Big Data insights help drive education outcomes

March 10, 2015 0 comments

An innovative collaboration of HP with Akshara Foundation aims to improve the education experience for more than one million school children across the Indian state of Karnataka through the use of Big Data insights.

Akshara Foundation delivers innovative solutions in its pursuit to provide equitable educational access to young school children, with a mission to have every child in school and learning well. The Foundation needed to identify the resources and facilities needed in schools to improve the reading and mathematical skills of students in government primary schools in India. However, the vast amounts of data from multiple, disparate government and corporate sources made it difficult to gain meaningful insight.

HP data scientists volunteered to analyze data on resources, facilities and records of education attainment to identify the triggers for better learning outcomes. The data analytics uncovered insights, such as the link between education resources, facilities and student retention and empowers Akshara Foundation to make better informed decisions on initiatives with the greatest student impact.

The partnership was pioneered by Rajesh Krishnan, an experienced data scientist from HP’s Analytics and Data Management Practice. Motivated by the abundance of primary data available, HP approached Akshara Foundation with a fresh analytical perspective to turn the data into useful information identifying the links between education resources, facilities and Indian children’s education experiences.

In their personal time, over the course of nine months, the team of volunteers from India and Australia undertook the task of data preparation, involving the cleansing and amalgamation of four disparate corporate and government data sources. Cluster analysis was subsequently applied on the facilities and programs available across all Karnataka government schools. Despite large data sets and incomplete, unformatted data sources, by adapting to commercial algorithms, the team was able to provide accurate insights down to an individual classroom level.

However, the solution went beyond mathematical algorithms, presenting the results in clear and easily understood formats was key to the project success.  For example, a custom dashboard was built by HP that provided insights including the optimal pupil teacher ratio and the ideal number of books per child for the best educational outcomes. It has also revealed some surprising insights as Krishnan explains: 

“A valuable insight the dashboard provided was that engagement was particularly low among 11 to 14-year old girls,” said Rajesh Krishnan. “However, on further analysis we found that the introduction of separate bathrooms helped to significantly reduce drop-out rates. To have identified a way to keep this demographic in school is incredibly valuable.”

Akshara Foundation plans to use the HP grant to further develop the Karanataka Learning Partnership collaborative platform. The non-profit plans to combine school and community data on education and engage HP’s data analytics capabilities for greater impact across India, and will continue to improve learning outcomes for millions of students.

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