What is KLP?

The Karnataka Learning Partnership was formed as a framework for nonprofits, corporations, academic institutions, and citizens to get involved in improving government schools in Karnataka. Our work has touched thousands of children in the state.
Visit our website: www.klp.org.in

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rebuilding the KLP Platform

Over the past five months we have been busy rearchitecting our infrastructure at Karnataka Learning Partnership. Today, we are launching the beta version of the website and the API that powers most of it. There are still a few rough edges and incomplete features, but we think it is important to release early and get your feedback. We wanted to write this blog post along with the release to give you an overview of what has changed and some of the details of why we think this is a better way of doing it.

Data


We have a semi-federated database architecture. There is data from Akshara, Akshaya Patra, DISE and other partners; geographic data, aggregations and meta-data to help make sense of a lot of this. From our experience PostgreSQL is perhaps the most versatile open-source database management system out there, Especially when we have large amounts of geographic data. As part of this rewrite, we upgraded to PostgreSQL 9.3, which means better performance and new features.

Writing a web application which reads from multiple databases can be a difficult task. The trick is make sure that there is the right amount of cohesiveness. We are using Materialized Views in PostgreSQL. Materialized View is a database object that stores the result of a query in a on-disk table structure. They can be indexed separately and offer higher performance and flexibility compared to ordinary database views. We bring the data in multiple databases together using Materialized Views and refreshing them periodically.

We have a few new datasets - MP/MLA geographic boundaries, PIN code boundaries and aggregations of various parameters for schools.

API

The majority of efforts during the rewrite went into making the API, user interface and experience. We started by writing down some background. The exhaustive list of things that the API can do are here.

We have a fairly strong Python background and it has proven to be sustainable at many levels. Considering the skill-sets of our team and our preference for readable, maintainable code, Django was an obvious choice as our back-end framework. Django is a popular web development framework for Python.

Since we were building a fairly extensive API including user authentication, etc., we quickly realized that it would be useful to use one of the many API frameworks built on top of Django. After some experimentation with a few different frameworks, we settled on using Django-Rest-Framework. Our aim was to build on a clean, RESTful API design, and the paradigms offered by Rest-Framework suited that perfectly. There was a bit of a learning curve to get used to concepts like Serializers, API Views, etc. that Rest-Framework provides, but we feel it has allowed us to accomplish a lot of complex behaviours while maintaining a clean, modular, readable code-base.

Design

For our front-end, we were working with the awesome folks at Uncommon, who provided us gorgeous templates to work with. After lengthy discussions and evaluating various front-end frameworks, we felt none of them quite suited what we were doing, and involved too much overhead. Most front-end frameworks are geared toward making Single Page Apps and while each of our individual pages have a fair amount of complexity, we did not want to convert everything into a giant single page app, as our experience has shown that can quickly lead to spiraling complexity, regardless of the frame-work one uses.

We decided to keep things simple and use basic modular Javascript concepts and techniques to provide a wrapper around the templates that Uncommon had provided and talk to our API to get and post data. This worked out pretty well, allowing us to keep various modules separated, re-use code provided by the design team as much as possible, and not have to spend additional hours and days fighting to fit our code into the conventions of a framework.

All code, design and architecture decisions are in the open, much like how rest of our organisation works. You can see the code and the activity log in our Github account.

Features

For the most part, this beta release attempts to duplicate what we had in v10.0 of the KLP website. However, there are a few new features and few features that have not yet made it through and a number of features and improvements due in future revisions.  

Aside from the API, there are a few important new features worth exploring:

  1. The compare feature available at the school and pre-school level. This allows you to compare any two schools or pre-schools.
    1. Planned Improvements: The ability to compare at all and any levels of hierarchy; a block to a block or even a block to a district etc.
  2. The volunteer feature allows partner organisations to post volunteer opportunities and events at schools and pre-schools. It also allows users to sign up for such events.
    1. Planned Improvements: Richer volunteer and organisation profiles and social sharing options.
  3. The search box on the map now searches through school names, hierarchy (district, block etc.) names, elected representative constituency names and PIN Codes.
    1. Planned Improvements: To add neighbourhood and name based location search.
  4. An all new map page powered by our own tile server.
  5. Our raw data page is now powered by APIs and the data is always current unlike our previous version which had static CSV files.
    1. Planned Improvements: To add timestamps to the files and to provide more data sources for download.

Now that we have a fairly stable new code base for the KLP website, there are a few features from the old site that we still need to add:

  1. Assessment data and visualisations of class, school and hierarchy performance in learning assessments needs to be added. The reason we have chosen not to add it just yet is because we are modifying our assessment analysis and visualisation methodology to be simpler to understand.
  2. Detail pages for higher levels of aggregation - like a cluster, block and district with information aggregated to that level.
  3. A refresh of the KLP database to bring it up to date with the current academic year. All these three have not been done for the same reason; because this requires an exhaustive refactor of the existing database to support the new assessment schemas and aggregation and comparison logic.

