Pankaj Jain

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Pankaj Jain was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
The daily teaching and interactions with students are entrusted to trained and formerly unemployed women with strong interpersonal skills. To ensure quality and consistency in methods, a qualified design team creates the curriculum and provides the teachers with a detailed methodology and schedule. Finally, quality senior teachers support and supervise approximately seven class teachers and act as a link to the design team.

Paraskilling, in which complex processes are disaggregated into simple, routine, and standardized tasks, is the main concept behind Pankaj’s organization, Gyan Shala. However, he also has detailed processes in place to meet his commitment to providing high-quality and affordable education. These systems include complementary teacher teams, a strong emphasis on teaching and learning materials, recurrent teacher training, individual follow-up with students, and optimized staff and infrastructure expenses. Pankaj believes the only way to find an effective, replicable, and short-term solution to teacher and budget shortages is to work within existing resources. By challenging the deep-rooted assumption that quality education is highly correlated to the teacher’s expertise, he found an innovation: with Gyan Shala, he has rethought the role of a teacher by breaking down the tasks.

According to a survey conducted by the MIT Poverty Action Lab, Gyan Shala’s Grade 3 students perform 88 percent better in language and 99 percent better in math than Grade 3 students in municipal schools, despite a slightly lower attendance. Today, more than 30,000 students from Grades 1 to 10 are attending Pankaj’s network of classes, located in poor urban areas all around India.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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