This article has been powered by P&G Shiksha.
In a classroom where most students eagerly seek the teacher’s attention and recognition, Bindiya prefers to go into hiding. Whether it’s hiding beneath the desk, blending in with her friends, or even finding refuge behind the trees on the playground, she is excelling at the game of hide and seek, while her peers compete to answer the teacher’s questions.
Eventually, the teacher becomes aware of this behaviour and manages to locate Bindiya. Curiously, the teacher asks, “Bindiya, why do you hide? Please tell me.”
After a brief moment of hesitation, she responds, “Sir, I’m afraid of questions. And if you don’t see me, then how will you ask me questions?”
This scene is part of P&G Shiksha’s new campaign film, illustrating the profound impact of the ‘invisible gap’ on children and their struggles to adapt within the classroom environment. The film further shares that “like Bindiya, over six crore children feel left behind in class” — according to the NAS (National Achievement Survey) 2021 report — and that “many of them eventually drop out.”
The campaign aims to emphasise the importance of unified efforts in guaranteeing that every child in India is provided with an empowering education, enabling them to shape a brighter future for both themselves and their communities.
What is the ‘Invisible Gap’?
“Many times, children struggle to keep up with what is taught in class. One concept, one subject, one class — can give way to a larger issue, where the child develops a gap in the fundamentals of education. When the child falls behind and the current learning level is not in line with the expected learning level as per the defined curriculum, it gives rise to a learning gap,” says Girish Kalyanaraman, Vice President of Marketing Operations, P&G India.
As a result, India is facing a significant “learning crisis”, in which educational accessibility has greatly improved, but learning outcomes have not kept pace. This crisis manifests in various ways among children, ranging from diminished confidence and making excuses to skip school, to reduced participation and a fear of expressing themselves.
Some children even resort to distraction and hiding when probed, as illustrated by Bindiya’s story. Unfortunately, these signs are frequently misinterpreted as naughtiness, lack of discipline, or disinterest, which only worsens the symptoms due to a lack of comprehension and support. These misconceptions primarily arise from a lack of awareness and understanding regarding the invisible gap.
The invisible gap manifests in several ways — making excuses to avoid attending school; demonstrating limited participation in classroom discussions and activities; experiencing fear or difficulty in expressing their emotions; displaying below-average performance in tests and examinations; exhibiting distraction and a tendency to hide when probed during class or at home.
How to make this learning gap visible?
“Our aim this year is to make this invisible gap visible, by creating awareness and urging meaningful action,” says Girish.
“We are attempting to spark conversations around the pertinent learning crisis impacting crores of children in our country. This gap arises when children fall behind and the current learning level is not in line with the expected learning level. To bridge this gap, P&G has been working with its partners through various programs — from leveraging advanced machine-learning-based tools to community-level learning camps.”
P&G Shiksha has adopted a three-pronged strategy to bring visibility to this gap:
1) Taking the lead on the urgent need for driving awareness — Through this campaign, their goal is to bring attention to the gap by generating nationwide awareness about this issue, which is frequently misconstrued as a child’s mischievousness or lack of interest in learning.
2) Tackling the issue on the ground — They say they are actively employing innovative approaches to reduce learning gaps and enhance learning outcomes. This includes implementing on-ground remedial learning interventions, early childhood education initiatives, and technology-based digital remedial learning methods.
3) Urging for collective action — While P&G Shiksha spearheads these on-ground interventions, it encourages everyone to join forces and take collective action. Each individual can contribute to this transformation by participating in an assessment test to identify learning gaps in the children around them and subsequently taking remedial measures to bridge those gaps. The test can be accessed on their website.
The assessment test has been created in collaboration with Educational Initiatives, the implementing partner for their digital remedial learning programme. The purpose of this assessment is to enable people across the country to identify learning gaps faced by children promptly. It also suggests ways to bridge these gaps.
The assessment is open to children in classes 1 to 10 and consists of 15 compulsory multiple-choice questions. These questions cover Mathematics, Science, and English, with five questions from each subject. The difficulty level of the assessment is determined based on the grade of the child. The questions align with the curriculum for each grade and aim to assess whether the child’s current learning level matches the expected level according to the defined curriculum.
