, December 2022

This article was written under the aegis of the Centre for Education Research in India (CERI). CERI, an initiative powered by Madhi Foundation, is a digital repository and think-tank catering to policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the education sector and the larger community, to catalyse reform in the education ecosystem in India.

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Posted by Vijayalakshmi Mohan

The Power of Togetherness – Notes from a residential training experience

What could have been an exhausting experience ended up being most fulfilling, packed with exuberance and high morale, leaving me with a profound sense of accomplishment. I was on cloud 9 for the first time in a long time.

I remember the first day we started to travel to the training location. It was a 310 km journey (a 6 hour drive, approximately). Five of us were sitting inside a car that was designed for four people. And not to forget the car trunk, it was packed like a jigsaw puzzle with stationery and our luggage. Initially, we were adjusting to each other and the environment, but within the first hour of travel, we had completely forgotten that we were in an uncomfortable place and an unfamiliar setting. Instead, we heartily discussed life, love, and Illayaraja[1] . If I have to think back about what made the transition from awkward to comfortable, I have to say it was the people.

The one-of-a-kind residential Fellowship program

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller. I never gave this quote enough thought before experiencing the Tamil Nadu Education Fellowship (TNEF) training induction program that happened in September 2022. The Department of School Education, Tamil Nadu, India, launched a 2-year Fellowship program across the state. The program is a one-of-a-kind government initiative that provides paid work experience for individuals who wish to contribute to the larger community, especially in the education sector. A total of 24,412 applicants from across the state of Tamil Nadu applied to be a part of this initiative. 140 candidates had been selected from 38 districts to support the district-level Government officials in implementing various programs launched by the Department of School Education. The selection process had four levels that spanned two weeks each cycle – screening call, pre-work screening, two face-to-face interviews, and the finalisation of the candidate based on their overall performance.

I was fortunate to be included in various elements of the selection & training process such as face-to-face interviews, drafting official letters and circulars along with the department, and other critical on-field activities such as facilitating 3 sessions on diverse topics, planning and coordinating with the school management, state officials, Fellows, and Madhi team members with day-to-day requirements.

The training was for a duration of 16 days. The organising team was engaged with the planning in the preceding five months. I joined the planning and execution team towards the very end, just as the training was about to begin. Despite the shorter timeframe, the perks of being a part of the planning and execution team, I suppose, is that you get to experience the pre and post-training moments. I witnessed how we, human beings function and thrive despite the curveballs thrown at us.

To think about planning, organising, and coordinating a residential training for nearly 160 people who are from 38 different districts with stark differences in experiences, outlooks, and expectations, for 16 days is tiring. You’d have to consider numerous and diverse factors such as logistics, food (thrice a day with refreshments in between), ensuring safety and security, providing consistent power supply, and, the most critical function of all, preparing and executing training sessions from sunrise to sunset that is packed to the brim with knowledge and skill development. The cherry on top was that it fell to us to keep the morale of the Fellows up as well. (Deeeeep breaths – I told myself every time something seemed overwhelming).

Despite the long travel, we somehow had the energy to kick-off the discussions and on-field preparations for the training immediately after reaching our destination. With much excitement and anticipation, we had nearly 150 fellows reach the venue the next day, all prepped for their 16-day training. It was the day of registrations, and despite having little sleep, we woke up the next morning full of energy for the registration process. From then on it was round-the-clock coordination and execution. It was at this point I recalled a famous quote by Charles Darwin, “It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

I can’t agree more with Darwin’s quote! It was beautiful for me to see that at every point in time, people drew energy and inspiration from one another – I believe that is what makes teamwork a success. As human beings, we depend on each other to build each other up, no matter how independent our thoughts or actions are[2] , we thrive on social connections, and it is hardwired within us to be social[3].

Learning and Growing together

What made the journey interesting was that it was residential training. I had the opportunity to observe the people, their work, their approach to life, and their sheer zest for life. Each team took up various responsibilities and executed them, like the team of cooks from the school who cooked and served food every day. Just watching them start their day at 4:30 am and end it around 10 pm (every day) while also ensuring the quality of food for all 160 people was fascinating. It motivated me to ensure quality in my own work at all times.

I drew inspiration from every single team member — some motivated me to be more prepared and well-planned, some inspired me to look at challenges as opportunities, others brought out my creative side, and others built my perspectives. Amidst all this, we made time to sing, dance, and star gaze. We built resilience as a team by leaning on each other for support and encouragement, which provided enough mind space to plan and execute the next day’s training activities seamlessly.

