ELAN-BD (Enhancing Literacy and Numeracy in Bangladesh)
Our mission is to establish and deploy effective and scalable models of literacy and learning by leveraging the power of digital technology.
Pitch us on your solution
According to UNICEF, 2.6 million primary grade school-age children are out of school. More importantly, most of the students who are in school exhibit poor learning outcomes. Just a third of the primary graduates acquire English, Math & Bangla skills they are expected to master, according to the World Bank. Traditional models of education do not offer solutions to this illiteracy problem prevalent in developing countries.
Our solution leverages award-winning gamified digital learning software on cost-effective and easy-to-use devices and gives children functional literacy, numeracy and digital skills to make them lifelong self-learners. Our key differentiator is that we use extremely high engagement mechanisms such as educational games to power learning
This has benefits to under-served communities in Bangladesh beyond increased literacy and numeracy, in the form of increased human and economic capital, greater education equity, inclusion and expanding access through digital literacy.
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What is the problem you are solving?
The Problem we are solving:
Access to quality education for marginalized and under-served communities in Bangladesh that makes these communities “functionally literate”.
The Scale of the Problem:
UNICEF estimates 2.6 million primary grade children in Bangladesh are out-of-school, with no access to formal educational systems and learning. Where access exists, the 2015 National Student Assessment report by the Government of Bangladesh shows that despite increasing enrollment, literacy and numeracy declined among primary grade students from preceding years, with only one in four children in fifth grade having the required skills in Mathematics and Bangla.
A critical constraint is the shortage of teachers - 9 million globally and 0.5 million in Bangladesh alone - which could take 20+ years to solve even if funding were available. The poor quality of instruction and content being imparted, teacher and student absenteeism, the overall absence of accountability in the system, also remain huge constraints in the present system of education.
Who are you serving?
We currently serve children from under-resourced communities in Bangladesh who require better access to quality education than is being provided. Our existing deployments are in Cox’s Bazar (Ukhiya), in Rohingya refugee camps, and Bihari Camps in Dhaka, targeting children from pre-K to Grade 5. We plan to expand to other parts of Bangladesh in partnership with Access to Information (a2i) which is leading the Digital Bangladesh initiative of the govt.
We work with on-the-ground local partners, such as OBAT Helpers, who have been helping these communities for some time on their housing, health, education and day-to-day requirements, etc. and understand their needs quite well. In addition, the education team at a2i in the Govt of Bangladesh has a good understanding of the needs of students in public schools
Many students joining our programs have little or no understanding of English, Maths and their native languages. Our solution gives them the tools required to develop functional literacy and 21st century digital skills necessary for participation in the global economy, e.g. navigating digital devices, typing, etc. This can allow them to transition to mainstream education later on and help them move on a path towards lifelong independent self-learning.
What is your solution?
We offer a simple and scalable digital learning solution that can be deployed in existing schools and informal “learning centers”, teaching English, Bangla & Math to primary age children.
Our program is designed for rapid and massive scalability and requires minimal sophistication to operate.
We only work with established players in education (e.g. some of our partners run 1000+ schools). Hence, our program requires limited capital investment, as we leverage existing infrastructure and resources.
Our program is run by a “facilitator” who need not be a qualified teacher, and can be trained in 5 days. Facilitators with a 5th grade education background can successfully run our program.
We curate and deploy award-winning reading, writing, math games on low-cost tablets. We then assemble 25 - 30 children in a secure, stable facility.
Apps are carefully curated and designed for self-learning so we reduce reliance on teacher instruction. They need to be:
a) Highly engaging
b) Have intrinsic game-based motivation/incentivization
c) Interactive and provide instant feedback to student
d) Able to provide real time tracking of progress
Sessions are managed by a facilitator from the community, who is trained in less than a week to manage the students’ schedule, maintain discipline, troubleshoot tablets, keep them charged and secure. They also conduct basic formative assessments and assist students.
2. Services and Governance Processes
a) Training: We provide training and training materials to facilitators and teachers
b) Support and trouble shooting: We also provide ongoing technical support and trouble shooting to our deployment partners.
c) Deployment: We are actively involved with every launch until it stabilizes, which is usually in a few weeks.
d) Monitoring: We believe monitoring and governance are key to good execution. We implement weekly monitoring using time-tested execution mechanisms such as dashboards. We also collect engagement and progress data in real-time to assess student learning gaps so facilitators can remediate fast.
e) Evaluation: An integral part of our solution is on-going third party evaluation of our interventions through baseline-midline-endline assessments in a mixed method, quasi-experimental research design. We measure absolute progress as well as relative progress against a control group (i.e. a group of students learning through traditional means).
a) Hardware: Android tablets, charging stations, headphones, WiFi hotspots.
b) Software: “Best-in-class” educational games relevant to local curriculum.
c) Supporting infra-structure: Solar power, satellite internet access if needed.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Washington D.C., DC, USA
In which sector would you categorize your solution?
