ThinkZone, an award winning social impact start-up from Cuttack providing high quality, low-cost education to under-served children in low resource communities, has today announced its plans of expanding its footprint in the state of Odisha by creating jobs for 300 women micro-entrepreneurs.
The startup currently employs 100+ women catering to over 2,800 children in 375 villages across nine blocks of the districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara and Bhadrak will be looking to deepen its engagement in the most backward districts of the state, besides expanding into coastal Odisha through these women.
Using an innovative ‘School-in-a-Box’ education solution, offline technology, proprietary teaching activities and class management tools, these local women would deliver quality early-grade education programs following the Teaching-at-the-Right-Level approach (an MIT evidence-based pedagogy) to improve learning outcomes of 10,000 children in the state by 2020.
This plan for expansion comes on the back of it closing post seed stage round of funding of $ 104,000 from education sector focused impact investor Gray Matters Capital under its edLABS initiative.
The prospect of ThinkZone empowering women entrepreneurs as teachers to impart quality education using innovative low cost and scalable technology which can potentially benefit nearly 2 million students in the next five years is outlined as the rationale behind the gender-lens investor’s bet on this Odisha based start-up.
ThinkZone will use the funding towards 4 key strategic initiatives of automating teacher training, refining curriculum, improving performance monitoring by integrating analytics with technology and forging partnerships with the objective to scale.
The World Bank awarded start-up had previously raised funds from BPCL, UnLtd India, D-Prize (US Distribution Inc), INVENT(Villgro) and Startup Odisha.
Throwing light on the expansion plans, Binayak Acharya, Founder – ThinkZone said, “The work we do at ThinkZone is unique because we are developing a tech-based pedagogy for first generation learners and empowering women entrepreneurs who come from a limited education backgrounds with facilitation skills to provide tech-driven quality education in rural India. We’re creating a scalable model of technology and local community interventions that can be adapted to the local context. We plan to scale our expansion through greater decentralization and partner with select public sector organizations and private MNCs to implement our early-grade learning enhancement and teacher-training programs.”
The social enterprise is in talks to implement its pedagogy in government run primary schools as well the local Anganwadis (early-childcare centers) in the next one year.
“For any education model to be successful in India, it has to have four prerequisites: Low cost, high quality, scalability, and focus on barriers to education for poor. When I started working on ThinkZone, whoever I spoke to equated good teaching with good education. On the contrary, good education is about good learning. ThinkZone’s model emphasises learning-based education instead of teacher-centric learning. ThinkZone has a strong backend design and management team to support the relatively under-skilled community teachers. ThinkZone’s pedagogy, which is the core process of any education model, has undergone extensive reengineering to provide education delivery that is built on highly standardised elements”, Binayak said.
ThinkZone has recently partnered with Learning Equality for its Kolibiri Hardware Grants Program, which is a Google.org funded initiative. This will enable it to upskill teachers and help students learn at their own pace.