RightToRead – AI Technology-Enabled English Literacy for K12
Multi-sensory AI technology-enabled reading & comprehension of English textbooks in class
Pitch us on your solution
Reading and literacy are significant problems across the globe. Illiteracy or semi-literacy excludes such populations from the opportunity of higher education, access to formal vocation training, entrapping them in the cycle of generational poverty.
English is the preferred language of trade and commerce, international relations, higher education, and of the Internet. Countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have recognized the need to improve English language proficiency of students to increase their preparedness for the workforce. Many countries have instituted English Language Learning policies. But learning English is challenging –English phonics tend to be arbitrary and difficult to learn especially in the absence of application in the learner’s daily environment. Additionally, there is a paucity of qualified English teachers.
Our tech-enabled reading & comprehension English literacy program integrates with school curriculum, is deployed efficiently at scale and is available across income groups and can transform lives of students.
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What is the problem you are solving?
RightToRead aims to address the following:
Enable English literacy & proficiency across the region
It is estimated that 400 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are aspiring to learn English. Studies have proven that increase in English proficiency is correlated with increased Gross National Income and GDP.
Demonstrate the value of integrating technology with education to solve the literacy challenge
Latin America has a reading crisis. Results from PISA 2018 reveal that, on an average, a 15-year old student from this region is three years behind in reading compared to her counterpart from OECD countries. The World Bank estimates 160 million children in LAC to be under 15 years of age with enrolment into Primary school at 93%.
Influence the migration of students and teachers from ‘living with technology’ to also ‘learning with technology’
There are 70% of people who access the internet. However, only 35% of schools, leverage education technology. It is believed that in the future, continuous learning & skilling will be a necessity. RightToRead is expected to break barriers and facilitate the process of integrating technology-enabled learning as a way of life.
Who are you serving?
RightToRead provides AI tech-enabled reading of English textbooks to teachers and students in schools.
The Program benefits:
Students who learn English as a second language struggle with English phonics. Multi-sensory AI technology-enabled reading & comprehension of English textbooks makes the learning easy and fun. Students learning in a group are engaged and excited as the language is de-mystified by this process.
Teachers teaching English find it challenging to engage classrooms of 25 children engaged and attentive. Students who do not have English in their daily environment find it difficult to follow the teacher as she reads. Teachers are happy with the program since it supports existing curriculum and is integrated with normal school timetable. Engaged students demonstrate superior learning outcomes leading to a greater sense of effectiveness for the teacher.
Education Administrators are pleased that the program is curriculum aligned, does not add to teacher workload and can be implemented by (often) leveraging existing IT infrastructure.
Processes are in place to collect feedback resulting in a process of continuous improvement e.g. introduction of magnification to assist in large classrooms. Tests are designed to compare between cohorts across regions using a standard scale i.e. CEFR.
What is your solution?
RightToRead leverages ReadToMe, a sophisticated, simple-to-use, AI technology platform designed to improve reading, comprehension & spoken English skills.
The product is deployed in schools across diverse locations:
A. Easy to Deploy – teachers can download the software onto a local device (smart phone/ tablet/ PC) and use various methods to project and read the relevant English textbooks in class. Once installed, ReadToMe can be used in ‘offline’ mode.
B. Easy to Learn – teachers are provided training on the use of the software in English class. This training is conducted virtually using video platforms like Skype/Zoom. Training duration is 2 – 3 hours. Teachers can also access virtual resources e.g. YouTube channel to learn how to deploy the program in class.
C. Easy to Use – the teachers launch the program with a single click, find the relevant textbook and perform reading and related activities easily. The UI is simple and intuitive. Features like word magnification enable ease of learning for large classrooms. Integration with the class time-table and the use of existing IT infrastructure makes the program attractive to teachers, students and administrators.
D. Easy to Track – each time the host device connects to the internet, ReadToMe transmits usage related data to the cloud based LMS that enables tracking, analytics.
The program has been developed based on:
A. Language Learning: Studies from neuroscience suggest that multi-sensory structured learning education has significant potential to improve systematic acquisition of reading skills. The brain creates specialized neural pathways for recognizing arbitrary cultural inventions such as letter-sound relationships. Multi-sensory stimulation enables the speedy creation of such a neural network.
