Janhvi Maheshwari-Kanoria, Director of the Innovation Development Directorate, Education Above All

Janhvi leads the Innovation Development Directorate in Education Above All (EAA). Her passion lies in designing solutions that advance and accelerate relevant and quality learning solutions to the world’s most marginalized. She is currently working on multiple projects across the technology spectrum developing both technology-free and technology-enabled learning options for the most marginalized.

 

The Education Above All (EAA) Foundation is a global education foundation established in 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. EAA envisions bringing hope and a real opportunity to the lives of impoverished and marginalized children, youth, and women, especially in the developing world and in difficult circumstances such as conflict situations and natural disasters. We believe that education is the single most effective means of reducing poverty, generating economic growth, and creating peaceful and just societies, as well as a fundamental right for all children and an essential condition to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our Educate a Child (EAC) program works through a network of partners around the world to support and promote quality education. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), it supports 125,000+ out of school and at-risk children in Haiti, Colombia, and Brazil.

The Innovation Development Directorate (IDD) is a new area of EAA that aims to develop innovative solutions to address unsolved challenges in the global education sphere, including rapid-response quality-focused solutions in emergency contexts and relevant access for out-of-school children and youth. Through new programs delivered in collaboration with internal and external partners, the IDD tests and refines innovative ideas with the highest possible impact.

Education Above All’s Internet Free Education Resource Bank

The Internet Free Education Resource Bank (IFERB) was developed by EAA as a response to the devastating results of prolonged school closures on the world’s most marginalized children that do not have access to any technology and internet-based learning alternatives. The project-based learning resources target low-resource and self-learning contexts, where there is no access to technology-based learning alternatives. The available technology-free alternatives are printed worksheets that are hard to disseminate and enjoy. IFERB projects are student-led interdisciplinary modules that build ownership through discovery and application. The bank has over 120 projects across all subjects, including mathematics, science, language, and social studies, for three different age groups of learners between the ages of 4 – 14 years. Projects are easy to implement in different ways depending on the context, including through phone calls, SMS, radio, and in-person classes.

The IFERB projects can be used across LAC as a stop-gap solution to keep learning continued for migrant and economically deprived learners. In the current COVID-19 pandemic context, where two-thirds of the countries worldwide that have remained largely closed since the beginning of the lockdowns are in LAC, the IFERB can support the over 98 million schoolchildren (58% of children in the region) who continue to be affected by school closures in 2021 (UNICEF, 2021). Additionally, the resources can become a learning alternative for the 3.1 million students in danger of dropping out of school (UNICEF LACRO, 2020) and the 23.1 million children in need of humanitarian assistance due to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing migratory flows, and an increase of extreme natural disasters across LAC (UNICEF, 20220). For these learners, it is more critical to engage in learning that is practically connected to their life contexts and our IFERB project-based learning resources help build interest by being interdisciplinary, student-led, and contextually relevant. By learning about money, natural disasters, blackouts, or entrepreneurship, among others, we help students gain useful skills to achieve and imagine broader life goals.

Response to Implementation Challenges:  21st Century Skills, Holistic Learning, and Student Agency

All the projects serve to help students’ gain core academic learning; there is also a large focus on 21st-century skills. The lack of access to teachers and textbooks has assisted us in allowing children to explore, experiment, hypothesize, play, and develop their own learning connected to their immediate surroundings and supported by their families. The projects accentuate creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills that are practised and measured across our programs with a bespoke rubric.

In the communities we work with, there is a lack of exposure to, understanding of, and appreciation for 21st-century skills. Given the emphasis on core academic skills to address lagging learning gaps, it is difficult for organizations, teachers, and parents to prioritize other types of skills. The EAA team encourages organizations implementing the projects to not isolate 21st-century skills and address them in an interdisciplinary manner. With support from EAA and our partner organizations, the educators that we worked with gradually began to gain a better understanding of 21st-century skills as they saw perceptible changes in their children and developed trust in a learner-centred teaching approach. By creating a holistic approach to learning and allowing children to demonstrate deep understanding through public demonstrations of learning and tangible products, children gain opportunities to develop and display multiple talents.