If the assessment reveals that a child’s learning level is below the expected level, the screen provides recommendations and remedial actions that parents, or guardians can take to bridge the gap.
The flagship CSR programme of P&G India, called ‘P&G Shiksha’, was introduced in 2005 with a mission to offer access to education for underprivileged children in the nation. As the country progressed, P&G Shiksha underwent a transformative journey, expanding into a comprehensive education initiative that encompasses all aspects of learning.
It focuses on enhancing children’s learning outcomes by bolstering educational infrastructure, addressing learning gaps, and empowering marginalised communities through education.
Girish says, “At P&G, our endeavour is to be a ‘Force For Growth’ and a ‘Force For Good’ in the communities we serve, and to touch and improve people’s lives. This is naturally woven into the way we work every day. Our initiatives are in line with the motto outlined in the New Education Policy — Educate, Encourage, Enlighten. Over the years, we have supported more than 3,000 schools impacting over 35 lakh children in need.”
These programmes are aligned with the Government’s Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan and the National Education Policy, both of which emphasise the importance of providing equitable learning opportunities for all.
The initiatives currently spearheaded by P&G Shiksha
1) Infrastructure — In collaboration with the NGO Round Table India, P&G Shiksha is actively involved in improving education infrastructure in diverse ways. This includes constructing new classrooms, developing playgrounds, and enhancing health and hygiene facilities for children — such as providing clean drinking water and separate toilets for girls and boys in schools.
“By undertaking these initiatives, our aim is to create a learning environment that is more conducive to education. This, in turn, contributes to increased enrollment, decreased dropout rates, improved teaching efficiency, student motivation, and ultimately, a higher overall level of learning,” says Girish.
2) Community Remedial Learning — Through collaboration with the Pratham Education Foundation, P&G Shiksha is implementing innovative approaches to reduce learning gaps and enhance learning outcomes in communities. This is achieved through on-ground remedial learning interventions utilising both a community-based and an ‘in-school’ model. Trained volunteers from the community, along with teachers at the school, provide support for these programs.
“The objective of our remedial learning initiatives is two-fold — first, to accelerate students’ progress in school and second, to strengthen their conceptual understanding of crucial subjects. As a result of these interventions, at the end of the programme last year, over 70% of students were able to read at their expected learning levels, compared to less than 25% at the beginning of the intervention,” he notes.
3) Digital Remedial Learning — Through a partnership with Educational Initiatives, they are implementing ‘Mindspark’, an adaptive computer-based learning tool designed to address learning gaps in students. This tool combines pedagogy, teacher instruction, and a comprehensive learning management system to assess each student’s learning level and create a personalised learning path tailored to their specific needs.
4) Early Childhood Education Programme — In collaboration with the Pratham Education Foundation, P&G Shiksha’s efforts are directed towards nurturing children’s motor, cognitive, social-emotional, language, and creative skills.
5) Girl Child Education in Rajasthan — Through their partnership with Save The Children, they are working on dismantling gender-based barriers that hinder girls’ access to education in the country.
“As part of this initiative, we extend our support to 49 government-operated residential Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) schools and 36 regular schools across seven districts in Rajasthan. Our focus is on providing quality education to girls through comprehensive infrastructure and learning interventions. Additionally, we actively engage parents to emphasise the importance of continuous education and reduce dropout rates,” says Girish.
6) STEM Scholarships — They are actively involved in fostering opportunities for girls to pursue careers in STEM fields through the ‘P&G Shiksha Betiyan Scholarship Programme’ in collaboration with the Centre for Civil Society (CCS).
“Currently, women comprise only 14% of the STEM workforce in India, and we are committed to narrowing this gender gap. Our objective is to empower girls who aspire to pursue STEM education by providing vital financial assistance and mentorship support. Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the entry of skilled women professionals into manufacturing and production industries. Through this program, we have successfully collaborated with over 100 institutions, positively impacting more than 300 beneficiaries,” he explains.
“P&G Shiksha started as a programme to build schools across the country in line with the government’s mission. It has today evolved into a holistic programme that addresses some critical barriers to achieving quality education,” remarks Girish.
(Edited by Pranita Bhat; All images courtesy: P&G Shiksha)