The shutting down of education institutions due to COVID-19 pandemic has made edtech companies to come up with various innovations or making use of all available tools and resources to keep the learning process going.
ThinkZone, an award-winning social enterprise providing high-quality, low-cost education to underserved children in low-income communities, is one among many. The Cuttack-based social impact startup recently announced that it has helped 5051 families in Odisha keep their kids engaged through voice calls, SMS and radio since the COVID-19 lockdown in the state. ThinkZone creates and delivers modules of everyday ‘Do-It-Yourself’ (DIY) activities to families using the above mentioned non-internet-based technologies.
The startup’s home-based learning program comprises a curated set of educational activities for children in the age group of 3-10 years for holistic development. The primary grade education (Grades 1-5) activities have been designed for developing language and arithmetic skills and are based on the school syllabus (chapter-wise activities) as well as NCERT’s (national) alternate learning calendar. Similarly, the activities for early childhood education have been built on themes and activities of Nua Arunima (Odisha state-level ECD curriculum). ThinkZone’s education activities can be accessed in Odia, Hindi and English language and according to age and class levels.
ThinkZone’s efforts to keep education going is unique in the way it can be accessed free of cost using non-internet-based technologies such as voice calls supported by Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and SMS. The startup provides its home-based learning program through voice calls in two ways:
- Pull Calling – Parents call the number +91-8750-829-829 and access daily learning modules that they can use to educate their children. The parents also receive learning modules via SMS.
- Push Calling – ThinkZone offers the facility for the parent to receive daily 1-2 minutes IVR-based calls and SMS on their mobile phones regarding DIY learning modules. The content is scheduled based on the age level and class of the child.
Explaining the program and its objectives, Binayak Acharya, Founder and CEO of ThinkZone, said in a statement,
“Our program has been conceptualized to develop positive parent-child relationships and to enable parents to work towards shaping the learning skills of kids from an early age. It empowers parents to continue engaging and teaching their children at home during the lockdown. The user-friendly modules can be understood and delivered by the parent regardless of their literacy level or type of mobile phone.”
The company has witnessed a 4-fold increase in the number of calls received from the parents, with 10086 minutes of learning modules consumed by 3338 families. Of this, 49% are repeat callers who would call 2-3 times a week. The startup’s ‘Push-based’ IVR Calls/SMS have been directly reaching 5051 unique families. A total of 24399 minutes of learning modules have been consumed by these families so far.
ThinkZone has also partnered with FM 104 Radio Choklate for a radio-based learning program and is aired everyday from Monday to Saturday from 4:00 – 4:30 P.M.
Commenting on the development, Srinita Mitra, Portfolio Manager, Gray Matters Capital, ThinkZone’s funder, said,
“Owing to the ongoing lockdown, children in under-resourced communities across India are not getting access to education. Most of the education support interventions during this crisis at present are online/app-based and unfortunately out of reach for such students. It was therefore the need of the hour for more simple and accessible technologies to be used for reaching out to these students, something which ThinkZone has demonstrated.”
Founded in 2014, ThinkZone works towards improving the educational outcomes of children in low-income communities using technology-enabled school-in-a-box approach and activity-based pedagogy. Trained community educators, public childcare workers, and school teachers deliver quality early-grade education programs by using ThinkZone’s technology, proprietary teaching resources, classroom activities, and management tools.