For LV Vaidyanathan, Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director, P&G India, business is about commitment to the company’s citizenship efforts, encompassing community impact, equality and inclusion and environmental sustainability. A significant part of it is driven by P&G Shiksha, the company’s flagship CSR programme committed to the cause of children’s education. “Our ability to grow is directly connected to our commitment to responsible business and doing good. Our ability to do good is, in turn, strengthened by our growth. Therefore, at P&G, our endeavour is to be a ‘Force for Growth’ and a ‘Force for Good’ in the communities we serve, and to touch and improve the lives of people. This is naturally woven into the way we work every day,” says Vaidyanathan.
Here are excerpts from a conversation in which LV Vaidyanathan tells us about the efforts made through P&G Shiksha and the outcomes:
What is the impact P&G Shiksha has made over its 17-year journey?
We launched our flagship CSR programme ‘P&G Shiksha’ in 2005 with the vision of providing means to education to underprivileged children in the country. Over the years, P&G Shiksha has evolved into a 360-degree, holistic education initiative targeting communities across the country, with the aim to improve learning outcomes in children by strengthening educational infrastructure, remediating learning gaps, and empowering marginalized girls through education. Our initiatives are designed in line with the Government’s Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan, and our efforts are in line with the motto outlined in the New Education Policy – ‘Educate, Encourage, Enlighten’. Over the years, we have supported more than 2,500 schools with infrastructure enhancement, that will impact over 23 lakh children in need of learning and education.
How do you assess the larger outcomes for the company from P&G Shiksha’s work of supporting underprivileged children to continue their learning and education?
We are partnering with reputed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with a focus on implementing unique and innovative programmes on education. We are working to strengthen children’s learning environment, minimize learning gaps and improve learning outcomes in children through on-ground remedial learning interventions, early childhood education and technology-based digital remedial learning. We are also working towards empowering marginalized girls through holistic infrastructure and learning interventions.
Together with Round Table India, we are enhancing education infrastructure in varied ways, including but not limited to constructing new classrooms, building playgrounds, and improving health and hygiene facilities for children like clean drinking water and separate toilets for girls and boys at schools. With this, our objective is to make the environment more conducive to learning by increasing enrolments, reducing dropouts, driving lesson-efficiency for teachers, encouraging students, and therefore, overall higher learning level.
Several reports in recent years have indicated that while there has been a remarkable increase in school enrolments, there are significant gaps that have emerged in the learning outcomes. Moreover, the pandemic has further induced learning disruptions which has aggravated these gaps further, especially with the country reporting the second longest pandemic-induced school closure in the world.
As per the World’s Learning Poverty Index 2019, 55% of school-going children could not read and understand a short age-appropriate text by Class V. This figure shot up to 70% post-pandemic. The National Achievement Survey (NAS) in 2017 and 2021 indicated that the nationwide education levels decreased by 7% during the pandemic.
Additionally, the National Education Policy 2020 accords ‘highest priority to achieve Foundational Literacy and Numeracy for all students by Grade 3’. It was also stressed that the remaining aspects of the policy will be relevant for students only if the basic requirement of foundational learning is achieved.
We are driving on-ground remedial learning interventions in partnership with Pratham Education Foundation, through a community based and an ‘in-school’ model, together with the support of trained volunteers from within the community and teachers at school. During the lockdown, the programme adopted a digital outreach model by leveraging technology and mobilizing the community volunteers, to ensure learning continuity. Through our remedial learning programmes, we are working towards bridging learning gaps in children with a twin-fold objective: a) Improving basic foundational skills in children to set them up for a fast-paced growth in school, and b) Improving learning outcomes in children to strengthen their conceptual understanding of essential subjects. And we are seeing the impact in terms of improved learning levels. Last year, at the end of the intervention, more than 70% of students were able to read as per their expected learning levels compared to less than 25% at the beginning of the intervention.
We are also leveraging technology to improve learning outcomes in children. In partnership with Educational Initiatives, we are implementing ‘Mindspark’, a computer-based adaptive learning tool to remediate learning gaps in students. The tool integrates pedagogy, teacher instruction and a learning management system to assess a student’s learning level and develop a customized learning path for each one of them. During the pandemic induced school closure, we upgraded the tool to make it available on smartphones, to enable children to continue learning from the safety of their home and minimize learning losses. Last year, this programme alone impacted over 72,000 children across eight states in the country, by enabling learning from the safety of home.