B. Technology-enabled Vs Manual methods: There is evidence that teacher-only methods of teaching English to ESL cohorts not exposed to English in their natural environment is very difficult. Introduction of multi-sensory AI reading & comprehension technology has proven to be effective and scalable.
C. Textbook sets the context: ReadToMe trains itself to read the prescribed textbook eliminating the need to introduce additional or new study material.
D. Local adaptation: Technology adaptations include local/familiar accent of voice, pronunciation of proper nouns and word translation into local vernacular.
RightToRead is implemented based on tenets of sustainable change; the use of prescribed textbooks during normal English classes, integrated with school schedule, and the easy-to-use software minimize potential change-related resistance. The effectiveness of the teacher is enhanced; the teacher continues to lead the class.
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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:New Delhi, Delhi, India
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
RightToRead is the innovative coming together of multiple elements:
- Language learning science has informed the design of ReadToMe, the multi-sensory AI reading & comprehension software.
- Contextual application that includes reading existing English textbooks, localization e.g. word translation to vernacular and use of voice with accents that suit local requirements.
- Integration with school timetable enables usage during normal class, important for adoption by teachers.
- Empowering teachers in the pivotal leadership position in the classroom enhances their engagement with the program.
- Engagement of students who enjoy the audio-visual process in a group setting, the excitement of learning English and the de-mystification of English phonics leading to improvement in students’ English reading & comprehension.
- Application of the software across multiple devices (e.g. phones, PCs), operating systems (i.e. Windows, Linux, Android) and availability for use both online and offline.
- Measurement of students’ reading skill at start and end of a school year across large cohorts using the RCT approach administered by credible, independent agencies has demonstrated significant reading improvements for students exposed to the program as compared to the counterfactual.
- Partnerships with organizations that enable local navigation and implementation.
- Optimization of investments in existing IT infrastructure. RightToRead is typically deployed leveraging existing devices and improves return on investment in IT.
- Affordable pricing aimed at enabling RightToRead to reach schools and students from the lowest economic strata has assisted the large scale expansion of the program in various geographies.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
- Countries in Latin America and The Caribbean (LAC) need to ensure interventions that are deployable at scale, are impactful and economically efficient.
- The public education systems must be leveraged – they have the largest footprints and enable partnership with education policy makers & administrators.
- Transformation of large public systems often requires private sector engagement. A case in point is Telecom and the massive-scale change in many countries catalyzed by Public Private Partnerships.
- LAC has a demonstrated need for its young population to learn English.
- English must be learnt during K12. This is challenging because of English phonics, the lack of English in the learners’ daily environments and the paucity of qualified teachers.
- Technology solutions that adapt to local needs can integrate with curriculum, are affordable and offer an opportunity to address the problem.
- RightToRead is focused on large-scale, speedy and affordable implementation of an AI technology-enabled reading program aimed mainly at public schools. Since its launch in 2013, the program has evolved technologically and has gained credibility because of engagement of multiple stakeholders and independently evaluated results.
- The success of RightToRead has been underscored by improvement observed across significantly diverse geographies.
- The implementation of RightToRead in LAC, across Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala demonstrates the value of this intervention for the region.
- Research, assessment results and feedback: Large-scale evaluations reveal improvement by 20%-40% compared to a counterfactual. A strong correlation has been established between reading improvement and continued use.
Select the key characteristics of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean your solution serves (or will serve).
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
RightToRead has grown in scale and spread:
- 2013: Proof of Concept launched in India – 100 public schools, 20,000 students.
- 2015: Expanded in partnership with USAID – 5,000 schools, 1 million students
- 2017-18: Expanded to other countries including: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua. Total 15,000 schools / 4 million students
- 2019: Launched 10,000 schools / 4 million students project in Sri Lanka; 65,000 schools / 13 million students project in Maharashtra (India); launched in Nepal; secured Cambodia government approval for pilot. Total 25,000 schools / 8 million students
In LAC, the RightToRead journey has been:
- 2017: Launched program in 1 school in Nicaragua which did not have English classes before. Launched as extra classes in the school.
