Study Hall Educational Foundation, India

When we began support of Study Hall Foundation in 2008, they worked with 21 schools. Today, aided by technology, policy push and partnership with the government and the Mona Foundation, Study Hall Education Foundation has scaled its model of education across 993 government schools of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. More than 27,200 teachers have been trained and 891,000 girls impacted.

About the project

Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF) was established in 1994 has been pursuing its mission to provide quality education to underprivileged girls and youth in urban and rural India since then. Using feminist-based pedagogy, gender sensitization techniques and adolescent empowerment discussions on social issues in the classrooms, SHEF works in the areas of education with a focus on girls’ education and empowerment,  teacher training programs, gender-based sensitization workshops and training, formal and non-formal educational centers, and vocational training.

SHEF supports an impressive portfolio of educational initiatives.   Of these, Mona Foundation supports Digital Study Hall, Aarohini Initiative, GyanSetu Non-Formal Education Centers, Prerna Girls School, India’s Daughter Campaign.    Read about these of these programs below.

How we help

Since 2008, the Mona Foundation has directly supported the following programs of the Study Hall Foundation:

  • Digital Study Hall (DSH) Creating quality classrooms with video content, and Digital Study Hall YouTube Channel and support of DSH management and infrastructure
  • Aarohini Initiative, a girls’ education and empowerment teacher training program, which currently reaches 400,000 people
  • Production of Critial Dialogues, a curriculum to create boys champions of gender equality
  • GyanSetu Non-Formal Education Centers which educates and enables the transition of very marginalized children in slum areas to public schools
  • Scholarship for Girls in Prerna and KGBV school

Many kids in the very poor and “slum” areas around cities or villages never attend school.  GyanSetus, or non-formal education centers are nurturing transformative community hub, providing a way to bring the kids to level and transition them to the school system.   Through several innovations GyanSetu seeks to provide solution to the chronic problems of education system that have isolated and alienated the children on the margin.

There are currently a total of 20 GyanSetu centers that teach 856 children, nearly double from 2017.

Evaluation process: One of the biggest measure of success is sustained transition of an out-of-school child to a school. This is done by providing age appropriate learning to each child and counseling the family to put value to education. GyanSetu also counsels women and young girls on issues that limit their lives with help of professional counselors. Each meeting leads to a community action and is documented.

Meanwhile, activity-based teaching continues to be a cornerstone for engaging and retaining out-of-school children at the GyanSetu centers. Making structures with clay, using leafs to draw characters and waste paper sculptures are activities that are conducted regularly at all the GyanSetu centers.

GyanSetu centers also act as hubs of community transformation, which is why mothers’ meetings are held 6 to 7 times a month at every center. During these meetings, the GyanSetu teacher, accompanied by counselors from Suraksha (an anti dowry and family counseling center), talk to the mothers regarding issues such as domestic violence, alcoholism, and health and hygiene. If and when cases of domestic violence, dowry, substance abuse, etc., are reported, counselors from Suraksha intervene, and if need be the local police is also called in.

Digital Study Hall’s (DSH) approach to education has been described as “YouTube meets Netflix in a schoolhouse with a dirt floor.” Digital Study Hall initiative is a user-generated video-sharing system intended to overcome the shortage of qualified teachers in poor and remote rural schools.  DSH provides tools to help local schools and civic organizations make videos of the best teachers in actual classroom sessions, teaching standard textbook materials. Headquartered at Lucknow,

Digital Study Hall also works at the forefront of women and girls empowerment programs by including gender education into the core of their academic curricula and community education campaigns.

Teacher training in India is very limited. To address this challenge, the best grassroots teachers are filmed as they teach in their local languages. Community video processing stations pool these contributions into a networked database. The DVDs are shared with poor schools which are also given TVs and DVD players. Teachers at the recipient schools are trained to actively “mediate” the video lessons by imitating and embellishing the activities contained in the videos. Studies have shown dramatic improvement of student performance and local teachers demonstrated significant improvement in their grasp of subject matter.

The video lessons produced by Digital Study Hall reach out to both teachers and students. With 45,000 subscriptions, the YouTube channel DSHOnline has collected over 6.2 million video lesson views. Other platforms like Shaladarpan and Diksha collectively reach out to over 20,000 government and private school teachers across India.

