Helping 100M students under ten learn how to read and write.
Hey! I’m Zayn Patel, and I care about unlocking human potential, especially for kids in developing countries. I was a finalist in Schmidt Futures global learning tools competition. I’ve worked with the UN to build a digital literacy curriculum for women in rural Senegal. I also created a platform to help high school students select colleges based on social fit instead of our news and world reports ranking.
This memo concerns Beru, a scalable augmented reality education platform for 5–6 y/o illiterate students in India.
Currently, 200M children in India are illiterate. That’s the equivalent of filling up every building in new york city 25 times over.
This problem exists because:
- Covid took students who were literate pre-pandemic and turned them into illiterate students. These kids are at least three-quarters behind on instruction. Shreya Hegde, one of my teammates on this project, provided some perspective on education during the pandemic:
Covid showed us the big tech divide between kids in cities and villages. Half of the students could not read more than a few words, and three-fourths of their reading abilities declined during the lockdown. Many kids (some even older than 10) who previously knew to read and write their mother tongue forget it and need to re-learn. The tools available in local communities for these students are pathetic: torn books described in words they can’t understand, unqualified teachers who rarely show up to teach their classes, poor sanitation facilitation facilities, rote learning-based assessments, etc. it’s frightening to see students regress and parents surrender to their inevitable “fate.” the worst part is, covid accelerated this. I’ve lived in India for 18 years, and the illiteracy and poor education in villages is the biggest problem. — Shreya Hedge, Beru Team Member
- Schools are underfunded, with 40,000 Karnataka teachers who have been without pay for the past three months.
- There aren’t enough teachers to meet the demand; 1.94M unqualified teachers are sworn into these roles. India’s government attempted to reduce illiteracy by increasing enrollment. As they increased enrollment (demand-side), they needed to increase teachers (supply-side)…