I remember having conversations with some of the fellows during the initial days – their levels of interest and connectivity was drastically low when compared to the days nearing the end of the residential training. While trying to understand the motivation behind the higher levels of interest, they had expressed about how their group members and hostel buddies played a vital role in inspiring each other. An interesting research on the influence of residential training communities talks about how students developed a higher sense of interest and, critical thinking, vested in their educational path, and were always learning from each other because of sharing the same physical environment for their learning journey[4] .

In her blog post, Jessica Everitt[5] talks about how a team member’s high morale plays an essential role in determining their productivity at the workplace thus directly translating into the impact that they wish to create. Especially for members working in the social development sector which inherently “means investing in people”[6] . It was fascinating how a couple of us started a morning routine which involved some stretches, running and games. Watching this, other team members, although not into running in the morning were willing to just join the group on the field. Within two days they restarted some of their old morning routines like yoga, breathing exercises, praying and playing an instrument. Starting our mornings doing something that energised us increased our morale and allowed us to be more invested in the day’s activities. An environment that creates high morale will create a high impact on the social development sector.

In conclusion

It is not a secret that working together as a group can bring about radical shifts in any environment. Some of the famous movements in India that sustained and brought drastic changes were Chipko Movement, 1973[7] , Narmada Bachao Andolan, 1985[8] , and Save Silent Valley, 1973[9] which were all led by ordinary people who worked together in their own communities. Bigger the movement, the bigger the challenges, the stronger the bond, and the stronger the impact. Being a part of the social development sector is not always easy in this consumerist world, but finding people who believe in the same cause and trust each other to build and work towards that cause will lead to changes in a ripple effect.

Every time I look back at my experience at TNEF, what I will remember and cherish most are the people – how dynamic, unique and complex we are and, despite our complexity, have the ability to come together and work as one towards attaining one dream. I can only imagine what massive changes and movements we can bring about if we continue to trust and be trustworthy with each other for something greater that will create an equitable society. A state of togetherness and collective action would be the first step toward a larger change in the system.


Know your Raja
Harvard Business Review – Communities at Work
People need people
Investigating the Influence of Residential Learning Communities on Student Experiences
Project Manager & Blogger
What is Social Development by New Brunswick in Canada
Chipko Movement
Narmada Bachao Andolan
Save Silent Valley

This article was written under the aegis of the Centre for Education Research in India (CERI). CERI, an initiative powered by Madhi Foundation, is a digital repository and think-tank catering to policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the education sector and the larger community, to catalyse reform in the education ecosystem in India.

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Posted by Juliana Catherine Veronica

How chat GPT can be used for improving foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) outcomes in classrooms (Part 3)

In part 3 of the series Chat GPT & FLN, we will explore how a Math teacher from a primary school can benefit from using Chat GPT to improve foundational numeracy outcomes in the classroom.

An AI generated image by DALL – E

Few examples of how chat GPT can be used for improving foundational numeracy outcomes in classrooms

To generate practice problems and worksheets
To generate assessment on specific concepts
Essential Math TLMs for teachers teaching at grade1 and 2 level.
To generate fun activities related to specific math concepts

Q & A with Chat GPT

Question to Chat GPT: Create worksheet that requires use of concrete material to demonstrate understanding of addition

Chat GPT: Sure, here’s an example of a math worksheet that requires the use of concrete materials to demonstrate an understanding of addition:

Name: _______________________________
Directions: Use base ten blocks, unifix cubes, or other concrete materials to solve the following problems. Show your work.

Use base ten blocks to build the number 5 and add it to the number 3. Show your work.
Use unifix cubes to make a tower of 6 and add 4 more cubes to it. How many cubes are in the tower now?
Use a bead abacus to represent the number 8 and add 3 more beads. How many beads are on the abacus now?
Use a number bond to represent the number 9 and add 6 more. What is the new number?
Use a ten-frame to fill in the number of dots to represent the number 7. Now add 3 more dots. How many dots are there now?

