Changemaker Global Goals: Headstart Learning Centre weighs in

With innumerable high-quality education conferences to attend throughout the year, one needs to be deliberate in selecting conferences and creating expected outcomes from each conference.  When I was invited to speak about the big scalable projects I've initiated at HLC International in Chennai at the Global Goals Curriculum Conference in Berlin, my decision to attend did not require much deliberation.  I was honoured to speak amongst Ashoka fellows from around the world, heads of government education bodies from Germany and Austria, socially aware and engaged citizens, and two Ashoka Changemaker schools.

I talked about deliberate changemaking at our school – changemaking that has goals, purposes, makes large improvements in daily life, and serves as an example for many other schools.


In this conference, I shared HLC International’s 3 Global Goals for Education:

(1) Inclusion. Every child deserves to go to school and have a proper chance to learn - we all believe this. But we see, every day, that this is not the case. Some children simply never get to school, and if they don't do that, everything else in their lives becomes a challenge.  Inclusive education is sharing best practices of our work with schools who seek our help and reaching out to communities who can use our support to ensure we are deliberate in helping every child get the education they deserve.

By extending our outreach, we found that capacity building in education requires us to increase awareness, ensure proper preservice training, support in-service teachers, and lobby with the government to facilitate inclusion in government run schools. We are now planning to set up an organisation, whose role, much like that of Ashoka Foundation, is to celebrate inclusion everywhere and enable inclusion in all walks of life.  

A few participating schools were also practicing inclusion very seriously. Two schools in particular, IGS Nordend in Frankfurt and Montessori Oberschule Potsdam in Potsdam expressed interest in knowing more about our work and wanting to collaborate with our special education team to share best practices and grow the network. We are keenly developing our plans to build a knowledge base on inclusion practices.


(2) Karthavyam, the Citizens' Diploma. Conventionally, schools want children to be able to go out into the world and make a difference after they graduate, but fail to incorporate post-graduation skills into the curriculum. To change the current outcome, each school’s leadership needs to be deliberate in their approach to creating and achieving changemaking learning goals. 

In our Citizens' Diploma, children learn problem-solving skills through engagement and dialogue. They document the challenges faced within their communities by presenting photos, writing books, and telling stories. We teach them to infuse this documentation with cognitive empathy - recognising the problem, genuinely feeling the pain of communities dealing with the problem, questioning why the problem exists, and actively thinking about ways to solve the problem that go beyond merely knowing what the problems are.

Almost all the participating schools wanted to be a part of the Diploma. We've discussed some of the collaboration ideas when we met in Berlin, and we are continuously discussing the details of this partnership in learning across schools in Senegal, Begium, Germany, Poland and South Africa. We are also working with Design thinkers in Chennai to apply this human-centered design in a diploma and also in how it will be rolled out to other schools once we complete this pilot phase.


(3) Kognify.

There are a number of opportunities to improve learning outcomes for students in a school, yet, not all of them can be identified by human intuition alone. Moreover, every child learns differently, so we have to tailor their teaching to the ways of learning that they each excel at. This requires a deliberate study of students' and teachers' capabilities through a thorough analysis and addressing the quality of education interventions.

Learners take a cognitive workout every day on our workout app called Kognify - available on the AppStore, PlayStore and Web. Then, Kognify analyses the data and looks for cognitive patterns in their performances and creates individualised recommendations for every learner.  This enables us to predict performances, provide teachers with detailed insights on gaps in learning, curate the web to address common learning challenges, provide administrators with school-wide learning improvement reports, and much more. Most importantly, every analysis we do with Kognify enables us to make better predictions in learning gaps for all other children, too. So every learner thereby enables another to learn, as well.

To do all this, are deliberate in bringing a cognitive approach to the material that is taught. For over 10 years, we've been classifying learning materials and assessments by their cognitive makeup. In the past 3 years, we've studied the data we collected from grade level assessments to ascertain why one person learns in a certain situation while another doesn't. We are now ready to enable every child in every classroom to maximize their learning potential.

Schools in Germany and UK are planning to trial Kognify in their next academic year. It also evinced keen interest from Cornelson, one of the largest publishing companies in Europe. Ross Hall, Director for Education, Ashoka Foundation also talked about helping Kognify find an impact partner like UNICEF. He singled out high quality assessment among the key differentiators of Changemaker schools as the single most important tool that can influence the quality of primary and secondary education around the world.

It was a delightful experience to spend time with other Changemakers and know of their wonderful work. In the coming year, I will write more about Changemakers we want to learn more about and co-create with at length.  I hope that you will be inspired to become a part of our work or to embolden us to achieve 3 of the Global Goals for Education: 

- Inclusive and effective learning environments for all through Inclusion,

- Knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development and global citizenship through our Citizens’ Diploma.

- Quality primary and secondary education that is measurable and creating well-trained teachers through Kognify


Naveen Mahesh, Director and Managing Trustee, Headstart Learning Centre, and Founder of Kognify Assessments and Skill Development P L