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
What makes our solution innovative?
Our key innovation is not original invention, but the packaging of existing technologies with new approaches/processes to solve for education access and quality -- major problems for Bangladesh and the world education. Key features are:
The use of educational games to drive student “engagement”
The innate scalability built into our deployment approach
Real time Instant feedback and personalized learning for students.
Solving the “accountability” challenge
Gamification and rewards motivate students and enable self-learning, without direct teacher instruction. Our applications are highly engaging compared to traditional methods — solving the critical challenge of teacher shortages and teacher quality.
We have built massive scalability into our design to allow us to deploy to millions rapidly -- from working with large local educational players, low infrastructure investment versus traditional brick-and-mortar, low management skill needs, and maximizing the utilization of technology and facilities for great cost-effectiveness.
3. Real-time Feedback:
Our solution can provide real-time assessment and feedback on students' progress, allowing the student to follow a personalized learning path, based on their own learning pace and cognitive ability, while we use the data to track student progress to iterate and further improve the learning experience.
A key developing world problem in education is school, teacher, and student accountability. The built-in tracking capability of digital creates extraordinary accountability. Teacher and student attendance, time spent on learning apps, learning progress achieved, is tracked. With appropriate rewards systems, this can be a powerful motivator for reducing teacher/student absenteeism and enhancing overall performance.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Our Theory of Change:
Exponentially improving digital technologies & gamified self-learning applications, deployed on user-friendly devices, show considerable learning gains in functional literacy and numeracy, alongside other benefits (digital literacy, self-learning attitudes), in contexts where there is a lack of teachers and poor infrastructure availability.
This is a proven model that has produced promising results in multiple developing countries.
Pratham Digital in India, with around 18,000 tablets in informal learning centers
Google Xprize winner OneBillion ran a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) in Malawi, found significant learning gains and since have impacted over 30,000 students
Can’t Wait to Learn conducted a study with a similar program in Sudan, have documented learning gains.
We expect these results to be even better going forward, considering the exponential rate at which technology and gamified learning applications are improving.
- Nielsen conducted an independent evaluation of our proof-of-concept in 2016. They ran a controlled study of 43 children, with 23 children in the intervention group and 20 in the control group. The results showed the intervention group outperforming the control group across by a factor of 2x or more.
- Based on third party evaluation employing a quasi-experimental approach (QED), our deployment in Bangladesh and other countries have also shown average learning gains (English & Math) that are significantly better than control groups. The assessments were based on Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Math Assessment (EGMA) frameworks developed by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI).
Select the key characteristics of the population in Bangladesh your solution serves.
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?
We are currently supporting over 1,400+ children through several deployments across Bangladesh, Malawi and Pakistan. We are working with approx. 500 students in Bangladesh, 750 in Pakistan and 150 in Malawi at the moment.
Next year, contingent on the amount of funding we are able to raise, we intend to scale up our existing operations in the Bihari and Rohingya refugee camps to target at-least 2000 - 5000+ children. We are also planning to launch a pilot with a2i in urban slums in Dhaka in 2020.
Aspirationally, in five years we hope to impact between 300,000 - 500,000 primary school-age children by deploying our model in Bangladesh and other major developing countries around the world. We primarily want to target low-income public sector schools in Bangladesh and marginalized communities such as those in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
In the future, we intend to experiment with this model to tackle the problem of adult literacy as well.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our overall objective is to create a successful and replicable model of digital learning for under-served communities that can be scaled quickly and effectively to combat the massive illiteracy gap around the world.
Our immediate goals for next year are to scale-up our existing pilots with a larger target population between 2000 - 5000+ and use the results/data we get from these scaled programs to further refine and iterate the model. In Bangladesh, we will be running a strategic pilot in public schools in partnership with the Bangladesh Government’s center of excellence for innovation -- the Access to Information (a2i) organization, which is leading the Digital Bangladesh initiative.
With the model established with sufficient empirical backing and evidence, our longer term vision is to partner with public and private sectors to scale the model in Bangladesh, and eventually improve the quality of in-school student performance at the primary level, both in the public and private sectors in Bangladesh and potentially have transformational impact on the lives of millions of Bangladeshi people.
We will do this by also enabling other organizations to adopt and replicate this model in their own communities and publish high quality independent research that can be used by a variety of stake-holders/organization to further inform their own work.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
- We would require considerable funding and donor commitments to successfully scale up interventions in the coming years, both from the private and public sectors.