Question to Chat GPT: What are the key components of foundational numeracy ?
Chat GPT: The key components of foundational numeracy include:

Number sense: The ability to understand and work with numbers, including counting, comparing, and ordering.
Operations: The ability to perform basic mathematical operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Place value: The ability to understand the value of digits in numbers and how they relate to one another.
Mental math: The ability to perform mathematical calculations in your head, without the use of paper and pencil.
Number and operations fluency: The ability to perform basic mathematical operations quickly and accurately.
Estimation: The ability to make reasonable estimates of quantities and measurements.
Measurement: The ability to understand and use units of measure, such as length, weight, and volume.
Patterns, relationships, and algebraic thinking: The ability to understand and identify patterns and relationships in numbers and mathematical operations.
Problem-solving: The ability to understand and solve mathematical problems, including word problems and real-world scenarios.
Spatial reasoning: The ability to understand and visualise geometric shapes, patterns and relationships between them.

It’s important to note that these components are interconnected and that the development of one often supports the development of others.

Question to Chat GPT: What are the essential math TLMs a teacher must have to teach at grade 1 and 2 level?
Chat GPT: As a teacher, there are several important math teaching and learning materials (TLM) that you should have to teach math at the grade 1 and 2 level. Some of the most important include:

Concrete manipulatives: Manipulatives are physical objects that students can use to explore and understand mathematical concepts. Examples include base-ten blocks, counting bears, pattern blocks, and number lines.
Number cards: Number cards can be used to teach number recognition, counting, and operations. They can also be used to create number patterns and sequences.
Dice: Dice are a great tool for teaching probability and for generating random numbers.
Math games and activities: Games and activities can be used to engage students in math practice and to make math more fun and interactive.
Math workbook or activity book: These materials can be used to provide students with additional practice and reinforcement of math concepts.
Math assessment materials: These materials can be used to assess student understanding and progress, such as quizzes, tests, and performance tasks.
Math software and apps: There are many educational apps and software programs available that can be used to enhance math instruction, including interactive whiteboards and games.
Multi-sensory math materials: These materials can be used to cater to different learning styles, such as tactile or visual learners.
Math posters and charts: These materials can be used to display important math concepts and formulas, as well as to provide a visual reference for students.

Having these materials on hand and using them effectively can help you to create an engaging and effective math learning environment for your students.

Question to Chat GPT: Design a math worksheet that tests the real life application in addition for grade 3 children
Chat GPT: Instructions:
Solve the following problems by applying your understanding of addition using real-life examples. Show your work and write the solution in the space provided.

If there are 20 students in a class and 5 more join, how many students are there in total?
If a family has 3 kids and they have another child, how many kids do they have in total?
If a basket has 8 apples and you add 4 more, how many apples are there in total?
If a person has 7 books and they borrow 2 more, how many books do they have in total?

Remember to apply your understanding of addition using real-life examples.

Question to Chat GPT: Suggest a math activity for grade 1 children to help them understand single digit subtraction
Chat GPT: Here is a simple math activity for grade 1 children to help them understand single digit subtraction:

Activity 1 – “Subtraction Matching Game”. To play the game, you will need a set of cards with single digit subtraction problems and their answers. Mix the cards and place them face down on a table. Each child will take turns flipping two cards over, and try to find the subtraction problem and its answer. If the two cards match, the child keeps the pair and takes another turn. If the cards do not match, they turn them back over and the next child takes a turn. The child with the most pairs at the end of the game wins. This activity will help children learn single digit subtraction problems and improve their subtraction skills through hands-on practice and play.

Activity 2 – Subtraction Bingo: Create a bingo board with subtraction problems such as 4 – 2, 5 – 3, 6 – 1, etc. Call out the subtraction problems and the children can cover the corresponding answer on their bingo board. The first child to cover all the answers in a row wins. This is a fun and interactive way for children to practice and reinforce their subtraction skills.

This article was written under the aegis of the Centre for Education Research in India (CERI). CERI, an initiative powered by Madhi Foundation, is a digital repository and think-tank catering to policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the education sector and the larger community, to catalyse reform in the education ecosystem in India.

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Posted by Puviarasan S

How chat GPT can be used for improving foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) outcomes in classrooms (Part 2)

In India, attaining foundational literacy and numeracy remains a challenge in schools, with a large percentage of children unable to read and do basic arithmetic operations proficiently even after several years of schooling.

An AI generated image by DALL – E

Chat GPT, a powerful language model that can generate human-like responses to text inputs. By leveraging the capabilities of Chat GPT, educators can create engaging learning experiences that cater to the individual needs of each student, leading to more effective and personalized instruction. In this blog post, we explore how Chat GPT can be used to improve foundational literacy.

During this exercise, it is also realized that prompts play a crucial role in shaping the conversation and determining the response from the chatbot. The effectiveness of Chat GPT depends on the quality and specificity of the prompts provided. A clear and concise prompt will lead to a more accurate and relevant response, while a vague or ambiguous prompt may result in a less useful response.

