The World's Greatest Philanthropists

A class apart

The Azim Premji Foundation helps building teacher capabilities, especially in government-run schools in India

RA Chandroo

Anil Angadiki spent much of his life trying to teach science to children who could not read and write. As a chemistry teacher for grades 11 and 12 and principal of PU College in Koppal, Karnataka, he was constantly coming up against the results of the government policy of ‘no retention until grade 10’ — students were being promoted to higher classes without even basic learning, leaving teachers such as Angadiki helpless. So, when in June 2012, he heard the Azim Premji Foundation (APF) was looking for a principal for its primary school in the state’s Yadgir district, he needed no convincing. “This was an opportunity to create a K-12 school from scratch,” says a visibly happy Angadiki as he takes us on a tour of the two classrooms of his school. They are plain rooms with worn-out paint that look lively and vibrant with board games such as snakes and ladders, ludo and tic-tac-toe painted on the floor, colourful cloth bags filled with flash cards and picture books hanging on the walls, and children’s art work suspended from the ceiling. 

Around 90 students from nearby villages attend this school. Girls, children from poor families and those with single parents are given preference. Children of migrant workers are not admitted since they tend to leave abruptly; children from the city do not qualify for admission, either. About 75% seats are reserved for students under the Right to Education Act while the rest is open to all eligible students, including children of teachers. Students don’t pay for anything — APF covers all their expenses, including books, mid-day meals, uniform, footwear and school bags. “Finally, I realise what quality education means. There is lot of scope for creativity here and right now, the only constraint is our school building,” Angadiki says, referring to the rented warehouse that houses the school. The landlord is not amenable to any alterations in the layout. But that will soon be resolved. Across the road, APF has already bought 3.5 acre of land to build its own school, apart from a district institute (more on that later).

“One of the objectives of APF is to set up model schools in some of the key districts where it works, with cost and constraints similar to those of rural government schools, and demonstrate how quality education can be imparted within that budget,” says Dileep Ranjekar, co-CEO, APF, who has worked with Wipro chairman Azim Premji for close to four decades and started the foundation in 2001. Currently, the foundation runs six such schools across India. In each of these, the capital cost of the premises, overheads and teachers’ salaries are the same as government schools. 

In the past 13 years, APF has been up and down the learning curve of the complex education sector in India. From the use of technology to addressing basic infrastructure issues, it has tried its hand at various aspects, only to find there are no quick fixes. If the issue of quality of education has to be addressed, it has to be dealt with comprehensively, with a long-term perspective.

A public problem

India’s school education sector is both huge and complex

Like many other social sectors, India’s education sector, too, is bogged down by its scale and complexity (see: A public problem). Of the country’s 1.43 million schools, APF works only with government-run schools because, if you’re looking at education as a leveller, that’s where the big impact can happen. Given that government schools account for over 90% of primary rural schools and the government and its partners run the largest mid-day meal scheme in the world, you can’t make much headway without reforming the state schools system.

“The evidence of the past 40 years across the world shows that you can’t fix education without fixing the public-run education system,” says Anurag Behar, co-CEO, APF, and vice-chancellor, Azim Premji University, founded in 2012 to develop professional talent and build a knowledge pool in the education sector. Behar himself has steeped himself in this field, perhaps because of the influence of his father, Sharad Chandra Behar, a seasoned educationalist who preceded him at APF. “Private schools are not the answer — the learning outcomes of children from private schools are as bad as that of public schools, except that you pay fatter fees for the former. If children from private schools in cities do better than their peers in public schools, it’s because they have greater exposure and better opportunities,” he adds.

To be fair, state-run education is not all that bad. Enrolments for 2012-2013 increased by 1.29 million students after the Right to Education Act of 2009 was implemented, as children are legally entitled to free and compulsory elementary education. A sharp increase in access and school infrastructure, with government primary schools now at 1-km radius all over India, has also helped. 

A long journey

Access and enrolments and school infrastructure have improved dramatically in the past few years...

 Those are huge accomplishments, but are dwarfed by the bigger problems. Drop-outs, or children who are enrolled in schools but don’t attend, are high — of the 199 million children enrolled, 8.1 million children are out of school; the quality of education is abysmal — nearly 42% of grade 1 children could not read or write or recognise numbers from 1-9; and girls are still lagging behind boys in terms of literacy and enrolments (see: A long journey). “The brand perception of government-run schools has taken a beating over the past 10 years as their student share went down by almost 10 percentage points. But actually, teachers in these schools do a much better job, given that they deal with children who have had no access to kindergarten and who do not have the support of educated parents,” says Ranjekar. 