In 2018 DSH started producing video lessons in the English language to reach a wider audience. From July to December 2018, Digital Study Hall’s team produced a total of 59 videos. These include 3 video lessons that follow the CBSE curriculum, 33 videos of teacher trainings and critical dialogues on gender equality, 19 on-site videos of school activities, and 4 videos documenting major school programs
and events.

One teacher shared, “I am a social studies teacher and I have a Bachelor’s in Education as well. I always watch your video lessons to learn how to teach mathematics and next day I teach children in my class. I feel indebted.”Ranju Chaudhary commented on Class 6 – Algebra

In a move that has brought national recognition from the Indian government for DSH video lessons, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, in collaboration with the National Council for Teacher Education and other stakeholders, has developed the National Teacher PlatformDiksha – which has on board close to 300 Digital Study Hall (DSH) video lessons. These video lessons will be accessible to the teachers of government and private schools across India.

The process of publishing these video lessons is methodical and makes use of a comprehensive metadata framework that maps the video lessons to each state curriculum. Enabling the video lessons to reach a wider audience of children studying in various state boards. Diksha was launched on Teacher’s Day, September 5, 2017.

Teachers at the government schools face a huge challenge with the change in instruction language, now English. DSH video lessons have proved to be of great help in partner schools during this transition. Rajasthan Government Schools adopted DSH videos.  In 2017, DSH started creating Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) prescribed curriculum video lessons in the English language. This curriculum has recently been adopted by the government schools in Rajasthan on their Shaladarpan platform.

The Prerna Girls School journey and pedagogy has been cogently documented in the book Reaching for the Sky, by Dr.Urvashi Sahni. One of the primary cases that Reaching for the Sky presents is the benefits of including gender studies as part of the core curriculum and building social and political awareness around it. To further this mission a four minute video was prepared by the content team.  A series of book launch events were held in Washington D.C., New York City, Pune, Delhi and Lucknow. All the launch events were a big success, during which the Prerna students and teachers who have been documented in the book spoke about their journey with Prerna Girls School.

The Aarohini Girls Empowerment Program is a girls’ education and empowerment program based on the ideology that girls and other subordinate groups must learn to critically examine and understand the social and political conditions of their lives, the systemic causes of their oppression and collectively find ways of strengthening  themselves, resisting forces of domination and transforming their lives. With the help of teacher training, school led campaigns, policy suggestion, and advocacy, the Aarohini program is driving inclusion of gender studies as part of core curriculum to create an equitable and just world.

Evaluation process: An effective assessment of the critical feminist pedagogy is by observing the number of teachers trained and mentored. This mentoring results in identification and resolution of cases of violence against girls and women. Each school led campaign reaches out to community leaders, government, faith leaders, parents and community at large. Each one of these campaign reach is captured and documented.

Teacher Training for girls’ education and empowerment through Critical Dialogue and Community Mobilization: A total of 2,502 teachers from 746 KGBV schools were trained between 2016-2018. The teachers from all the schools were later called back after six months for a refresher training. In the last two years, the Aarohini Initiative has gained a great deal of traction and created a deep and lasting impact in all 746 schools. It has intimately affected the lives
of approximately 74,600 girls.

During the reporting period of July to December 2018, a total of 13 trainings were held in which 395 teachers from 217 schools were trained.

The Aarohini team trained 57 teachers from 22 Ashram Type Schools (ATS) of 22 districts in Uttar Pradesh in Critical Feminist Pedagogy. These teachers are now conducting critical dialogues and are also part of the DSH office tele-mentoring cell support. The training of teachers has seen great dividends and the Social Welfare Department of the government of Uttar Pradesh has requested DSH to train more teachers.

The current outreach of the Aarohini program touches close to 400,000 lives with help of the trainers, mentors, teachers, and the girls.

Aarohini Tele-Mentoring Center:  A key component of the Aarohini focuses on training teachers to engage young girls in ‘Critical Dialogues’ in the classrooms. Critical dialogues are facilitated discussions among students on issues that affect and limit their lives. This highly participatory approach has students learning to question established traditions, practices, and ‘naturalised’ social norms, while also learning to think about the issues independently, give voice to their thoughts, express their concerns and feelings, and use their own experience and feelings as a valid source of knowledge. From January 2018 to November 2018, 24,618 critical dialogues were conducted by the trained teachers with the girls of grades 6, 7 and 8.