- 2018: Expanded the program to Honduras in 3 schools and adapted to kindergartens and pre-schools (15), incorporated the program into the Nicaraguan school schedule which was using the program.
- 2019: Expanded the program in Nicaragua to 2 schools, started an adult literacy program for potential kindergarten teachers in Honduras using the program. Started pilot program in Guatemala.
The growth in beneficiaries of the program, students and teachers, is expected to be:
Current – 8 million Students / 100,000 Teachers
Next Year – 25 million Students / 350,000 Teachers
Five Years – 250 million Students / 5 million Teachers
Current – 1,216 Students / 23 Teachers
Next Year – 100 Schools / 10,000 Students / 300 Teachers
Five Years – 25,000 Schools / 2.5 million Students / 100,000 Teachers
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
RightToRead LAC goals can be categorized as below:
A. Demonstrate Impact
In One Year – continue tracking students’ progress in RightToRead schools: improvement of 50% compared to baseline
Over Five Years – demonstrate similar impact over large scale i.e. 5-10 million students
B. Build Scale
In One Year – achieve scale of 100 schools / 10,000 students
Over Five Years – achieve scale of 25,000 schools / 2.5 million students and 2.5 million Youth / Adult learners
C. Diversify Spread
In One Year – increase spread to at least two more countries e.g. Peru & Colombia
Over Five Years – reach over 50% of the LAC countries
D. Expand Products & Solutions
In One Year – enable students to read in class & at home; launch Spoken English online / app for youth & adults
Over Five Years – virtual classrooms, students & teacher networks, teacher classes on demand, AI assistance for context-based English learning including writing
E. Achieve Sustainability
In One Year – obtain development / grant funds to support initial growth to 1,000 schools
Over Five Years – achieve affordable pricing-driven massive scale and profitability
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
A. Building Credibility
RightToRead has been a tremendous success in South Asia. USAID partnership enabled the project to establish a scale pilot and gain credibility with educators and administrators. This is now needed to be replicated in LAC.
B. Public Partnerships
For large scale deployment of the program, partnership with governments is critical. RightToRead can cover the entire network of schools of countries driving quick change efficiently. This has been proven in India and is the case for Sri Lanka.
C. Private Sector Engagement
The public sector will open the school network. However, any transformation needs change management and execution to be successful. RightToRead needs to be supported by local partners in LAC countries who may engage for various reasons including social responsibility and profit.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
A. Building Credibility
In the locations where we have begun large-scale expansion, credibility of stakeholders has had a direct impact on the credibility of the program. For example, we are approaching MIT Solve with credibility as an important goal. We are presently in active dialogue with local agencies in LAC (e.g. United Technologies for Kids, Peru) to engage stakeholders who will bring strategic value to the program.
B. Public Partnerships
Partnership with the public education system will be achieved by partnering with local agencies that are already engaged with the public system for enabling education transformation. We have mentioned UTK in Peru. In Guatemala, we have an ongoing dialogue with a foundation called Fundap. They have a network of around 120 public schools to which they give educational support. In Honduras, we are in contact with Fundacion Ficohsa and FEREMA which support the biggest network of public kindergartens around the country.
C. Private Sector Engagement
The RightToRead program was enabled in LAC through partnerships with the private sector as education and children support is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility program of many large corporations. In addition, we have commenced conversations with multiple potential partners across the LAC. An enabler for this purpose is the platform created by Amazon Web Services’ Education Segment which aggregates local players for enabling such partnerships. We hope to conclude 2-3 partnerships this year (subject to the volatility created by COVID-19).
If you selected “My solution is already being implemented in Latin America/Caribbean,” please provide an overview of your current activities in the region.
The RightToRead program was initiated in Central America in 2017 in a subsidized school called Sagrada Familia in Ticuantepe, Nicaragua. Results show a 20-30% increase in their grades. In 2019, 2 other schools in Nicaragua (Chinandega and Granada) started using ReadToMe as English reinforcement classes, in addition to the regular English classes.