Running in the same place

When the foundation started work, it took the traditional approach of developing and executing programmes at different locations, largely in north-east Karnataka. As was the thinking at that time — especially with both the CEO and philanthropist-backer from one of India’s leading tech companies — it was perhaps natural to think of technology as an effective tool. APF thus started with computer-aided programmes, developing digital content to complement and enrich the academic curriculum. Some 530 schools — one school per cluster — were initially provided one computer each and digital material, and teachers were given scheduled time to engage students in this, let them play games etc. 

Apart from the fact that the teachers did not use the computer-aided programmes effectively, there was a big hitch in implementing this programme — no power. Where inverters were provided, battery was a problem and if something went wrong, it would not get fixed for a very long time. More disheartening was what a review of the programme after three years revealed: there was no improvement in children’s learning. 

Meanwhile in 2002 itself, APF had initiated a second programme, Accelerated Learning Programme, to address what was thought to be a key factor contributing to drop-outs. Implemented in 1,050 schools across the worst districts of Karnataka, from Bidar to Bellary, the idea was to separate under-prepared students and teach them basic literacy and numeracy in the first year, and then absorb them into the mainstream. Government school teachers conducted these classes an hour before and after school, so regular classes weren’t disturbed. But after facing stiff resistance from the teachers’ union, the programme had to be morphed into a bridge course between two academic years, which was not as effective in preparing children. 

Then came the Learning Guarantee programme, where schools not only guarantee learning but also demonstrate that they can do so. APF would assess participating schools to ensure they satisfied two important prerequisites — 100% enrolment and 90% attendance.

Qualifying schools that ensured 90% of prescribed competencies in 80% of students were awarded A grade; if the share of students with similar competencies was 70%, they would get B grade; 60% would fetch C grade.

Out of the 1,886 schools in Karnataka that participated in the first year (2003), only 42 schools won the awards. The award constituted a certificate for the school and individual teachers, cash incentives for the school — ₹20,000 for A grade, ₹15,000 for B grade and ₹10,000 for C grade — and prizes such as air-coolers for all teachers in the school. “The assessment was comprehensive and the schools were given detailed feedback and action plans for each student,” says S Rudresh, who heads the Yadgir District Institute and has been with the foundation since 2002. 

In 2004, 82 schools made the cut and the number went up to 142 the next year. That’s when the Karnataka State Quality Assessment Organisation took notice and commissioned this evaluation for all 49,000 schools across Karnataka, with APF supporting the evaluation process. Soon, other states, including Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, also got their schools evaluated, taking APF out of Karnataka for the first time. “Our foundation’s philosophy is not to go to the government and ask for anything, but act so they come forward and want to do things,” says Ranjekar. 

The evaluations brought to light where children were lacking and why, but that was hardly useful in addressing the learning outcomes since the data could not be used to improve learning. 

In 2004-05, APF started the Child Friendly School Initiative. This was a more comprehensive assessment in which schools were continuously assessed on 214 parameters across five areas — school environment, classroom environment, teaching learning process, teacher’s professional development and community involvement — so that the foundation could then work with individual schools on specific gaps. Some important changes were effected.

Earlier, the School Development and Monitoring Committees (SMC) — district-level bodies mandated by the Karnataka government to deploy government funds for schools, with compulsory representation of parents as committee members — were run by Gowdas (the administrative head in Karnataka villages, who usually wields enormous clout), with parents and teachers having hardly any say. APF tried to reform this by bringing the community together, with representation from teachers, head teachers, parents, old students and the panchayat, to participate in the monthly SMC meetings. APF’s 25 trained staff, called margadarshis, would spend three days in each school in the district, be part of the SMC meeting and prepare an action plan assigning responsibilities with timelines for each task and thereafter, monitor the progress. SMC meetings, which earlier centred on utilising government funds, now focused on important academic and student issues. After three years, upon review, came the shocker, again: there was no discernible improvement in the learning outcomes of children. The implication was crystal clear — there was no correlation between what one would think of as an ideal school, with more involved parents and community and better infrastructure, and the learning levels of children.