In 2018, no child marriages were reported among girls upon completing class 8! In 2016, 44 underage girls were forced into marriage upon completion, and in 2017, 32 underage girls were forced into marriage. In 2011, 53% girls demonstrated vulnerability to child marriage as per a sample study.

The DSHonline YouTube Channel has seen more than a 60% growth in the past six months in its subscriber base to over 45,000 during 2018. The viewership of the channel has increased by tenfold in the last year to over 6.2 million and counting. The most viewed lessons are from early grade mathematics. The YouTube channel remains one of the most effective and monitorable way of delivering our video lessons.

Comments from the users: 

“Mam…Your teaching way is really awesome….Thank you for sharing these videos.  I wish I had a teacher like you in school.”

“I love it.”

“DSH Online is a beautiful platform”

“At the age of 42 with having 15+ yrs exp in Software engineering. I have never thought of the practical use of LCM (least common multiple – math). I learned it from you. You are genius. Thank you and God bless you.”

A total of 1,430 girls who would have dropped out of school because of financial reasons will continue education. 1,330 girls from remote schools in Uttar Pradesh have been connected to scholarship schemes. Another 100 girls have been sponsored at the Prerna Girls School.

Under this project we identify girls who would drop out of school only because of financial crises. We strive to keep the girls in the school and continue their education by direct fund transfer or hand holding the girls to avail government scholarships.

Evaluation process: We monitor the academic progress of the girls that are sponsored and our mentoring cell remains continuously in touch with the girls.

“I could never open my mouth at home. I was a frightened weak girl. Now I speak up. Now I am not afraid. My father has stopped beating us because we speak up. I know my rights and am not afraid to demand them.

Now I dream and I want to be a teacher.  I wasn’t sure I would even finish high school. But now I have a BA and I want to do a B.Ed. I want to learn dancing and computers and everything, anything. There are many challenges but I know that we can find solutions, I am not afraid now.  At home my mother asks my advice and I am confident now that I can give her good advice.”   – Aarti Singh, Student, Digital Study Hall, Lucknow. Mona Foundation invests $10/month to educate Aarti. 

On December 20th, 2018, the Brookings Institution published a policy brief—”Mainstreaming gender equality and empowerment education in post-primary schools in India”—and blog—”To empower girls in India, make gender education compulsory”— by founder Urvashi Sahni. The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Their mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level.

In the blog, Urvashi writes “Schools are powerful sites for change and social transformation. As the founder of the Study Hall Foundation’s (SHEF) Prerna School—a K-12 school for girls and boys in Lucknow, India—I have seen first-hand how schools can change children’s lives. But to fulfil school’s transformative promise, we must revolutionize what we teach and how we teach it.”You can find the report here and the blog here.

In 2017, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organization of the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation announced Dr. Urvashi Sahni, founder of Study Hall Educational Foundation (Digital Study Hall is a program of this Foundation) was announced as the winner of the India 2017 Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

Help us fund the growth plan of this innovative initiative in 2019 to serve 175,000 students.

Click on each of the suggested donation amounts below to see what your investment in education of girls and women can support across many of DSH programs.


2019 Achievements

Total of 2,320 schools served, empowering 405,710 students (93% girls) across all of SHEF’s programs

110 teachers trained, both male and female, in the Aarohini Program from 43 schools as part of a 2-year pilot program to bring more men into the conversation

DSH Online doubled its subscribers from 45,000 to 89,700 and amassed 7.5 million views on a total of 167 videos

Provided 20 college scholarships150 K-12 scholarships

Opened 10 new GyanSetu centers. The total number of children increased to 1,622, from 856 in December 2018.

India’s Daughters Campaign involved 2,320 schools, with 232,000 children participating in 1,729 marches – reaching out to 1.16 million community members across 75 districts

5 child marriages were reported, compared to 32 cases in 2017

2020 Project Goals

  • Will train 125 teachers in the Aarohini program to specifically bring boys into the conversation of gender equality and sustain efforts underway in 43 co-ed schools
  • India’s Daughters Campaign to work with 850 schools
  • Will produce 80 more video lessons for children of grades 1 to 8
  • Prerna School Scholarships be raised from 100 to 150 girls
  • Increase college scholarships to 25 girls
  • Will open another 30 GyanSetu centers, enrolling an additional 900 children, bringing the total to 47 centers serving 1,800 students


Change four lives!

Give $50 a month, or $500, to fund the education of four girls for one school year.