Through our Early Childhood Education programme in partnership with Pratham Education Foundation, we are focusing on developing motor, cognitive, social-emotional, language and creative skills in children, thereby setting them up for a strong start as they begin their education journey. With the Early Childhood Initiative, more than 80% of children in the intervention group demonstrated socio-emotional, cognitive, motor and language skills at the end of the intervention last year.
In partnership with Save The Children, we are working towards breaking gender-biased barriers to education faced by girls in the country. Under this initiative, we are supporting 49 government-run residential Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya’s (KGBV) and 36 regular schools across seven districts of Rajasthan to provide quality education to girls through holistic infrastructure and learning interventions. We also continue to engage parents to emphasize continuity of education and minimize dropouts.
Additionally, we are also pro-actively working towards enabling STEM careers for girls via ‘P&G Shiksha Betiyan Scholarship Programme’, in partnership with Centre For Civil Society (CCS). As per reports, women only make up 14% of the STEM workforce in India. We aim to bridge this gap by empowering girls seeking to pursue STEM education, through essential financial aid and mentorship, with the end goal of supporting entry of skilled women professionals into manufacturing and production industries. Lastly, our manufacturing plants are also actively supporting their neighbouring communities in partnership with local NGOs and working every day to improve lives.
Would you have any personal anecdote to recount with regard to ‘fulfilling dreams’ of yourself as a child, or any children around you in the work or personal sphere?
I believe that to dream is to take the first step forward towards the future, and education is a critical enabler that paves the way for fulfilling these dreams. At P&G, our focus is on empowering thousands of children through different initiatives under P&G Shiksha. One of my favourite examples of the inspiring stories from Shiksha is actually the one showcased in our most recent Shiksha film, ‘The Story of Sushila’. This is one of the many stories of transformation that we have come across over the years, which reaffirms my belief that there is no bigger enabler than education in shaping the future of the citizens of tomorrow and helping them realize their dreams and aspirations.
THE STORY OF SUSHILA
Sushila today teaches at a P&G Shiksha school
In May, 2022, P&G Shiksha unveiled a heart-warming film ‘The Story of Sushila’, inspired by true events. It showcases the story of Sushila, who dreamt about going to school and becoming a teacher. With access to school and education via P&G Shiksha, she could study, and today is teaching hundreds of students, like herself, and helping them realize their dreams. The film, conceptualized and made by BBDO India, has received more than 50 lakh views on YouTube. “In Sushila’s class today, there would be someone who goes on to change the world in his or her own way,” says Enakshi Deva, Head, Corporate Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility, P&G India. She also tells us about a 75-year-old man named Bittu, part of one of the communities in Telangana, who had grown up in a village without schools, and through P&G Shiksha, got his long-awaited access to education.
‘ We will continue to help children fulfil their dreams’
“Every child has dreams about who they will be when they grow up and education paves the way for fulfilling these dreams. Over the years, our audience has continued to support Shiksha, and this film on Sushila shares one of the many stories of the impact made and dreams fulfilled. We also hope that this film continues to inspire the audience in doing their bit towards the education of children. As P&G, we will continue to step up as a force for good and support holistic education for underprivileged children and help them fulfil their dreams through our P&G Shiksha programme.”
Girish Kalyanaraman, Vice President – Marketing Operations, P&G India
ALL BRANDS CONTRIBUTE
Enakshi Deva says that all brands within the P&G fold contribute financially to P&G Shiksha, and it is a common team-building activity for different teams to visit schools under the initiative together, spend time with the children, share their career journeys and engage with them. She recounts a recent visit to a reconstructed Shiksha school in Dahanu, where the enthusiasm with which children greeted her team and a greeting card made by one of them saying ‘Thank you for making coming to school possible for me’ touched her as a person. Another story she relates is of a girl in Himachal Pradesh, who used to hate Maths, until the right support in school made the concept clear to her, and then she performed very well.
‘ The impact of our work is most heart-warming’
“The way we are structured, every brand contributes to the central Shiksha fund, if I could call it that, that we use to run all the initiatives under P&G Shiksha. Of course, different brands are of different sizes and the contributions may vary. We realize the impact of our work when we go to the schools, speak to the children and their parents. It is the most heart-warming part of my job.”
Head, Corporate Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility, P&G India
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