It was time to go back to the drawing board. In 2008-09, the foundation reviewed all its programmes and realised that individual initiatives weren’t having the desired impact. The short point: the solution to fixing the broken school education system lay in building competencies of the millions of teachers and education professionals at various levels. That required a new approach. “We decided to move away from doing programmes to an institutional approach so we have a long-term and consistent engagement at the grassroots, which was necessary for a change in the education system,” says Ranjekar.

Behar rattles off the causes failing our education system: first, we have by far the worst teacher education system in the world. “It is so simple, yet they just don’t get it: you can’t have good education unless you have good teachers. You will not have good teachers unless you educate them.” The average teacher education programme across the world is 4.5 years; ours is just eight months. Second, even if we improve the teacher education system today, it will take about 10 years for us to see the results. But then there are 6.5 million existing teachers who will stay on in service for the next 25 years. So, what we are looking at is that even if we fix the teacher education system, unless we intervene at the level of the current teachers, we still have 40 years to go before we can make a dent. Then again, we have about 400 people passing out of postgraduate and doctoral programmes in education in the country, which is abysmal compared with, say, 200 in a small country such as Canada. Unless we dramatically enhance the capacity of the postgraduate and beyond education, we will continue to have this problem in school education.

APF now works in collaboration with state governments and engages with teachers, teacher educators, head teachers, block and cluster-level education officials, senior government functionaries and policy-makers at the state and national level. “Both from our endowment and work standpoint, we have the largest not-for-profit organisation in school education. But we find ourselves absolutely puny and incapable of doing what is required. There is no way we can do this without collaborating with the government,” says Ranjekar.  

The foundation has set up State Institutes (SIs) in eight state capitals and several District Institutes (DIs) within these states, each having dedicated teams. The work of these institutes ranges from capacity building of teachers, head teachers and other functionaries at the district and state level and wofrk on curriculum, assessment, educational leadership and management, to policy issues and advocacy at the state level. With a staff strength of 1,000 people, APF serves 350,000 schools through its DIs across Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Puducherry. 

In many states, APF is also engaged in large-scale education research that will create new knowledge and support evidence-based policy making. Results of some of these initiatives are already triggering changes at the systemic level, although it is only a trickle in the overall scheme of things. Considering it has only been 10 years since APF started work, it’s a little too soon for spectacular results anyway. “In this space, you need to be committed for one full generation for true effect,” says Behar. 

Over the next few years, APF plans to have about 50 DIs, 30 schools and over 4,000 employees. For this, it will first create infrastructure across a clutch of locations and then scale up in those areas. “We have realised that you can’t be creating infrastructure as you go along — you need to have quite a bit on the ground, otherwise it’s a constant struggle,” says Behar. That apart, a couple of years ago the foundation set up Azim Premji University to develop education experts. “If you want to do a good job with programmes in school education, your faculty can’t be people who are only experts in education — you need experts in philosophy, sociology and other domains,” says Behar, who has put together a multi-disciplinary faculty at the university, which offers a masters degree as well as fellowships in the field of education and development. 

It’s a long-haul plan with some serious money being committed. But having promised to give away at least half his wealth to philanthropy by signing the Giving Pledge, and having already transferred 21% of the Wipro shareholding, roughly worth ₹30,000 crore, irrevocably towards the foundation, Azim Premji is a man who’s willing to wait. 

Overall, once the capital costs are met, the endowment — it will earn ₹2,100 crore a year, assuming a post-tax return of 7% on ₹30,000 crore — should be able to support the foundation’s ambitions. The capital cost for the 2.6 million sq ft Bengaluru-based university is roughly ₹2,000 crore, and each DI will cost ₹20 crore — spread over 4 acre, each DI will have a constructed area of 90,000 sq ft and will have a 70-80 member team. That infrastructure should give APF enough might to start showing visible impact. 

Build to last

Yadgir district, with a population of 1.2 million and 140,000 children studying across 950 primary schools and 140 high schools, set off a new beginning for APF. This is where one of the first DIs was set up in 2012 to engage in teachers’ capacity building and education leadership management. Now operating out a 5,000 sq ft office in Yadgir city, the institute has an 80-member team, including 36 margadarshis to guide the headmasters and 30 resource persons to train and assist teachers. 

