Bridging the Achievement Gap: Don Bosco Shelter, Mumbai

In October 2015, we were approached by Fr Adolf from Don Bosco Matunga to brainstorm a solution for their shelter. This shelter caters to over 60 students who have been rehabilitated from the streets of Mumbai. Fr Adolf’s vision was to use personalized learning as a tool to help bridge the academic gap for these students who had no form of formal schooling and were put into public/government schools simply based on their age. This resulted in a massive gap where students could not even identify alphabets or numbers but were still attending Grade 5 in schools.

Zaya developed a program using its Personalized Learning Platform for the group. Every child was given a pre-program diagnosis test to gauge their levels. Once this was done, every student was given a playlist along with volunteer facilitators to engage them in their learning.

How this worked:
Every child spends 1 hour every morning 1–1 with technology using our English program. This was customized for their reading and speaking levels. Along with the 1–1 content, there were lesson plans given to volunteers who would facilitate these classes.

Why was this different:
We had over 45 students in the program and every child was at a different learning level for both Math and English. This made it extremely challenging for a teacher-led intervention to reach our goal; we had to instead implement a blended approach where 1–1 learning would take place with technology, and special support was provided by the facilitator. Another major difference from regular classrooms was that children had no parental support or foundation. This posed interesting challenges even for online learning as their behavior towards positive reinforcement and regular feedback given by the technology was very different from students who receive parental support from childhood.

The results were very encouraging. The engagement levels of the students were higher than usual. Most students jumped a significant level in their English speaking and reading ability. Performance in Math was even higher. This was attributed to the nature of the lessons covered in the first phase of this intervention.

Next Steps:
This model definitely helped all the students in the program who never had access to self-paced learning or personalized attention. We have decided to extend this program with the shelter for another 6 months to measure the jump in the learning outcomes for these 45 students. With the vision of Fr Adolf and support from the shelter, we have a unique opportunity to prove that access to world class learning is not limited to only a few children. Personalized learning with technology is no longer a dream but a reality that can be leveraged to help marginalized students integrate back into formal education.