SMART Project, Smarter StudentBy Aaron Lazenby
Oracle supports CARE's education initiatives in impoverished Uttar Pradesh.
The state of Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, is a place of extremes. With 167 million citizens, the territory is the most populous of India's states. Poverty is endemic, with per capita income among the lowest of all Indian states. Life expectancy—which at 58 years is 10 percent lower than the global average—is on par with the war-torn African nations of Sudan and Eritrea.
CARE, one of the world's largest humanitarian organizations, began its operations in the Asian subcontinent nearly 60 years ago, and while conditions have improved since 1950—indeed, India hosts one of the world's fastest-growing economies—the situation in Uttar Pradesh has remained difficult. In addition to poverty and below-average life expectancy, education is also a challenge; for example, only one in four girls can read in this populous state. CARE is working there to establish a comprehensive education improvement campaign in hopes of improving economic opportunity, promoting citizenship, and fostering positive change.
The results are undeniable. Between 1997 and 2004, enrollment rates for girls in the target regions in Uttar Pradesh have increased by 40 percent.
"CARE believes that education plays an important role in our efforts to achieve our vision of a world where poverty has been overcome," says Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of CARE. "Education gives people, especially women and girls, the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to lift themselves out of poverty."
CARE's hard work in Uttar Pradesh earned the organization one of Oracle's Commitment Grants in 2006. The US$1 million gift funded education improvement efforts in the area, specifically the introduction of high-quality, proven teaching practices across the state. Working with a handful of model schools, CARE hosts a series of teacher trainings and workshops, student and curriculum assessments, and community outreach in an effort to mobilize educators, students, and parents to take interest in the quality of local schools. The stakeholders in these model schools can then share these lessons and promote the adoption of best practices in neighboring schools. Ultimately, the program will train 325 teachers to serve 13,000 students.
The program kicked off with the Science, Math and Relevant Technology (SMART) project. Its curriculum focuses on introducing core skills that can have an immediate impact on students' school performance. CARE works with teachers to ensure that each student receives a minimum of one hour of math and science instruction a day.
Early efforts are already having an impact. At a school in rural Pilibhit, the SMART curriculum has already transformed the education experience of one girl. Marked as a discipline problem and a slow learner, the eighth grader was left to her own devices as teachers chose to direct their limited resources toward more-willing pupils. But a series of competency tests revealed that her behavior troubles stemmed from struggles with basic math skills.
Now in a classroom with students at the same skill level, she is a different student. Her math and language skills have both improved, and many other children now see her as an example.
Such a success may seem like a drop in the bucket of millions of students, but CARE's impact on the project schools has improved achievement in core school subjects—paving the way for better living standards. And Oracle's partnership with CARE only promises to expand the good work. "Because of Oracle's tremendous partnership with CARE, students will develop a better understanding of certain academic concepts using computers and other important tools, and teachers will have the necessary tools and instruction to convey subject matter through appropriate learning materials," Gayle says.
Aaron Lazenby is a director with Oracle Publishing.