The DI engages with teachers in several ways — workshops; onsite support to co-evolve teaching methodologies; lab support by creating manuals for high school students so they can conduct experiments even without the teacher’s assistance; designing worksheets etc. To build trainer headcount, APF’s resource persons picked volunteers from a bunch of capable teachers from Surpur block (a block has a network of over 300 schools) who were willing to commit time — at least five days each during the summer and winter vacations — and trained them thoroughly. The resource persons also participated in conducting classes and co-evolving teaching methods with these teachers. This group of 30 teachers in each subject, now called change agents, went on to train other teachers. So far, teachers across 330 schools in Surpur have been trained this way. 

Similarly, in order to build education leadership, APF conducts workshops for head teachers, voluntary forums and on-site support. “Government educational functionaries one level higher in hierarchy than the headmasters were acting as like postmen so far, simply collecting or disseminating data rather than providing nuanced academic support. But we are trying to engage them to deliver better,” says Rudresh.  

Sheer passion

Cut to Government Higher Primary School, Peth, Shahapur, Yadgir district. The school’s 310 students study across grades 1 to 8 in its 18 classrooms, a computer room with five computers and a laboratory stocked with science experiments. There are even two toilets here, an important distinction. It’s lunch time and as we walk past the playground, we see groups of children running around while others are sitting with plates of steaming vegetable rice. 

As we sit in the staff room to chat with a group of teachers and APF resource persons, children walk in and out of the room, smiling and clearly curious about the proceedings, and especially the camera. “Mujhe padhna bahut pasand hai. Lekin pata nahin Papa kab tak padhne denge,” says pretty eighth-grader Rinki Prajapat, whose family moved to Yadgir from Rajasthan two years ago, before asking the photographer to delete her pictures. Fourth-grader Santosh looks equally happy to be here. Ask him what he likes about the school and pat comes the reply: “Yahan sab kuchh achchha hai — khana, doodh, paath, computer, ped paudhe, chhaanv, prayer, teacher.”

Ask students who their favourite teacher is and one name crops up frequently — Laxman Sir. That’s not surprising — Laxman Subbarai Lalaseri is the one constantly introducing them to the amazing world of science, relating it to things in everyday life. Right now, he is excited about the Inspire Awards, where every school is allowed to send one science model — the state government sanctions ₹5,000 to the schools for the models. Laxman has helped a student prepare a model on reducing road accidents. The solar-powered model involves sensors on crossroads that have blind spots. As he demonstrates how it works — the sensors beep as plastic cars pass by — children crowd around him, watching in rapt attention.

Laxman says what’s helping him be a better teacher is his involvement with the Voluntary Teachers Forum. Organised by APF, this is a platform for teachers to meet and share experiences on a regular basis; workshops and seminars are also conducted over weekends by APF’s resource persons and change agents. “Earlier, if I had any doubts, I wouldn’t know whom to go to; other teachers may or may not have the solutions. Sometimes even if they knew, they would not necessarily share. But with the resource persons at the foundation, I know I’ll always get a solution. They will search on Google, or do whatever, but they will come back with an answer,” says Laxman. 

Whether it is simple explanations for the theories of light or an easy experiment for demonstrating photosynthesis, the proactive teachers not only help students in their classroom but also their peers in other schools. Last month, Laxman, too, gave a lecture at Voluntary Teachers’ Forum on the scientific explanation behind various superstitions and beliefs. It’s a subject close to his heart: Laxman has recently published a Kannada book on science and spirituality. The reason people are asked to worship the banyan tree in the morning, he says, is because it releases oxygen day and night, so a daily round of the tree gives you a healthy dose of oxygen early in the morning.

There’s a good reason, also, why people throw coins in rivers — earlier, coins were made of copper, which release copper sulphate when it comes in contact with water. “That is good for the nervous system. But if you use the same logic and throw steel or iron coins into rivers, they will simply rust and pollute the water,” he explains. In rural communities, especially, tackling a lesson through such topics could be a great tool for demystifying science for students and their parents as well as a way of encouraging rational thinking. The effort to move away from a rote-driven approach towards one with a higher level of conceptual understanding and application is visible.

Class unconscious

Some 60 km away, at the Government Lower Primary School at Palavakere, Surpur, headmaster Rajashekhara Chillal is handling a class of around 40 students. The students form a circle and, by turns, two step into the middle and recite poems in Kannada, complete with gestures. After some five such poems, Chillal asks them to take their positions to study. A couple of students come forward and pull out five laminated round sheets, each with a large number on it, and place them at various places around the room. While most of the children pull out notebooks from their bags and sit around the numbered sheets, forming five circles, others pick up brightly illustrated books and A4-sized flash cards — differentiated by colour for the five groups — from the cloth bags on the walls, and hurry back to their groups. 

