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Holistic education for every student - The upSchool Project

Piramal Foundation
May 15, 2019

Abhay, who was a part of the Gandhi Fellowship, Piramal Foundation's two-year program, is now a social entrepreneur helping Indian low-fee private schools provide holistic education to every student.

During his time in the Fellowship, he underwent a deep transformative process of self- discovery and personal change directed towards converting personal dreams into public reality. He worked with four government schools in the tribal belt of southern Rajasthan, where he helped the Principals and teachers set up systems to improve children's development.


Being a Bombay-bred kid, the two-year rural immersion transformed Abhay. He learned much more from the communities he served, than contributed to them. He understood the gaps in India's Public Education System, its implications on these communities and realised how fiercely obsessed education system is with student's academic growth but completely fails to provide for their socio-emotional and life skills development. Children are prepared to become obedient followers but not thinkers, artists or even responsible citizens. =

Abhay decided to change this.

The upSchool Project

The Government of India, through its campaign for Universal Education (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan), has achieved 98% enrolment in elementary classes. But more than 75% of these students drop out before reaching College. India, since 2000, is witnessing a migration of students from the Public to the Private schools. Despite these shifts, the learning levels of students are at unprecedentedly low and are further deteriorating.

In India, the discourse around education quality has typically been limited to educational attainment, improvement in test scores and not around life-skills or socio-emotional skills.Students lack life skills, socio-emotional skills to become self-aware and responsible citizens of the society.

The upSchool Project aims to change the discourse by initiating dialogue around non-academic skills like socio-emotional skills, life skills, citizenship and value education etc. At The upSchool Project, Abhay and his team currently work with 22 schools across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

From the pilot study conducted in the academic year 2017-18, we learnt the following-

Schools spend over 38% working days towards exams.

  • Despite being regular in attending classes, students performed only marginally better than students in government schools.

  • Schools disregard student’s holistic development by overly focussing on academic scores alone.

  • Teacher salaries are abysmal, probably resulting in poor talent acquisition in schools

  • Hierarchical and autocratic environment in schools result in low job-satisfaction and ownership amongst teachers

  • Schools do not invest or support professional development of teachers resulting in outdated pedagogy in classrooms.

In the last 12 months, The upSchool Project has advocated for setting-up organisational processes focusing on Teacher Development across all Norbertine Schools. These organisational processes, we believe, provide a platform for self-learning, peer-learning and coaching for teachers.

As of April 2019:

  • 50% Norbertine schools have regular Professional Learning Community meetings. PLC meetings have encouraged peer-learning and enhanced collaboration amongst staff.

  • 25% Norbertines schools have Teacher Resource Centres. These are repositories of books, journals, digital content etc. selected by teachers, Principals and USP team on topics ranging from curriculum to hobbies. TRCs encourage self-learning amongst teachers.

  • 25% Norbertines Schools are reviewing their examination process to make it diagnostic in nature. They are also trying to reduce the time spent on exams.

  • 60% schools have planned regular Parental Engagement. Schools have design surveys to understand the student’s behaviour at home.

  • 25% schools conducted ‘Teacher Job Satisfaction Survey’ to understand satisfaction levels of teachers. 100% schools plan to conduct TJSQ annually.

  • 25% schools have drafted the Year-Planner incorporating the organisational processes and practices for holistic development for students. 100% schools will have Year-planner by July 2019.