ADB Investment to Improve Access to Quality Preschool Programs in Rural India

Preschool children in rural India learn from women teachers in a Hippocampus Learning Center.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (2 July 2014) – A Rs.100 million equity investment from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will enable Hippocampus Learning Centers (HLC) to expand its preschool programs to over 700 villages in Karnataka by 2016.

HLC was established in 2010 by Umesh Malhotra, an Ashoka Fellow. Mr. Malhotra has been involved in the education sector in India for the past 10 years. HLC has a unique business model where it recruits and trains women teachers from the villages where its education centers are to be located. The HLC curriculum adopts a child-centered approach which aims to move away from rote learning to learning with comprehension.

“Investing in human capital brings about powerful social change and this investment will create opportunities for children to realize their full potential. This inclusive business model developed by HLC has good potential for replication in other states in India, as well as in other developing countries in the region,” said Aniruddha Patil, Senior Investment Specialist at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department.

The Annual Status of Education Report 2013 facilitated by Pratham shows that in rural India only 47% of children in grade 5 can read a grade 2 level text and only 52% of children in grade 5 can solve a grade 2 level subtraction problem. This learning deficit in early education needs to be urgently addressed.

In addition to the poor quality of education provided in primary schools in rural areas, the lack of preschool education also contributes to this learning deficit. Without access to preschool education, children in rural areas are at a significant disadvantage in cognitive and social ability as compared to their counterparts in urban areas.

“Our enrolments in preschool have grown 20-fold in 3 years, evidence of the demand for high quality education in rural India. Our robust, innovative and low cost framework has ensured that we deliver high learning outcomes consistently, creating the platform for us to scale rapidly across Karnataka and India.” said Mr. Malhotra, Founder and CEO of HLC.

In addition to ADB, Unitus Seed Fund and Khosla Impact Fund will together invest Rs. 44 million in the company.