Welcome to the multi-grade, multi-level classroom — here students are not divided in classes based on their age. This class has students from three grades — 1, 2 and 3 — divided within the same classroom into five groups, based on their level and stage of learning. The first group is fully assisted by teachers, the second partially assisted by the teacher, the third is fully assisted by peers, the fourth partially assisted by peers, and the fifth group engages in self-learning.

Teaching methods are also different here. For instance, unlike conventional teaching where children are taught all the letters of the alphabet at one go, then phonics and short words before moving on to sentences, in the Nali Kali (joyful learning) system, children are first introduced about five letters.

Once they learn these along with the sounds, they are taught short words using these letters, and then they start making sentences using these words. Then, the next set of letters is introduced the same way. This way, even a first-grader feels good about his progress since he can make sentences. Similarly, in math, children are first taught numbers 1-5, and addition, subtraction with these numbers, after which 6-9 is introduced, followed by 10 and the concept of place value. “The confidence level of children is very high in Nali Kali schools,” says Chillal. “You can see how much we rely on these cards,” he says, pointing at the laminated sheets that are curling up at the sides. The cards are provided by the government and are replaced every third year.

Nali Kali is a very effective way to address some very significant problems with rural schools today. While the government has done a great job in creating access by building schools, the student-teacher ratio is not very favourable — on average, an elementary school in Karnataka has a teacher ratio of 2.5.

That means each teacher has to handle more than one grade, moving from one class to another. Then, children in rural schools, especially, tend to be irregular in attending schools, more so if their parents are migrant labourers. So they may come to school one day, skip a week and return, by when studies would have progressed significantly.

“Multi-grade, multi-level classrooms address all these issues at one go — children learn at their own pace, catch up from where they left off and the pressure on teachers is lessened to the extent they have to address all students at one go, and students themselves help each other and also learn on their own,” says Rudresh. 

Originally, Nali Kali was designed by the prestigious Rishi Valley School for six village schools adjoining its campus in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. Taking a cue from that, APF tested it with a higher number of schools. The pedagogy was developed by the director of education of Karnataka, MN Baig, and initially, teachers from 110 schools in Surpur were trained. The results were remarkable — the 2011 review showed a 16% improvement in learning outcome because of the multi-grade, multi-level approach. The Karnataka government took notice and the system has now been introduced in all 49,000 schools across the state. “Teachers have to be very well trained and have to be patient for Nali Kali’s success,” says Rudresh. 

Chillal was among the first 110 teachers trained in this new method and he proudly states his school has won the Child Friendly School award for three years in a row. He picks up something that looks like a progress report card with 60 heads — this is the pruned list of parameters on which APF ranks schools under the Child Friendly School Initiative. Margadarshis visit the schools every fortnight and mark the report card. At this school, all the columns have ticks, except the ones relating to toilets and infrastructure. The school has a toilet, but it is not used because there is no water or drainage system. Still, it’s better than most other schools in the region. In Yadgir, one of the most backward districts in Karnataka, less than 30% of schools have toilets. 

Upping the Standards

It’s 5.30 pm at the Government Higher Primary Girls’ School at Kembavi, 100 km from Yadgir city. We are here to see the Teachers’ Learning Centre (TLC) in action. Teachers are walking into a 10x12 room that is filled with all kinds of books — textbooks, encyclopaedia, dictionaries, books on teaching — and teaching aids, from solar system models to view finders and what have you. It also has computers and video cameras for teachers to make short films. Mohammad Salim from Government Higher Primary School in Bommanahalli made a video on modes of transportation, which was used by several of the teachers here to explain the concept in their classrooms. “The idea was to show all three — surface, water and air transport. So we shot bullock carts, cars, bikes, buses and trains and downloaded videos on various kinds of water transport and airplanes from the net,” says Salim. “Two to three periods of labour can be avoided and explained in a few minutes.”

