The Pakistan Education Innovation Fund, or Ilm Ideas 2, is an education innovation programme that is managed by Cambridge Education. It provides a platform for the generation, piloting and scaling up of innovative solutions to address critical education challenges in Pakistan.
The programme has five focus areas – education for girls, education for children with special needs, improving the quality of learning and the learning environment, helping teachers be more effective in the classroom, and strengthening education management. The programme aims to have improved education outcomes for at least 250,000 Pakistani children by the end of its tenure.
Ilm Ideas 2 strives to take all the innovations it is supporting beyond just a creative ‘idea’ or project by providing effective leadership, management, and the control needed to take them to scale in order to have a real impact on Pakistan’s education sector.
Ilm Ideas 2 seeks out and nurtures innovative education solutions in two ways. Firstly, it funds, mentors and provides direct technical assistance to local organisations with proven innovative solutions for Pakistan’s education problems; and secondly – it works with existing business incubators to nourish and set to flight education-focused start-ups who have a novel idea that can improve the state of education in Pakistan.
In the long run, Ilm Ideas 2 hopes to create a portfolio of education investments with high potential to achieve scale and sustainability, acting as a facilitator that can ‘connect the dots’ and leave behind a thriving network of education innovators working together to improve education outcomes in Pakistan.
Facilitating local solutions
Currently Ilm Ideas 2 has three partners, or grantees, that it works directly with – the Children’s Global Network, Multinet and ITU (Information Technology University). These grantees are implementing their projects successfully across Pakistan, with Ilm Ideas 2 providing close guidance and monitoring. Each grantee has a solution that has the potential to greatly improve education outcomes in the country.
The Children’s Global Network trains and supports educated young people, many of whom are women, to set up and manage Early Childhood Learning centres which help prepare children for formal schooling. Studies have shown that in communities similar to those where CGN works, children who have attended pre-school are more likely to enrol in primary school on time and to succeed in early primary grades. Not only does this model fill an important gap in Pakistan’s education system by providing early childhood education (ECE) to children, it simultaneously offers a unique entrepreneurial opportunity to educated youth from small towns and villages. Currently the network is operating in the districts of Charsadda, Khushab, Kohat, Bahawalpur and Islamabad, with over 80 centres established by young entrepreneurs trained since March 2015. CGN aims to set up at least 6000 centres over the next two years.
Multinet has introduced a ‘Sabaq Digital Learning System’ that provides fun-filled and exciting learning materials to children from grades K to 5 for Urdu and Math. Based on the National Curriculum, Sabaq provides engaging content (stories, songs, puzzles and games) on tablets for children in school to practice skills learned via regular classroom instruction. Sabaq is also being used with out-of-school children in an informal setting to help them develop critical literacy and numeracy skills. Multinet is currently being used by around 2500 children in 30 schools and 40 informal learning centres in Punjab and Sindh. Over the next two years, the programme aims to reach at least 80,000 children.
With a focus on maths and science teaching and learning in grades 6-8, ITU has developed video lectures and interactive learning materials for students, lesson plans and assessment tools for teachers (all available on an e-learn platform), and an SMS-based intelligent tutoring system. Each teacher is given a tablet, and each classroom a TV screen. The teacher accesses relevant content for her lesson via an app, and students access the content on the TV. After school, students and their parents can receive questions via SMS to assess and help reinforce learning. With their primary target being government classrooms, and a predicted outreach of 81,000 children, ITU is likely to make a real impact on education through its efforts.
Working with business incubators
In addition to providing funding for projects, Ilm Ideas 2 is also helping Pakistan’s business incubators become experts at identifying and supporting innovative education startups. It is currently working with five business incubators who previously had little to no experience in working with or incubating education-focused social enterprise and supporting these organisations as they scout for and nurture ideas such as WonderTree, LearnOBots and MentMe, which focus on special education needs, learning through robotics and interactive tutoring respectively.
The programme is also providing invaluable capacity building opportunities to incubators, with a view that they will continue to encourage social enterprise in education across Pakistan once Ilm Ideas 2 ends.
Ilm Ideas 2 runs till 2019, by which time it hopes to have created a network of great education innovators who have the capacity and the will to continue to find innovative solutions for Pakistan’s education needs. To find out more about them, or to keep up to date with the latest from Ilm Ideas 2, you can visit the website and subscribe to the newsletter.