Aside from the three above, we have a few more features that have been designed and written but did not make it in to the current release.

  1. Like the volunteer workflow, we have a donation workflow that allows partner organisations to post donation requirements on behalf of the schools and pre-schools they work with for things these schools and pre-schools require and other in-kind donations. For example, a school might want to set up a computer lab and requires a number of individual items to make it happen. Users can choose to donate either the entire lab or individual items and the partner organisation will help deal with the logistics of the donation.

Our next release is due mid-October to include the volunteer work flow and squish bugs. Post that, we will have a major release in mid-January with the refactored databases and all of the changes that it enables and all the planned improvements listed above. And yes, we do have a mobile application on our minds too.

The DISE application will be updated with the current years data as well by November. We will also add the ability to be able to compare any two schools or hierarchies by December.

So that’s where we are, four years on. The KLP model continues to grow and we now believe we have a robust base on which to rapidly build upon and deploy continuously.

For the record, this is version 11. :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A for anthem

Did you know 9 out of 10 people in our country do not know the meaning of our National Anthem? Yes.. Shocking, but true!

To celebrate India’s 67th Independence DayAkanksha has made a beautiful video in which children from schools run by them, teach us the true meaning of our Jana Gana Mana. The meaning is adapted from Shri Rabindranath Tagore’s English translation.

Click here to view the amazing work by children.




Happy Independence Day to all!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Beta: Exploring DISE Data

Over the years, we at KLP, have been big fans of the data that the District Information System for Education collects. DISE collects an incredible array of data on all primary schools, public and private, in every state of India and have done so, year on year, for many years. The self-reported data contains variables that cover enrolment to sanitation to infrastructure and more and a full list of these variables can be found in the DISE DCF.


We believe that the data DISE collects is an under-utilised resource and have built this application to allow users to better explore this data set through multiple lenses - by Education Districts, Blocks and Clusters as well as by MP and MLA aggregations and by PIN Codes.


For every aggregation, except PIN Codes, you will also find demographic, finance and infrastructure reports linked to at the bottom of the right panel.

This is a Beta release and we do need feedback to improve. For future versions, we'd like to be able to analyse data at every level of aggregation over time as well and provide easy ways to export data from selected views.

Please do play with our beta release!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How much do we know about Education in India



Via Forbes

Everyone has an opinion on education. Start a conversation at a dinner table, a tea shop, an academic seminar, a global conference, a train, a bus or flight – everyone you meet will have something to say about it. Often, they will know precisely how bad it is, how much worse it has become and what needs to be done to fix the ills. When I say precisely, I don’t mean that – I mean with a great deal of authority. Very definite and well articulated opinions. And they may well be right. Because nobody can really answer (most of) the big questions in education in India with any degree of precision.

Policy:
The holy grail here is evidence based policy making. It would obviously be great if every decision made had a solid basis in proven hypothesis. If we knew for sure, to take a facetious example, that children study better in white shirts than blue shirts, and this had been tested rigorously, then it would be easy to create a policy that tends towards white shirts as school uniforms. This is also better for policy makers as they have the evidence to fall back upon and even justify their decisions. In practice of course evidence is just one part of the policy making puzzle and may even prove to be inconvenient in some circumstances. Yet, it is what stands closest to fact in the vast unknown.

Data:
The first hurdle of course is the availability of data. There is some available on the ministry website and some with affiliated institutions. Some data is gathered in large studies such as those conducted by the Azim Premji foundation, Pratham, Accountability Initiative etc. and these answer specific questions each year. The Karnataka Learning Partnership and Centre for Civil Society are taking the lead on compiling some data that are available to all while investors and private consulting firms have their own data sets that are not available in the public domain. Each of these serves a limited purpose and researchers often find themselves stuck because they have no credible information sources or good data unless they set up a data collection process themselves as part of their studies. That is either very expensive and time consuming or forces them to dramatically reduce the scope of their work.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Open Steps and KLP Workshop



Via Open-Steps.org
The last organisation we have met in Bangalore is the Karnataka Learning Partnership (KLP), an initiative launched in 2007 by the Akshara Foundation, which collects, analyses and visualises data to improve primary education in Karnataka. By browsing its website, users can find a very elaborated map and reports containing information on public primary schools. Position, availability of sanitation facilities, demographic and nutrition statistics are the kind of data-sets that are being presented. Among others, public officials are making use of this material for the improvement of the decision-making process. The data comes from various sources: public administration, collaborating organisations and volunteer surveys too. Since these information is also relevant for parents, who most of them don’t have access to online resources, KLP is working on a SMS/phone based methodology for them to access the data. The results have been already proven to be really successful and the future plans include the expansion of the number of districts covered, currently 3.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Workshop on “Visualising Open Data to bring out global issues”

Our globetrotter friends Alex and Margo of Open Steps are in India and would be conducting a workshop here in Bangalore. 



