Rocket Learning

About the Project

This project is one of the 2022 WISE Awards finalists. 

 

Context and Issue 

Global research has established the importance of Early Childhood Education (ECE). Over 85% of brain development occurs before the age of eight. Quality ECE ensures school readiness, substantially increases school completion and lifelong earnings, and frees up parents (especially women) to enter formal employment. It is called one of the ‘greatest and most powerful equalizers’ by India’s National Education Policy. However, over 40 million low income children in India can’t access quality ECE. Public schooling in India and at the Pre-K level is limited to day care centers that focus on nutrition/ healthcare rather than cognitive stimulation.

Parental engagement is critical for inclusive education, but low-income parents often need support in building what we call “AIM” – Awareness to be involved in their children’s learning at the foundational level, Information that is contextual and usable, and the Motivation to be engaged at the sustained levels necessary for adequate cognitive stimulation. This shows up in dismal educational statistics – 43% of low income children can’t recognize alphabets and 35% numbers 1-9 in grade 1. The inaccessibility of high-quality ECCE means that 40 million low-income children in India between 3-6 years of age are becoming inherently less capable as this lack of stimulation and building of neuronal connections in their early years becomes more and more difficult to change through remedial interventions later in life.

 

Solution and Impact

Rocket Learning builds early childhood and foundational learning at scale by connecting the government system and parents, and driving community change by systemically leveraging technology, media and social incentives. Rocket Learning’s product uses a custom communication platform, leveraging WhatsApp groups, to mobilize digital communities of parents and teachers. Every day on these groups, it sends low-income teachers and parents contextualized content in the local language that they can do with their children – activities take less than 20 minutes and involve household materials. It then invites parents to send back their responses to the group to create peer accountability and social “pull”.

Rocket Learning also uses real-time data and technology to build continuous motivation through virtual ‘report cards’ and certificates based on how often parents participate. This combines with inspiration from community and teacher “influencers” to lead to 40%+ active caregivers post 9-12 months at minimal incremental cost. Digital interactions are accompanied with offline engagement through regular parent-teacher meetups termed “choupals” and targeted education focused “days” and months”. This is all enabled by a core technology stack, which sends out real-time behavioural nudges and simultaneously carries out large-scale data analytics on parent feedback, using AI/ML to classify individual responses.

Rocket Learning impacts 800,000+ children in 50,000 classrooms, and the average child in a Rocket Learning cohort attains skills at the top 30 percent of a non-Rocket Learning class. They partner with India’s Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women and Child Development, five states (Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, and Chandigarh), and MIT-JPAL to create, measure, and scale impact. Learning outcome assessments show statistically significant improvement in learning outcomes for Rocket Learning students – an average child in their cohort is at the top third of a control group and scores higher than 15% points. User engagement is 5-10x of a similar control group, and 30-40% of users continue responding with learning content even post 6-12 months of the program. Parents in Rocket Learning’s program spent 2x on learning activities with their children (4 days vs 2 days per week) and are 2x more likely to continue engaging when schools re-open. These results are best in class amid ed-tech solutions, especially at cost of 50c/user/year.

 

Future Developments 

Over the next 1-2 years, we want to further improve our product & impact and scale & institutionalize our work with government educational systems in the following ways:

Product & Impact:

  • Build scalable platform for governments – “Low tech” front end with a highly sophisticated and scalable “back end” for 5 MM users. Test at scale and check impact with 1MM users
  • Develop open source library of content, nudges, media campaigns in Hindi/Marathi for low-income contexts, that can cover 10 states with 50% of India’s population

 

Scale and institutionalizing government partnerships

  • Partner with 6-7 Indian states to impact 5 million children , with 30-40% active users
  • Institutionalize the technology and model within government systems, budgets and infrastructure to ensure it becomes a long-term part of the system

 

May 19, 2022 (last update 05-23-2022)