The RightToRead program in Honduras was initiated in 2018 in 3 schools sponsored by a private group, in the regions of Tela and Trujillo.
The Program also used in a network of around 15 kindergarten and pre-schools in public schools in the region of Tela, Honduras.
The RightToRead program was implemented in Guatemala in 2019 running pilots in 5 different schools: 2 private schools and 3 public schools.
In all three countries there is an opportunity to expand footprint quickly to 25-50 schools. This requires initial funding and government support (which will be forthcoming if the program is initially free). The current plan is three-pronged:
- Obtain philanthropic support from local private enterprise
- Engage in strategic partnership with local education company Obtain support from development agency e.g. USAID or World Bank
Select an option below:
How many people work on your solution team?
The Senior Vice-President provides strategic leadership for the Program. The Program delivery and implementation of RightToRead is overseen by the Program Management Office. The PMO has experience in large-scale roll-out leveraging virtual/cloud-based tracking, monitoring & communication systems. The PMO is comprised of Lead Trainers, Regional Leaders and Program Management personnel. The Program is supported by a dedicated staff of 40 people: technology team, product development, communications, analysts and support functions of Administration and Finance.
The team comprises 70 full-time and 5 part-time personnel.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
RightToRead was launched in India in 2013 and in LAC in 2017.
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
EnglishHelper is an ed-tech company committed to impacting the lives of millions of people globally through its affordable and effective technology-enabled learning solutions. EnglishHelper through RightToRead (K12) and EnglishBolo™ (working age youth / adults) will reach nearly 20 million students / learners and over 500,000 teachers within the next one year. EnglishHelper’s capability that qualifies the company uniquely are:
- Successful Experience Across Geographies – RightToRead is currently reaching 25,000 schools / 8 million students in India / South Asia and a growing footprint in SE Asia/ China, Africa and LAC.
- Demonstrated Impact – RightToRead has been evaluated for program impact by qualified, independent agencies – improvements of 20-40% over comparable ‘control’ groups were reported.
- Unique Program – that leverages proprietary multi-sensory AI technology designed based on researched language learning principles and integrates with school curriculum.
- Globally experienced leadership – the company was founded by Dr. Venkat Srinivsan, Boston-based cognitive scientist and is led by Sanjay Gupta, previously a global business leader at American Express.
- Knowledge Partnerships – with USAID, MIT J-WEL and ROI Institute.
- LAC Success – the program was launched in LAC in 2017 in Nicaragua. The regional leader, Giovanna Saccarello, has since driven the expansion to Honduras and Guatemala with a pilot in Peru underway. This has been achieved by hands-on implementation and developing local partnerships.
- Focus on impact, scale and affordability – the program has been designed on these principles. India-based software development and operations enable cost efficiencies and eliminate ‘price as a conversation’.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
RightToRead is deployed through the Public-Private Partnership model. EnglishHelper is committed to alliance of multiple stakeholders to achieve large-scale, high-impact change.
In 2015, in partnership with USAID, RightToRead was implemented across 8 Indian states covering nearly 5,000 schools and 1 million students as a 3-year project.
EnglishHelper partners with MIT J-WEL, which works to promote excellence and transformation in education, to conduct a longitudinal study of the impact of digital intervention in education in the lives of students and teachers in Sri Lanka. A project is underway with the ROI Institute which evaluates the success (including financial ROI) of projects.
A major growth lever is partnership with organizations who are already working with the education sector:
- India – Schoolnet (a major education company), Pallavan Learning Systems (founded by a renowned educator currently education advisor to the King of Bhutan), American India Foundation, ShikshaDaan (NGO), Smile Foundation (NGO)
- Sri Lanka – Brandix Lanka, who are driving RightToRead building an industry coalition
- China – Amazon Web Services, Trump Education
- Cambodia – Teach for Cambodia
- Nicaragua – Fundacion COSEP (chamber of commerce in Nicaragua), Fundacion Pantaleon.
- Honduras – Grupo Jaremar, Fundacion Ficohsa
- Guatemala – FUNDAP, Fundacion Pantaleon
- Peru – United Technology for Kids
What is your business model?
