PENCIL - Protective, Effective N Context-based Initiation of Learning

India is a young nation with around 35 percent of the population in the 0-14 age group. To ensure that this young population proves to be our future demographic dividend, it is of utmost importance that they are provided with quality education.

While India has made significant progress in reducing educational disparities over the years, to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) i.e. to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030, the country still has to make considerable collaborative efforts.

ChildFund India's Protective, Effective N Context-based Initiation of Learning (PENCIL) model responds to specific issues and needs, and addresses the educational needs of children in India, especially in remote villages and complex urban communities.

The program - several aspects of which are aligned to the National Educational Policy 2020 and Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) - envisions that children and young people between the ages of 3-18 years have an educational approach that enhances their age-appropriate learning outcomes and socio-emotional learning (SEL) skills.

To realize this vision, ChildFund India engages with the government education system and like-minded agencies, networks, and groups. For example, PENCIL engages with government anganwadis (early childhood development centers) and schools at primary and secondary levels to support children between the ages of 3-14 years. The program focuses on young people, i.e. children older than 14 years, by supporting access to higher education, along with creating opportunities for civic engagement and building their leadership capabilities.

The PENCIL initiatives are designed for age-appropriate learning outcomes and enhanced Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) skill:

To prepare children to thrive and derive the maximum from their academic opportunities, our interventions encourage creating a conducive and supportive setting for the benefit of the children and other stakeholders.

Vibrant Early Childhood Centers transforms government anganwadi centers into dynamic learning spaces for school readiness. Reading for Leading aims at building literacy skills - reading and writing skills - by creating an environment and culture of reading by involving parents, teachers, and communities. By undertaking the Creating child-friendly literature intervention, ChildFund India aims to improve literacy skills in children through the creation of context-based, gender-sensitive and inclusive multilingual children’s books (Storybooks, Flip and Pictorial books) in various dialects and tribal languages. At present, ChildFund India is working on 36 different languages.

The Education for peace and sustainability through Social and Emotional wellbeing intervention encourages Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) in parents and teachers so that they can promote SEL in children too. In addition, the intervention also promotes gender equality, inclusiveness, and understanding of citizenship rights among children.

Improving access and retention

In India, more than 70 million children attend pre-primary school and there has been a consistent increase in upper primary participation. However, by the age of 15, 51% of girls and 39% of boys are out of school; 29% of girls and boys drop out of school even before completing elementary education. Most often, these children are the most marginalized children. ChildFund India’s constant endeavor is to reduce this gap and encourage continued education amongst children.

The intervention, School-based child learning centers, help children with learning gaps in school or are out-of-school by encouraging teachers to help bridge these gaps in terms of teaching, learning, and operating special classes for such children. Back to School enables 6-14-year-old school drop-outs and never enrolled children to get back to education by addressing social and geographical barriers that children face in accessing school education. Community advocacy, linkages to government programs, providing psycho-social support to children, and training teachers to integrate these children into regular schools are part of this intervention. Safe, effective, and inclusive schools aim at providing access to continuous, effective, and inclusive education for children. ChildFund India creates classrooms and engagement clubs aka Child Clubs to make children feel safe, secure included, irrespective of gender, caste, or religion.

SMART Classes address the need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education by providing interactive learning material in schools. The intervention provides digitally interactive learning material for children in grades 6 and above to aid robust critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovative attitude in children.

The intervention, Quality Completion of the Schooling cycle and Higher Education addresses the need for secondary and tertiary education to empower youth, especially girls from poor and marginalized families. The program provides academic guidance, life-skills, financial, and other related support by collaborating with various government departments, universities, and colleges that provide scholarships and placement services for students of marginalized communities.

The PENCIL interventions have collectively reached thousands of schools across 15 states – mostly in tribal, hilly, conflict-affected, and remote areas. Overall, PENCIL’s approach towards supporting holistic and continuous education for children is focused on helping India achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) towards Quality Education.