The annual Hult Prize will focus this year on building start-ups that provide sustainable, high quality early education solutions to ten million children under the age of six in urban slums and beyond by the year 2020. President Bill Clinton selected this year’s challenge, who said, “The Hult Prize is about more than the solution to the problem, it’s about how the world has to work in the 21st century.”
Competing in the challenge, a team of HEC Paris students have made it through to the regional finals with their start-up called Deeksha Education, a project created to tackle the important issue of offering Early Childhood Education in urban slums. The mission of their project is to provide quality education to children in urban slums by aligning mother’s interests with their child’s development needs.
The five HEC Paris students making up the team have benefited from the entrepreneurship community and help provided by the Business School which, thanks to its the large network of entrepreneurs, offers a great support system for any student wishing to develop their own start-up. The students spent long hours working on developing their business model in the e-Lab, and talked with local entrepreneurs and professors.
Deeksha Education has been formed on a unique model in that it holds a holistic perspective on the family. In order to help the child, it is necessary to consider the parents’ constraints when it comes to sending their child to a preschool. For this reason, mothers are placed as an integral part of their business. The start-up guarantees to double mothers’ income (which is only $2 a day), by sending their children to the educational program created by the students.
The first market that the students will target will be India. There are already a lot of initiatives in slums tackling a wide range of problems that they can partner up with. This way, they save costs on establishing logistics and offering redundant services in a surprisingly saturated landscape. Therefore, they can clearly focus on their educational mission. So far, the project has been met with astonishing interest and they are excited to have a lot of potential partners to work with.
The Educational program
The team is talking to experts from European universities and preschool teachers to develop their proprietary program of early childhood education. They believe it is important to consider specific circumstances in urban slums. For example, every day ends with story time, where all children, no matter their age, can sum up their day and share their experiences. This exercise is incredibly important for the child’s development, which does not require a perfectly designed environment.
Deeksha Education focuses on six pillars that cover universal skillsets of children under 6, including numeracy, motor skills and social interaction. When children are under 12 months, mothers can attend monthly meetings where Deeksha invites doctors and speakers to talk about the family side of education. These regular meetings also serve as hubs to build bridges between the mothers and introduce them to their idea. For children two years and older, they can attend school with trained teachers. Every day will consist of two main themes that covers one of Deeksha Education’s 6 pillars each. The activities require few tools or toys, but focus on exploring and using the environment that is already there. Deeksha will invest in their teacher’s training to ensure quality education by partnering up with professional training institutes. The project also plans on assisting teachers on how to use the available infrastructure, such as temples or community centers, and incorporate the local knowledge and tradition as well.