Adolescent Girls Education Program

India has succeeded in ensuring close to universal school enrolment but the rate of drop out before school completion remains very high, particularly among girls. This was more so in the past so in all states, a majority of adolescent girls, particularly in backward states are as if un-schooled. Since women/ mothers’ education is a key determinant of family’s welfare and children’s future, the education of adolescent girls to a state close to school completion is an important national priority. India has had many programs of ‘training’ of adolescent girls, in skills related to reproductive health or employment, but not many have tried to compensate for the absence of school education. With support from Packard foundation, Gyan Shala launched a 3 year program of the education of adolescent girls living in slums of Ahmedabad in 2009. The aim was to develop and implement such a module that would bring the girls to a level close to grade 7 level education.

The design and implementation of this program has posed complex challenges, the biggest of which related to very large diversity of capability-interest among the target group of girls, and the competitive demands of normal life, which made it very tough for the girls to attend the classes located in their community regularly even for 3 hours of duration, and continue the process for 3 years. After detailed review of first 3 year’s experience, this program has been re-casted as a two year program with less academic orientation, but which shall still aim to inculcate educational mind-set of a grade 7 student. This new design has been launched in 2013, whose impact has been determined by tests conducted by Vidya Bhawan Society, through comparison of base-line and end-line tests administered by external expert agency. Also, Gray Matters India Pvt. Ltd. also carried out Program Impact Assessment through the detailed comparison of Control group and Treatment group, which showed that treatment group has achieved more with compared to the Control group in subject specific skills namely Language, Math and Science. It was also found that treatment group also showed higher percentage in non–cognitive domain such as socio emotional well being.

Prof. Mrs. Leela Visaria, esteemed Development Researcher and honorary professor at Gujarat Institute of Development Research, had conducted a study of qualitative impacts of the program through her research lens, in June 2015. She and her team had designed a questionnaire and interviewed 86 program girls in the age range of 13 to 18 years. Interviews were also conducted of equal number of the girls of the same age group in the same socio-economic slum settings, where Gyanshala had neer run classes.  She also conducted focused group discussions of the women teachers who participated in the program.

Here, the focus was on understanding the changes that participation in Gyanshala education program had brought about in the adolescent girls, agency and empowerment as well as knowledge about reproductive health, this study compared these girls with those who were not exposed to such program on a range of indicators.

such as views on marriage, dowry system, autonomy and ability and freedom to take decisions on matters such money, talking to boys, mobility, views on health seeking behavior, violence, etc

She has also noticed the following important findings, which shows success of the AGP in terms of education of the program participant girls for reproductive and maternal health.

As far as health seeking behavior is concerned, large differences were noted between the two groups of girls with regard to a few issues such as how to handle child’s excreta, drinking water and knowledge about contraceptives and reproductive health. Clearly, the group exposed to the Gyanshala programme was better informed on these issues compared to the control group. The Gyanshala group was also much better informed on precautions to be taken during pregnancy such as the need for good nutrition, for iron supplementation and for calcium.  On certain other health issues such as washing hands after going to toilet, keeping cooked food covered, etc. there were no differences between the two groups.

All the three different assessment reports have noted the achievements by the program participant girls on various cognitive and non cognitive areas, but could not directly link all the achievements to the exposure to the program only. As an organization also, GyanShala believe that life is beyond classrooms and the knowledge- experience shared by the participant girls is a cumulative learning from the society and various media, along with their discussions in the classrooms.

Learning:

The investment of six years in designing, modifying and implementing the program has developed the organizational capability of ESO to understand and deal with complex issues of reaching to the Adolescent girls, so as to impact their lives. It also helped in widening the focus of the organization beyond pure academics to other social and life skills, related with non cognitive areas of development and very much necessary for the program participants.

Batch wise Coverage of the Adolescent girls during the program and their attendance

Batch Duration No. of Adolescent Girls Average Attendance (in percentage)
AGP 1 Aug. 2009  to             June 2012 392 Could not compile
AGP 2 Nov.2010  to              June 2013 334 50
AGP 3 Sep.2011  to                 Sep. 2013 114 61
AGP 4 June 2012 to              June 2014 247 59
AGP 5 July 2013 to  July 2015 613 55

Positive aspects of the program:

  1. The program had provided opportunities to the girls to share their concerns, questions, issues with fellow girls as well as teachers and field supervisors.
  2. The program was able to identify the needs of the participant girls and accordingly streamline curriculum, learning material, teacher guides and activities for the duration of two years.
  3. The program succeeded in boosting confidence levels of the girls and changing their views in identifying role of women in prevailing socio- economic situations.

Limitations of the program:

  1. The program could not streamline regular attendance of all the girls who have been enrolled, and could not prevent dropouts.

2. The program could not achieve as much in terms of academic excellence, which is one of the core outcomes of the other education programs of GyanShala.

Way Forward:

The experience of running this program for six years has built organizational capability and expertise. Education Support Organization will be able to run similar programs with specific as well as modified learning outcomes with better confidence for non-cognitive domains of education.