1.5cr students impacted over 15 years: Learning Links Foundation’s incredible journey

10th Aug 2017
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Through its metamorphic educational solutions and skill development programmes, Learning Links Foundation has earned credibility for quality and sustainability.

They say a man can lose everything he possesses except for what he has learnt. Born out of the belief that quality education is a fundamental right and the single most critical factor impacting human development, Learning Links Foundation (LLF) builds capacity, capability, and leadership at every level of the education value chain. In doing so, it is transforming the lives of the marginalised.

Innovative solutions for quality education

Prior to establishing LLF, Founder and Chairperson Anjlee Prakash (55) led a successful education solutions company. During research for her PhD thesis, she came to understand that while students, especially those in government schools, have immense potential they're unable to perform due to lack of support. This led to the birth of LLF, a non-profit trust headquartered at New Delhi in 2002, with the sole mission of enhancing teaching and learning across India.

With an initial focus on capacity building of teachers, the foundation started as a small group of like-minded individuals united by their passion for transformation through education. But, realising that teachers are just a small component of the entire ecosystem, LLF broadened its approach to education.

“Our intervention domains were chosen after careful deliberation, ensuring every individual we touch gets an equal opportunity to thrive,” says Sudeep Dube, Programme Head and Coordinator at LLF.

LLF decided to focus on skill building and entrepreneurship, empowering educators, students, and youth; technology-integrated education, fostering innovation, and building 21st-century readiness; education solutions to address the difficult challenges in making quality education a reality; and lastly, advisory and consultancy services to influence policy and promote reforms in education practices. This is achieved through the 30 projects and programmes LLF currently executes across 19 states.

The foundation first earned recognition and success when selected by a leading global tech company to deliver the largest teacher training project of integrating Information and Communication Technology in education in 2002. Eighteen lakh teachers were trained as part of this programme, the duration of which was 13 years.

15 million dreams secured

Projects implemented by LLF are varied and serve a wide range of beneficiaries between the ages of five and 62. They include school teachers, students, principals, community children, and advocates and policymakers of government departments.

Some of their notable programmes include the Gyan Shakti Project on whole-school transformation across seven cities, where teachers and principals are trained under development workshops with classrooms made over into vibrant learning spaces, a teacher capacity-building programme in 175 schools across four states, and supporting students in 153 schools in rural Tamil Nadu, bridging learning gaps through remedial education.

A kindergarten to Class XII intervention was designed to improve the quality of education in government schools. “More often than not, these students come from the families of first-generation learners, lacking in the basic attitudinal skill of completing formal schooling,” says Sudeep. Over the past 15 years, LLF has impacted over 15 million K–12 students and 21 lakh teachers and teaching professionals.

Job-creation opportunities through skill development

LLF has also developed and conducted several skill-development programmes such as the ‘Youth Empowerment Series’ for students at Industrial Training Institute, Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh, and the ‘Sabal’ initiative on entrepreneurial skills that has trained more than 100 youth from Jammu and Kashmir.

A technology-based curriculum on entrepreneurship development created by LLF is used in 14 countries around the world. The very same curriculum was used for ‘nurturing the spirit of entrepreneurship among girl children’ programme in Delhi and Kerala, training 110 entrepreneurs and staff in 2012. Along with this, LLF has designed and executed the STEMpreneur programme to train students, aspiring entrepreneurs, and small business owners to develop entrepreneurial skills by harnessing the power of IT with strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.

These are just a few of the many entrepreneurial programmes LLF conducts. One of the foundation's biggest achievements is the selection by the 2016 India Innovation Grant Program for its groundbreaking Youth Empowerment Series for Micro Entrepreneurs (YES for ME), launched in October 2016 by The Citi Foundation.

This innovative programme is designed to help 2,400 low-income youth aged between 18 and 32 years and enhance their livelihood prospects by imparting entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy, and spoken English training. The programme will be implemented across four urban areas in India—Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi/NCR and, Bengaluru will counsel youth interested in becoming entrepreneurs by helping them create strong business cases and obtain funding from financiers such as various government schemes, philanthropic foundations, venture capitalists, microfinance agencies, and angel investors who have also been funding most of LLFs programmes thus far.

YES for ME has seen several success stories of youth from disadvantaged communities embarking upon their entrepreneurial journeys. One such story is of Poonamjit Kaur, 27, a participant in Delhi with physical disabilities who demonstrated immense grit and resolution to overcome challenges and actively participate in the programme. Abandoned by family, she struggled to support her newborn daughter. However, her zeal led her to learn tailoring and submit a business plan. An organisation that supports persons with disabilities came forward to support Poonamjit with a startup kit comprising a sewing machine and marketing collateral for her tailoring centre. “Two years down the line, I want to see myself as a successful entrepreneur. It’s not an easy task to achieve, but am willing to put in the hard work that is needed. I feel my business plan will be my guiding light. I will keep updating the plan regularly to monitor my business’s growth.” she says.

The programme envisions creating 1,000 confident entrepreneurs and providing full-time job opportunities to 400 youth by July 2018.

Ceaseless growth

Rising above constant hurdles such as the lack of standard parameters to measure quality of education, resistance from educators in adopting new techniques, gap in government and funder perspectives, and greater importance given to scale rather than education and social impact, LLF over its decade-long existence has created an everlasting mark.

It today has a 450-member workforce actively building and retaining an eclectic talent pool comprising educationists, former teachers, principals, and people with prior experience in project management and advisory support.

They start with identifying the focus areas of the government/partner organisation, studying the challenges, and listing gaps and only then design potential offerings that can align with their goals and achieve desired outcomes.

“Our solutions are customised to the needs of the stakeholders and are therefore more impactful. This is why LLF is able to offer solutions spanning across a wide spectrum of interventions ranging across areas such as entrepreneurship development and skill building, K–12 education quality improvement, STEM education, digital citizenship, and integrating ICT in education,” says Sudeep.

LLF has developed over 1,000 hours of training material in 25 world languages and seven Indian languages, impacted over 13 lakh professionals across 35,000 schools and 4,200 colleges of education over 19 states, reached out to over 45,000 students through CCE enhancement initiatives and to over 1,70,000 community children across 25 states and five union territories.

In the near future, they want to scale up projects in those states where they are driving state-wide transformation and launch pilots in states where they do not have existing operations. Also keen on taking YES for ME to tier-2 and 3 cities in India where there is a latent need for such programmes, LLF believes that momentum being built by the Start-up India campaign needs to be taken to semi-urban and rural areas to realise India’s true demographic dividend in the coming years.

With an impact this high, LLF continues to passionately ensure every child in India experiences true learning. “We would like to see an education system that promotes citizenship, entrepreneurial spirit, and sustainable development.” says Sudeep.

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