- As with most new and emerging technologies, there is resistance to change during initial adoption. For digital implementation of learning, this may be due to the novelty of the technology being used (self learning devices connected to the internet that require minimal teacher instruction and facilitation). These perceptions are not only maintained by the teachers, but the parents of the students as well.
- Since we use multiple third-party apps, we need an integrated platform that can allow us to see a child's progress data from a single dashboard (currently, each application has its own method of gathering this data and needs to be manually consolidated).
- Internet connectivity also remains a barrier in some of the communities we are working with.
- Digital device maintenance and security requires significant focus.
Public Sector Adoption and Political Challenges:
- Efficient and long term partnerships are required with the public sector in the countries we are working in. At the moment, bureaucracy and red-tape inefficiencies hamper adoption of any large scale pilots.
- Similarly, for any successful scale-up, large scale inertia of the existing education system, dealing with teacher unions, and the desire to maintain the status quo will also be a longer term barrier for this model to overcome.
Evolution of Technology:
- Exponential evolution and change in types of technology, which can render previous form on which deployment was made obsolete very quickly.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We recognize that these barriers exist and have a disciplined approach to overcome them
- We believe that the worldwide philanthropy funding available for underserved environments is immense, particularly for the education sector. We are already sustaining ourselves through individual and institutional philanthropic funding at the moment and with a proven scale-up model at hand, we intend to start targeting larger public and private donors around the world to implement scale-up solutions. As we scale, we plan to shift towards a per-user fee revenue generating model.
- To overcome perception barriers we intend to develop a robust education and PR plan to ensure relevant stakeholders are on board. We will emphasize that we need to adopt digital as it is an integral part of the future world.
Public Sector Adoption and Political Challenges:
- We are creating a critical coalition of partners involving business, government, non-profits, educational researchers/specialists and aid agencies to address and highlight this issue and work towards a consolidated approach to education aid giving and implementation, particularly in the countries in which we are operating.
- To achieve interoperability of analytics from different programs, we are in talks with several leading platform providers to give us access to their platform for developing contexts in which we are working in.
- For the longer term issue of medium obsolescence, as we are not wedded to any single technological medium for content delivery, we can adapt very quickly to whatever new technology forms will emerge in the future.
If you selected “My solution is already being implemented in Bangladesh,” please provide an overview of your current activities in the region.
We are currently deployed in multiple locations in Bangladesh. We began with programs in Dhaka, added underserved host communities in Cox’s Bazar, and then the Rohingya refugees in Kutupalong. The total population being served in Bangladesh is about 500. Facilitators from each community were trained by us. As our research showed that learning gains through digital programs are significantly greater than with traditional programs, it enabled us to shorten school timings to 2 hours per day and thus accommodate larger numbers of children who needed education. This further endorses the effectiveness of games in enhancing learning and engagement of children. The program is running in multiple shifts and spans 2+hours per shift. The curriculum comprises of English, Mathematics, and Bangla or Burmese (Rohingya root language). In Rohingya camps, as the children have experienced significant trauma from atrocities witnessed and displacement, we have also introduced a Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) program.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Bangladesh,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Bangladesh?
Select an option below:Nonprofit
If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
- Teach the World Foundation consists of a lean core team of 10+ people, strongly supplemented by our partners, whose expertise we leverage
Our Implementation and Deployment Partners:
- 50+ staff on-ground implementing our model
- 30+ (Enumerators)
- 10+ (Lahore University of Management Sciences, University of Helsinki)
- 5+ in various capacities
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our team brings significant expertise in:
· Successful mega-scale digital transformation
· Innovation in learning,
· 3+ years of successful on-the-ground digital learning deployment
Shafiq Khan, President: headed digital at Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, where he scaled their digital business from $150 million to $15 billion+. Earlier, Shafiq led the digital transformation of travel by pioneering electronic ticketing and online booking at United Airlines and US Airways, establishing them as a global standard. Shafiq brings invaluable experience successfully scaling digital transformation.
Imran Sayeed, Chief Development Officer: is on the faculty of MIT’s Sloan School teaching Entrepreneurship & Innovation, a serial entrepreneur, and was until recently CTO at a Fortune 60 company. Imran brings experience starting new ventures, scaling them rapidly as well as securing funding and partnerships to create global impact.
Robert Torres, PhD, Chief Strategy Officer: led educational technology at the Gates Foundation, where he funded some of the world’s leading educational innovation programs. He is a recognized authority on gamified education and launched some of the leading programs in the US.
Shirin Husain, Chief Implementation Officer: is among the foremost practitioners of digital learning in the developing world, and has implemented ALL our programs worldwide. She has 30 years experience teaching children in the developing world as well as building the eco-system to sustain such programs. Her experience spans some of the most prestigious elite schools as well as some of the most impoverished communities.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Google Bolo: We have an agreement to pilot the Google Bolo program, a reading fluency application using Google’s speech recognition algorithms
XPrize Foundation: Agreement to use open source material from their prize winners
Kit Kit School: Winner of $15 mil. Xprize for Literacy and Numeracy.