The potential use of the Chat GPT are outlined in the above illustration

Examples of how chat GPT can be used for improving foundational literacy outcomes in classrooms

Language prompts
To understand the key components of foundational language and literacy
To understand how to select story book for specific grades
To understand how to build reading culture / environment in school
How can teachers encourage parent’s involvement in supporting their children reading skill
To create short stories based on students level and with character limit

Question to Chat GPT: What are the key components in Foundational Language and Literacy in English language?

Chat GPT: The key components of foundational language and literacy in the English language include:

Phonological awareness: The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words.
Phonics: The relationship between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language.
Vocabulary: The words a person knows and uses.
Fluency: The ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with expression.
Comprehension: The ability to understand and make meaning from text.
Writing: The ability to express ideas in written form.
Spelling: The ability to spell words correctly.
Grammar and sentence structure: The rules and conventions of the English language that govern how words are put together to form sentences.
Listening comprehension: The ability to understand spoken language.
Oral language: The ability to communicate effectively through spoken language.

It’s important to note that these components are interconnected and that the development of one often supports the development of others.

Question to Chat GPT: How to select story books in English that are appropriate for Grade 1 children?

Chat GPT: When selecting story books for grade 1 children in English, there are several factors to consider:

Vocabulary: The book should use simple, age-appropriate vocabulary that the children can understand.
Sentence structure: The sentences should be simple and easy to read, with short, clear sentences.
Illustrations: The book should have colorful and engaging illustrations that will help the children understand the story.
Interest: The book should be interesting and engaging for the children, with a fun plot and relatable characters.
Cultural relevance: The book should reflect the cultural diversity of the students and should avoid stereotypes.
Reading level: The book should be at an appropriate reading level for the children, not too hard or too easy.
Theme: The book should have a theme that is age-appropriate and that is relevant to the children’s interests and experiences.
Length: The book should be a manageable length for the children and should not be too long for them to hold their attention.
Language fluency: The book should be written in fluent and clear language.

It’s also important to preview the book before giving it to the students and to consider the students’ interests and backgrounds when selecting books.

Question to Chat GPT: As a teacher how can I build a reading environment at school for grade 1 children

Chatp GPT: As a teacher, you can build a reading environment at school for grade 1 children by:

Creating a dedicated reading area: Set up a cozy and comfortable reading area in the classroom where children can sit and read. This could be a corner of the room or a separate room with bean bags, rugs, and other comfortable seating.
Stock the area with age-appropriate books: Fill the reading area with a wide selection of books that are appropriate for grade 1 children. This could include picture books, easy readers, and other books that match the children’s reading level and interests.
Making it interactive: Make the reading area interactive by adding activities like word walls, word banks, and word games that will help children learn new vocabulary and concepts.
Encouraging reading aloud: Encourage children to read aloud to their classmates or to the teacher. This will help children to build fluency and confidence in their reading.
Creating a library system: Create a library system where children can borrow and return books. This will give them access to a wider range of books and will help to build a sense of responsibility.
Incorporating technology: Use technology to enhance the reading experience. For example, you can use tablets with interactive e-books that have audio, animation, and interactive elements.
Making it fun: Make reading fun by organizing reading-related games and activities that will motivate children to read.
Fostering a love of reading: Foster a love of reading by encouraging children to talk about the books they have read, sharing interesting and exciting book-related information, and recognizing children who have achieved a certain reading goal.
Setting a good example: Encourage teachers and staff to read aloud to the children, and model the behavior of reading for pleasure regularly.
Incorporating reading in daily routine: Incorporate daily reading time into your routine, where children can read independently or with a partner, this will help them to develop reading fluency and comprehension.

It’s important to keep in mind that creating a positive reading environment takes time and effort, but the benefits to children’s literacy development are well worth it.

Question to Chat GPT: Lesson plan on phonics and decoding

Promt given to Chat GPT – I want you to be a primary school English teacher. The students you are teaching come from a low resource background and their English competencies are very low. I want you to create a lesson plan for Grade 3 students which achieves these objectives: 1) What are phonics 2) How to decode words and read them

Chat GPT: Lesson Title: Introduction to Phonics and Word Decoding

Students will be able to understand what phonics is.
Students will be able to decode simple words using phonics.

