In the Indian Education system, we often overlook social-emotional learning (SEL), a process that prepares children to be resilient individuals. When Flourish came into being, deliberate focus was directed towards inculcating values and teaching children Life Skills to successfully cope with the changing world.
According to the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL comprises self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and responsible decision making. Studies by CASEL focused on observing the impact of SEL on children show that developing emotional intelligence leads to academic success, improved classroom behaviour, increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and the school.
With the help of diverse stories and exercises, Flourish successfully works towards fulfilling its two-pronged objective – helping children learn English, and teaching them value education. The books do not just touch upon components of SEL, but also talk about important themes such as ecological conservation, women empowerment, mental health, caste, class, and religion, contextualised to India.
The idea of the Inclusivity Index came into being owing to Flourish’s commitment to making the books transformative. The content curation team gave keen attention to detail to make sure that the stories and exercises were as inclusive as possible, and prioritized the tone and delivery of each value or theme that was being covered in the books. To further enhance the inclusive nature of the books, we initiated the idea of developing an Inclusivity Index for Flourish.
The Inclusivity Index served a dual purpose. Firstly, it gave the team space to self-reflect about how inclusive the books were when it came to gender, caste, class, religion, and the values that they intended to cover, and whether they were taking adequate steps towards it. Secondly, the team wanted to create a framework that helped them quantify the extent of inclusivity.
Through our research, we were not able to identify a tool that matches the team’s objectives, and gives a clear picture of the content that was contextualised to India. So we sought to create our own tool.
After multiple iterations, we arrived at the following framework that matched our needs and also helped us give a concise picture of the books. Each question and word was scrutinized before finalizing. The framework is divided into three parts. The first component covers each story in the book, and we felt that objective questions that covered different themes were the ideal way to present our findings. The second and third component covers the exercises and book as a whole respectively. For this, we felt a subjective overall comment about the books would help us get the best picture of what we were trying to cover. But to limit the scope of error and diversion, we arrived at specific questions that would guide our findings.
Here is the final framework that we arrived at:
Analysis of the Stories (objective)
Is a minority religion being represented in the story? Yes/No/NA
Are there any characters with a disability in the story? Yes/No/NA
Do the characters in the story belong to diverse social classes? Yes/No/NA
Do the characters in the story represent diversity when it comes to gender? ★★★★ (4 points Likert scale: 1 – Do Not, 2 – Slightly, 3 – Fairly, 4 – Extensively)
How much is the story trying to break away from a stereotype? ★★★★ (4 points Likert scale: 1 – Not At All, 2 – Slightly, 3 – Considerably, 4 – Greatly)
What are the Values covered in the story? (subjective)
Analysis of the Exercises (subjective)
How do the activities encourage the students to interact – self, take help, teamwork?
What kind of awareness are the exercises creating in
Are the exercises encouraging children to develop any habits?
What values are they covering?
Do the exercises explore issues related to gender, class, and caste?
Do they help children to connect with their lived realities?
Do they promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills?
Do they promote imagination, creativity, and cooperation among children?
Overview of the Book (subjective)
How can the books be best summarized?
What is the gender of the authors of each story?
What is the gender of the protagonists?
What are some examples of stories that are breaking a stereotype?
What are some of the examples of the range of values covered?
According to the WHO Gender Responsive Assessment Scale, how can the book be categorized? Gender-unequal, blind, sensitive, specific, transformative
Even though we have tried our best to present everything objectively, the framework is not devoid of assumptions. They include:
The gender of authors has been assumed from their given names.
The religion of the protagonist has been assumed through their names when it is not mentioned in the story (explicitly or implicitly).
In stories where the characters belong to the same family or are related to each other, it has been assumed that they belong to the same social class unless otherwise mentioned (explicitly or implicitly).
Note: Any Inclusivity Index in the Indian context is incomplete without mentioning caste. When we were going through the stories, we felt the names used were fairly common and not region/caste specific, and the short stories did not explore the characters in-depth enough for us to make an assumption. Therefore, we didn’t want to assume caste as we weren’t sure. However, wherever it was mentioned, we have tried to highlight it in our subjective questions. We acknowledge that this a limitation to the mapping.
The exercise of creating the Inclusivity Index is the result of our drive to learn, unlearn and reflect on the kind of books we envisioned, and allow us to grow during the process, not just as a project, but as individuals. We acknowledge that it is possible that we have made some mistakes and this might not be the best version of what we set out to create. But, we did it because we felt it was an important and necessary step towards achieving Flourish’s goal of creating content that is contextualised to India and provides social-emotional learning to children.
You can go through the mappings of Books 1-8 here.
If you’d like to learn more about creating inclusive content, we have curated an external resource list here that might help you get started.
Lead Author Medhavi Hassija Passionate about gender reforms through education, Medhavi has been working in the non-profit sector in various roles across program management, curriculum development, and capacity building.
Co-Author Maathangi Mohan Maathangi works with the Self Employed Women’s Association in running some of their programmes. Her fascination for languages and words has pushed her to develop a pedagogy for learning Indian languages, which she’s currently working on during her time off.