Onebillion: Winner of $15 mil. Xprize for Literacy and Numeracy.
Footstep2Brilliance: Award-winning Literacy solution
Dragonbox: Award-winning Math solution
Prodigy: Award-winning Math solution
Lahore University of Management Sciences: Pakistan’s premier higher education university.
Center for Economic Research Pakistan: Pakistan’s leading research organization
OBAT Helpers: We are working with our partner organization, OBAT Helpers, to bring digital learning to displaced children in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Access 2 Information: A2I is the public sector govt. institution responsible for digitizing and implementing all ICT programs in Bangladesh. We are partnering with them to deploy our model in public schools in Bangladesh.
Joshua Orphan and Community Care: Our implementing partner in Malawi
The Citizens Foundation: Pakistan’s largest education non-profit for under-served communities
The Resource Group (TRG): Leading Business Processing Outsourcing organization
Dawood Hercules Group: One of the largest industrial conglomerates in Pakistan
Afiniti: Leading applied AI and data company
What is your business model?
- As a pure non-profit, our business model is not about making money. However, we need to fund ourselves adequately to accomplish our long-term mission with a fee-for-service model.
We start by partnering in a shared investment mode with established, existing education players serving low income communities in developing countries who already have scale.
We provide solution... software, hardware, training, support
- Partner provides deployment ... staffing, infrastructure, facilities, security and management
- We expect our partners to pay the fee per student as the key value we provide to our partners is increased access and quality. At scale, our model will be more cost-effective (approximately $30-40 per student per year) and will provide greater ROI in learning outcomes than traditional learning methods by leveraging existing infrastructure and maximizing its utilization.
Our customers would be large NGOs; low-cost private school chains; and most importantly, the public school systems of the countries in which we currently operate and will be working in the future.
Our beneficiaries are K – 5 children from under-served communities; the value we provide to them is access, quality, 21st century and digital literacy skills.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
In the short run we have relied on founders, friends & family, and angels who are aligned with our social impact mission to fund our operations. Considering the strong value placed on education, this has been feasible until now.
However, as we move to the next level--massive scale and global expansion--we will charge a per-student fee and focus on making that an increasing proportion of our funding. And as we scale and leverage our size to reduce costs, this fee will become consistently lower.
In the long-term, this end-user fee will be our main source of revenue; our objective and challenge will be to ensure that it is in an acceptable range. At scale, we are estimating our cost-per-student to be in the $30-40 range, which is all inclusive. We are confident that this will be achievable and acceptable to our deployment partners
Please refer to the chart attached below for further details.
Why are you applying to the Tiger Challenge?
Winning the Tiger challenge will bring us very significant tangible and intangible benefits. It will very significantly strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission in Bangladesh, which is to bring literacy gains to 22 M+ school-going and 2.6 million out of-school children.
- The most immediate tangible benefit is access to funding. This will directly enable us to scale our existing interventions in Bangladesh to more students.
- We expect that the Tiger challenge/Solve team will also enable us to get access to the immense intellectual capital and the knowledge repository present at MIT and the Greater Boston area, particularly in the areas of emerging educational technologies, research and analytics.
- The brand association value will also be immense considering the respect MIT has and the considerable “halo effect” that comes from winning such a prestigious award. This will instantly enhance our credibility and allow us to develop relationships with many organizations relevant to our mission—e.g. potential partner organizations, entrepreneurs tackling the literacy problem in Bangladesh, donors, aid agencies, etc.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Some of the organizations/type of organizations we would like to partner with include:
BRAC (for Deployment): One of the largest non-governmental development organisations in the world. We would like to explore the possibility of partnering with them to scale our program in their school network in Bangladesh.
Clever (for Software Platform):
We would like to partner with them and contextualize the integrated analytics platform they have developed for use in the developing world.
Dreambox Learning (for Content):
Possibility of using their award winning Grade 1-8 math suite
J-PAL - Poverty Action Lab (for Research):
To help us with evidence backed evaluation of the programs that we launch. Also gain access to researchers at Harvard/MIT in the area of education and digital education impact
Hardware Partners (For low-cost Devices):
Connect with leading hardware providers for cost-effective and durable devices for use.
Global Education Funding Establishment (For Funding):
Gates Foundation, Foreign Aid Agencies (like DfID and USAID), Big Philanthropic Foundations, the United Nations and its associated arms, Development Banks (ADB, World Bank)
Consulting firms (for PR purposes):
Knowledge partnerships with leading technology and consulting firms to create ecosystem and PR strategy, ideally on a pro-bono basis.