Whiteboard and markers
Flashcards with letters and corresponding sounds
Worksheets with simple words for decoding practice
Chart paper and markers for word-building activities

Introduction (10 minutes):

Draw attention to the whiteboard and write the word “phonics” on it.
Ask the students if they know what phonics is. Write down their answers on the board.
Explain phonics as the relationship between letters and sounds.
Show them the flashcards and explain that each letter makes a specific sound.

Word decoding (20 minutes):

Write simple words (e.g. cat, dog, sun, etc.) on the whiteboard and ask the students to decode them by sounding out each
Help the students decode the words by sounding out each letter and blending the sounds together.
Pass out the worksheets and ask the students to decode the words on their own, with your support.

Word-building activity (20 minutes):
Write simple words on chart paper (e.g. cat, dog, sun, etc.)
Cut out the letters of each word and give a set to each student.
Ask the students to build the words with the letters and then read them out loud.
Repeat the activity with different words to reinforce the concepts.

Closing (10 minutes):
Review the concepts learned during the lesson.
Summarize the relationship between letters and sounds in phonics.
Encourage the students to use the phonics skills they learned to decode new words.


Observe the students during the word decoding and word-building activities to see if they understand the concept of phonics.
Check the worksheets to see if the students can decode words independently.

This lesson plan provides hands-on and interactive activities to help students understand the basics of phonics and develop their decoding skills.

Question to Chat GPT: How can teachers encourage parent’s involvement in supporting / improving their children reading skills
Chat GPT: There are several ways to encourage parents’ involvement in supporting their children’s reading skills:

Communicate regularly with parents about their child’s reading progress and provide them with suggestions for ways they can support their child’s reading at homeProvide resources such as recommended reading lists, reading logs, and other materials that parents can use to help their child practice reading at home.
Invite parents to attend reading-related events at the school, such as book fairs, author visits, and parent-teacher conferences.
Encourage parents to read to their child at home and provide them with tips and strategies for reading aloud effectively.
Provide opportunities for parents to volunteer at the school and participate in reading-related activities such as book clubs or reading groups.
Encourage parents to establish a regular reading routine at home, such as reading before bed or setting aside a specific time each day for reading.
Provide parents with access to online resources and apps that can support their child’s reading development.
Create a reading-friendly environment in the school and home by providing comfortable seating and good lighting, as well as access to a variety of age-appropriate books.

In conclusion, Chat GPT shows potential to aid our teachers and bridge the gap between traditional teaching methods and evolving needs of modern learners.

In our next blog post, we will explore how Chat GPT can be used to improve foundational numeracy, another critical area of education that remains a challenge for many schools in India. Stay tuned for more insights on this exciting topic!

This article was written under the aegis of the Centre for Education Research in India (CERI). CERI, an initiative powered by Madhi Foundation, is a digital repository and think-tank catering to policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the education sector and the larger community, to catalyse reform in the education ecosystem in India.

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Posted by Puviarasan S

How can policymakers and NGOS use ChatGPT for FLN

This article is the first in a series of articles on how ChatGPT and AI models can be leveraged for FLN.

Governments can use GPT-3, or other artificial intelligence models, in a number of ways to improve learning outcomes for students:

Generating educational materials: Governments can use AI models to generate
educational materials for foundational literacy and numeracy education. These materials
can be customised to meet the needs of individual students and can provide practice
opportunities that help students develop their skills.
Improving teacher productivity: Governments can use AI models to automate the
generation of educational materials and provide practice opportunities for students. This
can free up teachers’ time and allow them to focus on other aspects of their job, such as
individualised attention to students and assessment of their progress.
Personalising learning: AI models can be used to generate personalised educational
materials that meet the specific needs and abilities of individual students. This can help
to keep students engaged and motivated and can make the learning experience more
Supporting remote learning: Governments can use AI models to support remote
learning, which is becoming increasingly important due to the COVID-19 pandemic. AI
models can provide educational materials and practice opportunities for students who
are unable to attend traditional classes in person.
Providing real-time feedback: Governments can use AI models to provide real-time
feedback to students, helping to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. This
feedback can help students understand their strengths and weaknesses and target their
efforts more effectively.
Informing policy and decision making: Governments can use the data generated by AI
models to inform policy and decision making. This data can help to understand the
effectiveness of different teaching methods and identify areas where additional
resources or support may be needed.
Strengthening partnerships: Non-profits can use AI models to strengthen partnerships
with governments and other organisations, allowing them to collaborate more effectively
on initiatives aimed at improving education outcomes.