RightToRead is focused on large-scale, speedy and affordable implementation of a technology-enabled reading program mainly in public schools. It is operational in more than 300 districts across India. The success of the program has enabled EnglishHelper to leverage partnerships in Africa (Sierra Leone & Nigeria), Asia (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China & Cambodia), and Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala & Peru).Sri Lanka has accorded approval for implementing RightToRead in all Government schools in Sri Lanka. The massive growth estimated to reach 100,000 schools and 20 million students 2020 was initially funded by philanthropic sources & development agencies. Increasingly, RightToRead, in maturing geographies (e.g. India) is generating revenue by accessing public education/ social welfare budgets.
EnglishBolo™ is targeted at low-income youth / adults between the ages of 14 and 30 years. EnglishBolo™ was commercially launched in 2018 and has over 600K subscribers with 30K premium users. Expansion of the EnglishBolo™ program is being achieved through a multi-pronged approach of massive scale B2C distribution systems that include the RightToRead school network, Direct to Consumer retail outlets (EnglishBolo™ is now available at ~300,000 common service centers mostly located in rural / semi-urban locations in India), Digital B2C, e.g. vernacular users of Facebook, B2G e.g. employment exchanges, military personnel, public school teachers and B2B (engagements with companies in hospitality, retail, logistics and higher-ed institutions).
The company has a blended model:
- Twin bottom lines of profitable revenue & large-scale social impact
- Physical, offline growth creating a network for digital, online products
What is your path to financial sustainability?
RightToRead has adopted the following path to sustainability and expects a similar trajectory in LAC:
A. Proof of Concept (POC) – this has been generally self-funded by EnglishHelper (investors)
B. Pilots at Scale – this has been supported by Corporate Social Responsibility funds and Development Agencies (e.g. USAID)
C. Large-scale expansion – this is a period where multiple revenue / funding sources are available
In addition, around this time online affordable English learning solutions begin to gain traction leveraging the school network and other partnership/ digital channels
- Public education budgets
- Private education networks
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Development agencies
In LAC, POCs have been established successfully. It is expected that some new markets/ countries may require similar initial investments even as other countries move to larger footprints mostly funded by development / social financing. The intent is also to fast forward EnglishBolo™ to LAC. This is an app (self-learning and live, video teacher class) spoken English product. The teachers will be sourced from low cost markets e.g. India / The Philippines and will be aligned to the North American accent requirements of the LAC learners. We expect EnglishBolo™ to eventually be a major revenue driver – affordable & large-scale.
In addition, the company is also launching online / app reading & comprehension of textbooks at home and a virtual classroom solution for teacher-led reading of English textbooks. These products have been fast forwarded due to the COVID-19 crisis and will become imminently viable, revenue-generating solutions for LAC.
Why are you applying to the TPrize Challenge?
RightToRead is a multiple stakeholder, global initiative. Visibility to this program has the following benefits:
A. Education administrators: to communicate the role and impact of technology in eliminating illiteracy. For large-scale transformation we encourage them to engage with the private sector to drive execution.
B. Funding agencies: RightToRead is a program ‘without borders’. In India, the program is moving towards self-reliance. Expansion can be facilitated to other geographies by funding agencies engaged with those locations.
C. Private Education Enterprises: To build partnerships for local and global deployment and to demonstrate a ‘double bottom line’ model that could be replicated as relevant.
We believe the TPrize Challenge will assist significantly with:
- Initial funding support
- Networks and assistance for enabling growth
- Building credibility for RightToRead in LAC
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
The long-term objective is to partner with education organizations in the region. These include:
- EdTech providers for whom RightToRead is a synergistic, strategic fit
- Education solutions providers to K12
- Online education & skills development providers
Initially, to establish RightToRead and enable creation of the next phase of growth the partners best suited are:
- MIT / J-Pal for impact evaluations
- Inter-American Development Bank – for future projects
- BCIE (Banco Centroamericano de Integracion Economica)
- Ministries of Education (Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Colombia)
- Direccion Regional de Lima Metropolitano (DRELM)
- Pronacom (Guatemala)
- CINDE (for potential growth in Costa Rica)