Transforming Learning Outcomes for India’s Working Poor

Transforming Learning Outcomes for India’s Working Poor

January 19, 2018 | Author: Vikram Jain, Director at FSG Mumbai, a nonprofit helping leaders scale social change in India

FSG Inc. is a mission-driven non-profit supporting leaders in creating large-scale, lasting social change. The Inclusive Markets (IM) team based in Mumbai works on market-based solutions that address development challenges central to the lives of low-income families. The team has been working on the ground in India across a range of sectors including affordable housing, sanitation, healthcare, and education.

Santosh has dreams for his son, Raju: “I want Raju to get an office job!”

India has made remarkable progress towards universalizing primary education, but learning outcomes are poor. This point really hit home for me when Santosh, who works in our office pantry, brought his son Raju to the office. Santosh proudly told us that Raju had just finished upper-kindergarten in an affordable private school (APS) and would start Class 1 the following June. Santosh was excited to demonstrate what Raju had learnt in school: reciting numbers from 1 to 100 and the English alphabets. Raju did this flawlessly. I was impressed and began talking to Raju. I asked him to give me 12 pens from my pen stand. At first, Raju looked at me uncertainly and then handed me all the pens. I tried asking him again but with the same result. The look on Santosh’s face said it all. He was devastated that Raju couldn’t count out 12 pens for me.

Santosh was choosing to invest in a private school despite the availability of free public options because he believed private schooling would provide Raju with better education. And, Santosh is not alone.

86% of low-income parents are spending on pre-primary education, but getting very poor quality

India’s working poor – those working as domestic help, office clerks, and laborers etc. – make up 70% of India’s urban population. 86% of 4-5-year olds from these households are either enrolled in APSs or will transition to APSs in Class 1. Most schools use rote learning and strict discipline in early years leading to poor learning outcomes: 54% children entering grade 1 can’t count objects up to 20, and 78% could not read three simple, three letter words.

A typical affordable private school in Mumbai, India

This preference for private preschool is unlikely to change soon. And, efforts to improve these schools are limited: CSR funding and philanthropy are helping government schools and those run by NGOs, while APSs (and the millions of low-income children in them) are neglected.

FSG’s Program to Improve Private Early Education (PIPE) aims to transform learning outcomes   

Through PIPE, FSG aims to create demand among parents for better preschooling and create supply of private sector activity based preschool education solutions to APSs. APSs pay and adopt these learning solutions. PIPE helps education solution companies to scale to 1000s of APSs in the tough APS market thereby transforming the “rote based” traditional learning to activity based learning for the group requiring the greatest support: low-income children, like Raju.

Vikram Jain is a Director at FSG Mumbai. He started his career as a software engineer helping telecom clients improve their service delivery. With the aim of helping organizations grow, Vikram went on to do his MBA from the London Business School and join McKinsey London. After a few years as an engagement manager at McKinsey, Vikram decided to move back to India to do something more meaningful. He joined Monitor Inclusive Markets (MIM) to help scale businesses working on socially relevant topics. In 2015, MIM joined FSG and Vikram initiated FSG’s Program to Improve Private Early education (PIPE).With over 15 years of consulting experience, he has led several projects in understanding the needs of low-income, urban customers and in identifying market-based opportunities to improve their lives. Most recently, Vikram has co-authored a paper, The Preschool Promise which provides insights into their beliefs and behaviors of low-income parents around preschooling.

To read more about PIPE, visit our website or reach out to Vikram at