Parallely, there could be some issues, both for governments and non-profits working to improve learning outcomes in FLN.

Quality control: The quality of educational materials generated by AI models may vary,
and there is a risk that inaccurate or inappropriate information may be presented to
students. This could negatively impact their learning and create confusion.
Bias: AI models can perpetuate and amplify existing biases in society. This could lead to
educational materials that are not inclusive or culturally sensitive, which could have a
negative impact on students’ learning experiences.
Dependence on technology: The use of AI models for foundational literacy and
numeracy education may make students overly dependent on technology and reduce
their motivation to engage in traditional learning activities.
Data privacy: The use of AI models for foundational literacy and numeracy education
may raise concerns about student data privacy and security. Governments and
educators must ensure that data is collected, stored, and used in a secure and
responsible manner.
Limited creativity and critical thinking: While AI models can generate educational
materials and provide practice opportunities, they may not be able to fully replace
human teachers and may not promote creative and critical thinking as effectively.
Cost: The development and deployment of AI models for foundational literacy and
numeracy education may be expensive, and governments must carefully consider the
cost-benefit of such initiatives.
Technical limitations: AI models such as GPT-3 are not perfect, and may not be able to
fully understand context and nuances in language, which could lead to
misunderstandings and mistakes in the educational materials they generate..

Our next articles in this series will look into how AI models can be leveraged to generate content for teaching FLN and also show samples of what kind of content can be generated.

This article was written with the help of ChatGPT.

Banner image courtesy: An AI generated image by DALL – E

This article was written under the aegis of the Centre for Education Research in India (CERI). CERI, an initiative powered by Madhi Foundation, is a digital repository and think-tank catering to policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the education sector and the larger community, to catalyse reform in the education ecosystem in India.

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Posted by Vishal V

How do student’s fare in Oral Reading Fluency? A juxtaposition of the Foundational Learning Study and Madhi’s own assessment

Based on multiple reports including Annual Status of Education Report (ASER, 2014, 2018), National Achievement Survey (NAS, 2021) etc., it is now widely accepted that children in India, and in Tamil Nadu, are in the midst of a learning crisis which show that a large percentage of children in India are lagging behind in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy skills. In a crucial step towards strengthening efforts to bridge this gap, the Ministry of Education, Government of India has conducted a large-scale nationwide Foundational Learning Study (FLS) in collaboration with the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT, 2022). The study aims to set up benchmarks for reading with comprehension in 20 Indian languages and is one of the largest one-on-one studies with a sample size of 85000+ Grade 3 students. Parallelly, Madhi Foundation conducted a study that focuses on identifying the learning levels of children in Class 1–3 in Tamil, English, and Mathematics by taking a representative sample of 3600 students from the districts of Chennai, Ariyalur, Salem, and Thoothukudi.

In this report, we will analyse Oral Reading Fluency with reading comprehension from the National Report on Benchmarking for ORF and Numeracy and compare it with Madhi’s study to understand what level students in primary classes in Tamil Nadu are currently at.

According to the FLS, it was found that around 42% of students in Tamil Nadu could only read 0–8 words correctly in Tamil in a given period of time. Only 23% met or exceeded the global minimum proficiency standard of reading at least 28 words per minute when in grade 3. The findings from Madhi’s study corroborate the FLS on foundational literacy in Tamil. We found that the average number of words/phrases that a child in Class 3 could read was 9 words per minute with a maximum of 15 words across the sample data set. This is indeed a grave situation. However, the FLS study on English presents a slightly different picture. It studies almost all the states in India where there is English medium education and provides a national picture of foundational literacy, as compared to disaggregated state-based data. The FLS found that around 55% of students meet global proficiency standards of 35–53 correctly read words per minute. However, it is important to note that this is an India-wide average which could have severe variations across states. According to the study conducted by Madhi, a class 3 student read anywhere between 3 to a maximum of 15 words per minute in English.

In numeracy, the numbers are equally stark. According to the National Report, around 29% of all students in class 3 did not even partially meet global minimum proficiency standards. Only 20% of students even met the global minimum proficiency standard in numeracy.

Despite the rather bleak picture, it is indeed a positive sign that such benchmark studies are being conducted, which gives policymakers better data and insight from which they can design and implement interventions. Such benchmarking studies provide stakeholders with essential data to identify critical areas for improvement and develop appropriate action plans, which are often contextual as well. For example, in the Madhi conducted study, we found that the medium of instruction had an impact on the performance of students in many of the tested skills.