There is a Voluntary Teachers Forum on social science the next day where Nagaraj, head teacher in Yadiinyapura Government Higher Primary School, who is also a change agent, is supposed to take a session. He promptly sits down at a computer and starts downloading images and videos from the internet on his planned topic — forefathers. Apart from these regular sessions that expand teachers’ own knowledge, the TLCs, which are conducted by APF’s resource persons and change agents, also show teachers new teaching methods and even fun ways to engage students. Kashilingaiah from Government Higher Primary School, Amalihal, says dictogloss is proving a very effective tool -— as the teacher reads out the lesson, children write the words they are hearing, competing to get the most words. Shashikala from Government Higher Girls Primary School, Kembhavi, tells us about mistake reading — as the teacher reads a lesson in class, she deliberately makes mistakes, which the children are supposed to catch. 

She is also enthusiastic about ‘back to the blackboard’, a modified form of dumb charades where the class is divided into two groups. The elected leaders of both groups sit with their back to the blackboard where the teacher writes a word. Each team then gives verbal clues — “it’s an animal that gives milk”, “it’s a yellow fruit” — based on which the leader has to guess the word. “The whole class participates and children learn to express themselves, form sentences and pick up both listening and speaking skills,” she says. 

The enthusiasm is a new development. When it was initiated in 2009, the TLC was a non-starter. Teachers wouldn’t visit the centre or access its facilities. But Dilip Kumar, the coordinator of the Kembavi TLC, was persistent. He sent out books, videos and other teaching aids to teachers, asking them to try these out — they would be compelled to visit the centre to return the stuff. Gradually, as more teachers began visiting the centre, the interactions between them, sessions and workshops took off. Now, Wednesdays are “ladies-only” days to encourage more women teachers to come at least that day of the week. 

Currently, about 610 of the 2,800-odd teachers in Yadgir are regular visitors to TLCs and other forums. “If we engage with teachers meaningfully, they do become very involved,” says Rudresh. “At our first science fair in Shahapura in 2013, there were five teachers. Nine months later, in March 2014, it increased to 27. If it is need-based and of immediate relevance, teachers are more than willing to show greater involvement.” At present, 20% of the teachers are engaged with high intensity, that is, they attend the various workshops, training and seminars 15 days a year. Another 20% engage with medium intensity, committing six to seven days a year, remaining engaged at least once a year. “But we expect a multiplier effect from the 20% who are engaged with high intensity,” Rudresh adds.

As the teachers at the Kembavi TLC continue to talk passionately about their experiences, we suddenly find ourselves in darkness — it’s a power cut, a regular feature here. There is an inverter, but it does not work. “We have been calling for over a month for battery repair,” says Kumar. In India, having the money and creating the infrastructure isn’t always enough for achieving desired outcomes. 

Engaging everyone

As is true of many small towns and districts in India, Yadgir is not an easy place. “It has many social problems — child marriage, particularly. It’s just emerging out of a feudal mindset,” says Rudresh. In the past month alone, three girls, Manamma, Subha and Sheela, were saved from being married off at 9, 11 and 14. “Still, there are many who come to school wearing thalis [mangalsutra].” Gender discrimination is another big issue.

The path to social progress in India is far from easy. Engaging with the community, thus, becomes a vital part of the overall strategy. The margadarshis constantly engage with parents and push for greater community participation, which is how the concept of mela started. These are events organised on particular educational subjects, but in a fun way, and everyone, including parents and elders, is encouraged to participate. For instance, a math mela will have math-related games such as estimating the length of three unequal ribbons; villagers typically think in terms of feet but this way they understand the conversion between feet and inches.

At history melas, teachers and children jointly create pedagogy in local history and present it to the audience. So far, some 150 melas have been organised, with about five schools participating in each. “It’s a joint learning for teachers and students. Parents also feel involved,” says Rudresh. A few months ago, APF also conducted a mother’s literacy programme, as research showed that literate mothers were more inclined to sending their children to school. In the end, it is how children are engaged in classrooms that determines what they learn. “The vital part of the equation is for teachers to have a very good perspective on how children learn and how they need to be taught for best understanding,” says Behar. This is where APF seems to have the greatest impact. 

A classic case is when teachers are asked what to focus on when teaching a lesson on Mahatma Gandhi. Usually, they will say “his values”. But as a language lesson, the emphasis is not supposed to be on Gandhi’s virtues, but on comprehension, expression and vocabulary. If teachers can be taught to make that critical distinction, the rest will happen naturally. And Anil Angadiki can think of going back to teaching chemistry to high schoolers, instead of the alphabet to toddlers.