For example, in our project “Imagine That,” 5-year-old students learn literacy and numeracy skills along with making sense and reimagining the world around them. Learners are required to apply their creativity as they design their dream school and reflect on how it could be brought into existence. In another project, “Water is Life,” students explore the water cycle, its importance, and how much water human beings need. Through this exploration, they learn science, social science, and numeracy concepts and put this together to solve, along with their family, the challenge of conserving water for their homes.

Initially, hesitant parents and teachers have become program champions and have shared with us several success stories. One such story emphasized the confidence and clarity with which the learners communicated rules of COVID19 to village elders after completing “Our house rules to keep COVID19 away”. In another project, “Why all the Plastic?” learners demonstrated advanced critical thinking skills by implementing ideas in their communities to reduce plastic waste.  In “My Animal Park”, learners have displayed incredible empathy when designing their own animal reserve as an alternative to caged and oppressive zoos.

How Educators Used IFERB: Lessons for Latin America and the Caribbean

Our projects have been implemented through partner organizations in over five countries, including India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Kenya, and Zambia, and downloaded in more than 130 countries, reaching over 300,000 children. Partners have successfully integrated projects into the curriculum, designed after-school and summer programs around the projects, and used the resources to fuel learning centres in the absence of schools. The assessment data shows academic growth of up to 22% and an average completion rate of 91.5%.

Results from pilots and insights from the wide range of implementation alternatives suggest that the educational resources available in IFERB can support communities across Latin America and the Caribbean in the following ways: a) preventing additional learning losses while schools remain closed, b) addressing the learning gaps once the impact of school closures has been assessed, and c) supporting a longer-term but needed paradigm shift in institutional, curricular, and instructional design.

EAA believes that all children need to have access to quality learning and therefore our projects; training and implementation materials are all available open-source and in multiple languages on our website. Under our Internet Free Education Resource Bank, we have a large set of internet-free, technology-free, and low-resource content. Besides the Project-Based Learning resources, we offer simple Math Games to practice numeracy skills mapped to a global competency map and an Activity Bank for Disabilities that spans 7 spectrums of need. EAA is exploring expanding our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean through partnerships with local institutions and international organizations. Please reach out to us to be included in pilot programs that we support around the globe.

About Janhvi Maheshwari-Kanoria

Previously, Janhvi Maheshwari-Kanoria served as the Education Portfolio Expert in the CEO’s Office in Qatar Foundation focusing on higher education strategy, governance, impact, and programming. She also worked in the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in the Vice-Chairperson’s Office supporting national strategy, policy, and special programs. She has worked across the education spectrum having been a teacher, strategy consultant, and worked in start-ups and NGOs.

She completed her primary and secondary schooling in India, following which she earned a B.A. degree in International Relations and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Ed. in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Testimonials and stories from the ground

“In my rural area, girls get married early and parents are not supporting with education. Laiba is 12 years only and her mother was so happy when she saw how confidently Laiba was talking to the community on COVID-19 rules project – really it is the first time she saw how talented her daughter is. She cancelled Laiba’s wedding and has put her into school.” Facilitator, Pakistan

“Students experienced many new things. They didn’t even know what plastic is earlier and they understood by burying plastic and testing it. The project never really finished. Children are now making the shop use cloth bags and making sure that stray goats don’t eat plastic.” Coordinator, India

“We moved from memorization to creativity, by learning real life things. I will use these projects even after school reopens. I felt proud, as I was the author of the book in my project, earlier I could just guess how people make books.” Student, India

“I am having fun and learned so many new things! I can’t wait for my teacher to call with the project work.” Student, Lebanon

“All the children here have been doing amazing project work, way beyond our imagination, they have turned this challenge into an opportunity.” Teacher, Kenya

References:

UNICEF. (2020). Latin America and the Caribbean: the number of children in need of humanitarian assistance has more than tripled this year – UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/press-releases/the-number-of-children-in-need-of-humanitarian-assistance-in-lac-has-more-than-tripled-this-year

UNICEF. (2021). COVID-19: Schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed for almost a full year, says UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/schools-more-168-million-children-globally-have-been-completely-closed

UNICEF LACRO. (2020). Education on hold. https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/education-on-hold

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