While this study focuses on benchmarking results and standards, it would be very useful to set up process benchmarks as well. These studies can be used to assess performance objectively while also providing contextual insights; expose areas where improvement is needed in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy; identify other states/countries with processes resulting in superior performance, with a view to their adoption; and most importantly, test whether improvement programmes have been successful and cost-effective.


Annual Status of Education Report (2014),


Annual Status of Education Report (2018),

National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) (2022), Foundational Learning Study, National report on benchmarking for oral reading fluency with reading comprehension and numeracy,

Ministry of Education, National Achievement Survey (2021),

This article was written under the aegis of the Centre for Education Research in India (CERI). CERI, an initiative powered by Madhi Foundation, is a digital repository and think-tank catering to policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the education sector and the larger community, to catalyse reform in the education ecosystem in India.

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Posted by Vishal V

Education in Tamil Nadu – Policies ensure equal access but do they guarantee quality?

Education enables people to enhance their capability and functioning to lead a life of dignity. Tamil Nadu has focused on this crucial human development indicator since the formation of the Justice Party (political party established in 1916, in Madras presidency led by Natesa Mudaliar, which was succeeded by Dravidar Kazhagam). Post independence, consecutive governments have made Tamil Nadu one of the leading states in Human Resource Development. For instance, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education is 51.4% (All India Survey on Higher Education 2019-20) which is almost double the national average. Tamil Nadu performs well in many educational indicators, such as literacy rate, gross enrolment of girls in higher education, and gross enrolment in middle school. The state also leads the protests against standardisation of exams, for instance Tamil Nadu has vehemently opposed the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test ( NEET) for admission into medical colleges and seeks exemption. Tamil Nadu takes a similar stance with respect to other educational policies which tend to commodify education.

Given this backdrop, an important question arises, why has Tamil Nadu consistently prioritised continuous innovations and reforms in the educational system, and uphold the educational aspirations of every community?

What made the difference?

Right to education is enshrined in the Dravidian ideology which emphasises education as a catalyst for social justice and equality. Ever since the formation of the Justice Party ‘education for all’ was the constant demand placed before the Madras Presidency (British colonial administrative unit comprising present day Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, some parts of Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep). In the 1930s compulsory primary education became a component of the fourteen point programme which E.V. Ramasamy (Periyar) drafted for the Justice Party. In their influential book, The Dravidian Model, published earlier this year, Vijayabaskar and Kalyanarasan observe that the Justice Party regarded education as a mode to access power. Periyar even laid a persuasive basis for democratisation of power through educational mobility. It is this vision of Periyar, one that has been channelled by subsequent Dravidian parties, which has contributed to consistent development in the education system.

Access to education as a means to claim self-respect was critical in reforming the educational system and broadening its scope to include all classes. Post-independence, when the parties of the left identified land reforms as a need for social justice, Dravidian parties pegged it on education. Land reform movement failed to redistribute resources. However, the Dravidian effort to utilise education as a means to obtain social justice proved to be a success. Evidence for this can be seen in literacy rates for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which in Tamil Nadu is 77% as against the national average of 70% (NSSO- Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017- 2018). Continuous institutionalised interventions and innovations in affirmative action by successive governments in the state helped in generating the notion of perceiving reservation policies as a rightful entitlement among the oppressed castes unlike in other parts of the

Education and nutrition take centre stage

A groundbreaking idea envisaged by the Tamil Nadu government which helped to increase school enrolment rates was the mid-day meal scheme, mooted by the Justice Party. This was the beginning of the coupling of two social endeavours, nutrition and education, in a bid to improve the overall development indicators of its citizens. This proved to be an admirable strategy, lauded by many. In 1956, when Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu K Kamaraj reintroduced the mid-day meal scheme, the erstwhile moderate enrolment increased by 10% in primary level and 7% in the case of enrolment of girl children. Two years later, the attendance in schools increased by 33% in comparison to records of previous years. K. Kamaraj learnt that poverty denied not only education, but also nutritious regular meals to children. Serious implementation of the mid-day meals scheme which were resisted in the beginning, has now become a sought- after programme across the country. While Balwadis and Anganwadis were the target at the initial stage, in Tamil Nadu the scheme was extended to primary, middle, high, and higher secondary schools in stages. A scheme which was introduced merely as a magnet to pull children into the school system, has helped Tamil Nadu fare better in other educational parameters as well. More recently, the scheme has also been extended to include breakfast for all children in Tamil Nadu’s government schools by the incumbent DMK party in 2022.

