The Pehlay Akshar journey started 11 years ago, in 2008.
Government schools, the only option available to children from low-income families, were witnessing increasingly high dropout rates. The main reason for this was the desire for education in English. In response to this, private schools for low-income groups, claiming to offer English medium education, started mushrooming. Many of these only aimed to make a quick buck, targeting first generation learners. Government schools also responded to the exodus by offering mid-day meals to lure the children back. The idea worked to some extent, but the key issue was not addressed: the need to learn English.
The reason for this was primarily a lack of funds. Working within limited budgets, government schools needed teachers who could teach multiple subjects. Teachers proficient exclusively in English were too expensive. So, while the Right to Education Act strove to eliminate disparities in education, and the Education Policy of India was inclusive, implementation was sadly lacking.
Pehlay Akshar took up the challenge to meet this need. We realised that it would be easier for children to accept a new learning experience within the familiar environment of their school. Therefore, we decided to partner with government schools to teach English.
What We Do
The Pehlay Akshar program was launched with unique content and our own teachers, who we recruited and trained.
Our content was developed to address some issues raised by conventional English teaching in India - English is taught in the British way, with rules, structures and idioms that can make learning the language a challenge, especially for those who don’t normally speak it.
Instead, we believe in imparting Functional English – a sufficient command over the language to enable children to progress in their academics and careers. The program aims to make the children employable in careers that require spoken English, or confident to pursue higher education in English if they choose.
As our teachers began implementing the Pehlay Akshar program in government schools, many of the school’s own teachers attended the classes to observe our methodologies. Their interest spurred us to take another step forward in our journey: our Teachers Training Program. With an eye on the future, we created a program that trains government teachers in our methodology, giving rise to a multiplier effect that impacts many more children than we could have with our existing model. The program extends over 3 years. Large group training sessions are held over 3 days, while smaller self-help groups meet weekly, to ensure that learning happens on a day-to-day basis and becomes habitual.
As we teach English, we want to spark in every child a genuine desire to learn. It gives us great joy to see how much children love their Pehlay Akshar classes, which offer them a safe space to express themselves, learn, share and grow. Schools have even observed a noticeably higher attendance on Pehlay Akshar class days. To us, this is what a learning experience should be.
If we can create motivated learners who start using their knowledge of English to pursue knowledge, through the internet or through higher education, Pehlay Akshar would have achieved its goal.
Our small but very effective team is an essential element in our success. Another key factor, we believe, is our openness to evaluating our program rigorously, with our ear to the ground for honest feedback, and our ability to innovate and evolve, year after year.
7 states, 14 locations, 25000+ schools over 11 years the welcome Pehlay Akshar has received is proof that we are filling a vital gap in Indian education. Our success in non-English medium schools is particularly remarkable, as the only exposure the children have to English, is through our Pehlay Akshar classes.
The Pehlay Akshar Training Program was launched in 2016 in one ward in Worli. And in 2019, it operates successfully in 14 locations, with 5601 teachers trained till date. The multiplier effect of the training program means that we have impacted 196,035 students through this program
*Impact till 09.09.2019
Meet The Founder
Director, RPG Foundation
Radha Goenka, Director, RPG Foundation, drives multiple programs to empower women, youth and children with education and skills, so that they can find meaningful employment and shape better futures.
The Pehlay Akshar program is her personal passion, fuelled by her deep conviction that education and, in particular, a grounding in Functional English, can make a significant difference.
Her degree in Business Communication from the University of Pennsylvania has helped Radha to shape, expand and enrich the Pehlay Akshar program, making it a powerful element in her overarching mission to drive employment and transform lives in India.