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Teachers as the Driving Force Behind Life & Financial Skills Development in Himachal Pradesh, India

Posted in Blogs on June 4, 2019

Livia Remeijers
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In the last week of March 2019, I was in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India, where Aflatoun and its founding partner MelJol provide Life Skills and Financial Education to 8,503 children in government schools. In my role as Monitoring & Evaluation Manager, I travelled from Aflatoun’s office in Amsterdam to the bustling capital Delhi, from where the research team and I departed on a six-hour drive to the Himalayas.

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Photo 1: Main street in Solan

Once arrived in Solan, the state’s second largest city, I was stunned by the fresh air, clean streets, and absence of honking and large crowds. There is also visibly less poverty in the streets compared to Delhi. In the distance, I see a group of cheerful children with neatly ironed uniforms coming out of school.

Himachal Pradesh has one of the highest literacy rates in the country and the state government fully supports our programme. It recognises the value of tackling prevalent issues that continue to hamper development such as gender inequality and low financial literacy rates. Development remains marked by considerably low female literacy rates of 76% compared to 83% for males. In addition, the state’s financial literacy rate of 16% is substantially lower than the national average of 24% (Census 2011).

Over the past two years, MelJol had begun implementing Aflatoun’s contextualised Life Skills and Financial Education-programme in 90 schools in the state. Thus, integrating the vision of the state government to foster socio-economic development by using education as a long-term strategy. Following the success of this programme, we have intended to scale up and fully embed it in the state’s formal school system. However, evidence is lacking on the programme’s impact (1) and it remains unclear whether the state government or a development organisation should lead upscaling (2).

To research the first question, Aflatoun consulted research company Sambodhi to collect empirical evidence. To do so, we compare children in 30 schools that follow the programme with children in 30 other schools that do not follow the programme by conducting interviews with children before and after the programme. Only in this way can we be sure that the programme causes the difference in skills and not natural development of children.

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Photo 2: Teachers in discussions about Active Learning Methods

I spent one week in Solan to partake in trainings with Himachali teachers and the research team. MelJol provided a re-fresher training for the same teachers who have already delivered the programme throughout the state. Meeting the teachers and listening to their stories, gave a good impression of how welcome the programme is.

Teachers told me that the programme’s use of active learning methods encourages children to take a lead and actively participate. At the end of the Life Skills and Financial Education sessions previously delivered, teachers observed an increase in children’s confidence and curiosity levels. The training provided teachers with opportunities to practise these methods. Moreover, the training focused on how to approach sensitive topics such as gender inequality and social discrimination based on caste, class, and religion.

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Photo 3: Teachers and myself partaking in an active learning session

A teacher shared with me that she believes facilitating discussions and activities around these topics at a young age is effective in achieving a more inclusive and equal Indian society.

Sambodhi provided the second training for the data collection team. They practiced with a digital survey tool, which has been designed to measure children’s interpersonal skills (e.g. confidence and social acceptance levels), rights orientation and financial skills (e.g. financial literacy, saving and spending behaviour). For instance, the “shop game” measures financial literacy by asking children to spend 10 rupees on socks, shoes and pencils, given certain assumptions.

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Photo 4: A child playing the “gifts game” that measures patience and time inconsistency

At the end of my week in Himachal Pradesh, I took to the road again, through the mountains and back to Amsterdam, with many new insights and a strong confidence in the programme’s executors. As long as the teachers are the driving force behind it, the interests of the children will be at the heart of the programme.

One month onwards, 1,476 children have been interviewed. Children in grades 6, 7 and 8 in 30 government schools are now participating in weekly sessions until October 2019. The next step is to conduct surveys at the end of the programme and analyse the change in children’s interpersonal skills, rights orientation and financial skills.

If you are interested in learning about Aflatoun’s impact results in Himachal Pradesh, I will keep you updated on the results later on this year. In the meantime, click here to read our most recent evidence brief.

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