Democratising education through affirmative action

Continuous improvements in affirmative action and democratisation strengthens the education system in Tamil Nadu. “Tamil Nadu does not subscribe to a very common Macaulayian fallacy – that there exists a strict linear relationship between examination rigour/performance and later career success. It ascribes to the view that the relationship is nonlinear and that strategic affirmative action could pay off as both short-term and long-term gains.” (Bharat Ram, 2017).

The state has constantly reworked the categories of reservations as a system of affirmative action to meet the changing demands of social justice (Kalaiyarasan & Vijayabaskar, 2021). This can be seen in multiple reforms by successive chief ministers. In 1989 a new category, ‘MBC’ (Most Backward Class) was created within the ‘BC’ (Backward Class) category to ensure that backward castes within the backward quota are given recognition. MBC were allotted 20% within the overall BC reservation of 20%. In 2007, the Karunanidhi led government provided a 3.5% quota each for Muslims and Christians with the OBC quota of 30%. In 2009, Tamilnadu Arunthathiyar Act was introduced to ensure representation of the Arunathathiyars by providing a 3% sub-quota within the 18% quota for Scheduled Castes(SC). Reservations thus not only became common sense but also an accepted means towards socio-economic mobility in Tamil Nadu (Pandian, 2007). All of these interventions in affirmative action have ensured better representation of marginalised groups and access to education.

Limits to growth

Although Tamil Nadu is ahead in many educational parameters when compared to the rest of the country, there has been limits to this growth. Tamil Nadu slipped a notch below in the Performance Grading Index (2020-21) with the scores on learning outcomes being stagnant at 132 (out of 180) since 2017-18. According to the ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) 2018 report, only 10% of students in Std 3 could read a Std 2 level text, and only 26% in Std 3 could do subtraction. The National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021 highlights, 54% of students in Std 3 could not read and write numbers up to 999 using place value, 58% of students in Std 5 were not able to solve simple mathematical problems. Among Std 10 students only 8% had acquired intended learning outcomes in science and maths. Foundational Learning Study 2022 conducted by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) reveals that only 12 % of students in Tamil Nadu met global proficiency standards in literacy (Tamil) and only 20% met the global proficiency standards in numeracy. All these results are worrisome.
Research studies have proved that a child that lags behind in early childhood and the foundational stage stays behind at later levels. Learning crisis will act as negative externality in the growth trajectory of the state if left unattended.

Growing shift from public to private schools, mushrooming of engineering colleges with poor outcomes, and lack of continuous teacher training and development are a few other challenges that plague the education sector in Tamil Nadu today.

Hard reality

Once a state with literacy below average, because of poor attendance from economically weaker and socially backward communities, Tamil Nadu has attained a glorious rate of literacy through reformative thinking of leaders and successful implementations of student-centred programs. Despite easy access and availability of resources, there is a continued foundational literacy and numeracy crisis in the state. Even the reservation patterns and their effect on quality results remains untested.

After emphasising the significance of education and making it more accessible, the system is now challenged with improving student learning outcomes. Tamil Nadu needs to re-envision its educational framework to be aligned with the aspirations of society. The state has overcome several hurdles in reforming the education system. With a broader strategic framework focused on improving the quality of public education, Tamil Nadu can regain its position as front runner in the education sector.


Kalaiyarasan, A., & Vijayabaskar, M. (2021). The Dravidian model: Interpreting the political economy of Tamil Nadu. Cambridge University Press.

Pandian, M. S. S. (2007). Brahmin and non-Brahmin: Genealogies of the Tamil political present. Permanent Black.

Bharat Ram (2017) ,What is so neat about Tamil Nadu’s Education Strategy, ASER Report (2018) ,Annual Status of Education Report (Rural);;

Foundational Learning Survey (2022), National report on benchmarking for oral reading fluency with reading comprehension and numeracy, _for_ORF_and_Numeracy.pdf;

National Achievement Survey (2021),State report card Tamil Nadu,

Performance Grading Index (2020-21), Performance Grading Index for States and Union Territories,

Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-2018, Annual report, content/uploads/2019/02/Annual-Report-PLFS-2017-18_31052019.pdf;

This article was written under the aegis of the Centre for Education Research in India (CERI). CERI, an initiative powered by Madhi Foundation, is a digital repository and think-tank catering to policymakers, practitioners, and academics in the education sector and the larger community, to catalyse reform in the education ecosystem in India.

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Posted by Veronica P