Open Steps keeps touring India and is pleased to invite you to its workshop in Bangalore on the 18th November 2013 (2-4pm).

Open Steps is an initiative from two young Berliners, Alex (Spanish, software developer) and Margo (French, European politics) who decided to leave their daily lives and travel around the world for one year. On this journey, they are meeting people and organisations working actively in open knowledge related projects, documenting them on their website. Also, open data is the area where their both backgrounds converge and that's why they run a workshop entitled

                          “Visualising Open Data to bring out global issues”

on the way and research about the current situation of open data in the countries they are visiting.

This event is organised with the support of Karnakata Learning Partnership and takes place at The Centre for Internet and Society, No. 194, 2nd 'C' Cross, Domlur 2nd Stage Bangalore 560 071. Map and more information about the venue under:  http://cis-india.org/about/contact .

For more information, visit www.open-steps.org/workshop.

We hope to see you among the audience on the 18th November 2013 and are looking forward to discussing with you about open cultures & open data in India!


WORKSHOP DETAILS:

"Visualizing open data to bring out global issues"

Thanks to the large amounts of open data being released for free on the Internet, we can take a quick glimpse at current issues characterizing our world. Although, this complex data is sometimes difficult to be understood in its initial form.

By going from theory to practice, we will show where data can be quickly gathered from, and by using open source technologies, put it in a visual context to make relevant issues easy to understand. In addition, attendees will be encouraged to discuss topics involving each of us.

The goal of this workshop is also to increase awareness of the importance and benefits of making information available for everybody and how sharing knowledge is one of the steps towards making our planet better.

Table of contents:

1. Introduction to Open Knowledge and Open Data

1.1 What are open knowledge and open data? Why do they matter?
1.2 Examples of administrations and organisations releasing information to the public domain.
1.3 Transparency in politics as a way to achieve real democracy.

2. There is so much data out there, and its free!

2.1 Online sources where you can get open data.
2.2 World Bank as major data hub.

3. Why visualization matters

3.1 Understanding complex problems by looking at simple graphs.
3.2 Examples of data visualizations we have developed describing worldwide issues in the fields of Politics, Environment, Education and Social development.

4. Practical session

4.1 How to build a data visualization in 5 minutes using free online tools.
4.2. Technical questions related to the tools used.

5. Open debate

5.1 Which data would I like to visualize? Attendees have the opportunity to propose topics and relevant data they would consider interesting to explore. Everyone will be also encouraged to publish their own data visualizations on our platform.

Target groups:

- individuals or collectives.
- interested in open source technologies and the philosophy behind open knowledge.
- searching for data sources for research.
- working with visualizations.
- developing a conscious approach to global topics.
- having general interest in the topic.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Investing in Early Childhood Education

Usha Ganesh writes about the emergence of Pre-schools and the Pre-school educational content in Karnataka.

Via Searchlight South Asia



Children from poor families are the unfortunate inheritors of poverty – in India, every eighth urban child in the 0-6 years age group stays in slums, as per a report published by the Indian government in 2011. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is critical to help these children begin their climb out of poverty, and yet it receives scant attention in national policies such as the Right to Education Act.
India has the world’s largest integrated program – the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) – that focuses on nutrition, health and education for children. The program covers 48% or 75.7 million children of the total 158.7 million children in the 0-6 age group in India. It is largely implemented through centres called Balwadis and Anganwadis that operate in rural areas as well as urban slums. These centres provide a range of ECCE services such as immunization, health check-ups and monitoring as well as referral services in addition to pre-school education. Given the implementation focus on health and nutrition due to high incidence of malnutrition and its impact on child development, the education component of the program has been found wanting.

The proposed National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy is expected to set some standards for a comprehensive approach towards pre-school interventions. Reports indicate that a thematic ECCE Committee will be initially constituted under the ICDS Mission Steering Group. It will eventually form a National council for ECCE with corresponding State and district level councils to ensure better co-ordination and implementation. In the meanwhile, private sector stakeholders are working to improve the pre-school education experience for children at the BoP. While most initiatives aim to strengthen the Anganwadis though capacity building and curriculum development, a few aim to provide affordable pre-schools for the poor.

Others like Sesame Workshop, Akshara Foundation and the Centre for Learning Resources work in the area of capacity building and training the Anganwadi workers so that they are better empowered to deliver education. Akshara Foundation initially set up their own Balwadis in slums where children could not access the government-run Anganwadis. Over time, they felt it made little sense to work parallel to the system, and they invited the Director of Women and Child Health Department in Bangalore to visit their centres. Says B S Latha Devi, Head – Pre School Programme, “The IAS officer saw the difference in the enthusiasm and interest at our Akshara centres and invited us to work with the State.” Today Akshara Foundation supports Anganwadi workers in over 1700 centres across Bangalore by providing teaching learning material, training and community engagement. It has also developed assessment tools to measure learning outcomes.

Read the entire article here.