PLUS English valued highly by communities

PLUS English teacher training in Cambodia
PLUS English teacher training being undertaken in Cambodia.

From May through to August of this year, an evaluation of our flagship PLUS English program was conducted in Cambodia. Contracted by DT Global and led by Ian Jones and Bun Khim, the evaluation drew on extensive field research and consultation with our key stakeholders in Cambodia, including parents, teachers, school principals and decision-makers within the Department of Education. We are delighted to report that the feedback provided by our stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive!

All stakeholders were united in their belief that English language education and the PLUS English program were valuable to children’s general education. English language education was seen to improve children’s future prospects and academic outcomes, while also providing opportunities to connect and engage with foreigners. 

Meanwhile, the PLUS English program reportedly reduced students’ boredom in class, retained their interest in learning English, and increased their skills and confidence. It was also reported that the program improved the capacity of teachers to use technology to support learning, and to reduce the workload of teachers and principals through the ease of tracking students’ progress in English. 

PLUS English was valued so highly by teachers and principals in particular, that 100% of those interviewed recommend uptake of the program by other schools.

The evaluation also examined the affordability of our program in Cambodia. Currently, families are asked to contribute towards their child’s PLUS English participation, helping to keep program costs low while also promoting greater responsibility and accountability for children’s education.  

The vast majority of parents reported being prepared to pay at least 20% more than they currently do for their child to participate in the program. This suggests that the current cost is very affordable for families in the rural communities we serve.

We will be publishing a detailed summary of key findings on our blog in the new year. Be sure to keep an eye out if you’re interested in understanding how communities in Cambodia have responded to PLUS English in their schools.

Where are they now? 40K Globe Alumni: Allanna Firth

Allanna with Maria, a 10-year-old daughter of one of the women running ANU making bags from recycle tetra cartons.

What is your current location and occupation?

In what year/s did you partake in the 40K Globe program?

I completed the 40K social enterprise module as part of my MBA at the University of Sydney in 2017.

Why did you choose to participate in the program?

I wanted to understand more about social enterprise and the 40K module offered an opportunity to do this as well as provide an immersive learning experience by visiting India. 

Also, at the time, most of my delivery team were based offshore in India. I had always wanted to visit, to understand and experience different cultural aspects including authentic Indian cuisine. 

What memories stand out most about your experience in the program?

Sensation overload being in India: 

  • Emotional – friendly, gentle, proud, humble people, poverty
  • Sight and sound – crazy traffic, bustling streets, colourful
  • Inspirational realisation of the purpose and impact of 40K helping lift literacy of vulnerable children 
  • Friendships with fellow MBA students

How did your experience help you in your career?

The 40K experience spurred my interest and passion for education, technology and how data can help improve learning outcomes. I chose to leave financial services and joined a consulting organisation where I could leverage my data skills focused in the education sector. Ultimately completing the full circle as I joined 40K Board earlier this year.

How has it impacted on your life and outlook in general?

The MBA 40K social enterprise program provided a new lens to my home and work life, from so many perspectives. Experiencing the extremes yet simplicity of Indian life, the optimism and contentment of those that have far less but in other ways far more, was a life changing experience. Through this immersive experience the insights gained into the culture and people undoubtedly paved the way for me to become a better people leader and a well-rounded individual in terms of appreciating diversity.

If it weren’t for 40K, I would not have discovered my passion for education or that it was possible to do something more fulfilling with my career and working life.

40K MBA cohort 2017

Where are they now? 40K Globe Alumni: Ruyi Teh

This new series shines the spotlight on 40K Globe alumni who, through a Q&A, are asked to reflect on their time and experiences working on the ground in India as part of our former social enterprise internship program. Although 40K Globe is no longer in operation, the memories and experiences are held closely by many and have helped pave the way to new entrepreneurial ventures, career directions, insights and worldviews. Here, we explore some of these experiences and learn more about what our alumni are up to today.

What is your current location and occupation?

In what year/s did you partake in the 40K Globe internship program?

I did my internship with 40K Globe in January 2018.

Why did you choose to participate in the program?

I came across the 40K Globe program at a job fair at the University of Melbourne. I fell into the social enterprise model when I was studying for my undergraduate degree. I was looking for a volunteering opportunity and also a job opportunity with a social enterprise, and was eager to learn through doing and experiencing. The 40K Globe program attracted me immediately as it provided a real experiential learning opportunity. I am also a traveller for culture and local experience. Hence, I liked how the program was designed to understand the real social issues by visiting the countries and the village.

What memories stand out most about your experience as a 40K Glober?

Being the only non-Australian participant in my cohort was definitely the most stand out memory to me. I had difficulties in adjusting and adapting myself to two countries’ cultures, instead of one. I still remember how I struggled to understand my mates’ conversations and their satisfied faces when I understood and used some of the Australian slang they taught me. Everyday in the van towards the village, they would teach me new slang or introduce me to Australian songs. They tried hard to help me adapt to Australian culture and to mingle with the group and other participants. I tried my first vegemite with my teammates in India too. I appreciated my teammates’ efforts in helping me adjust into the cohort and being comfortable depending on them either in work or living in India. 

Secondly, I could never forget the heartfelt emotions that I had on the opening day of the centre. Seeing the happy faces of the villagers and the kids made me recall the hard work we put in during those four weeks. Some of the villagers did not welcome us at first. Yet, on the last day, we knew some of the households and visited them for tea. The kids would follow us and accompany us when we were doing our chores around the village. The villagers would stop by the centre while we were busy setting up and ask if we need any props or food to help. I felt connected with them, even if we were there for a short period of time.

How did your experience as a 40K Glober help you in your career?

The experience with 40K Globe led me to the social enterprise sector. I learned more about the model and its challenges. The experience helped in the interviews for my masters entry. The experience as a 40K Glober proves my adventurer spirit and adaptability, which become the merit point for my internships and interviews. Also, the experience with 40K Globe has inspired me to embark on the entrepreneurship path, to bring adventure and “just do it” spirit into my community.

How has it impacted your life and outlook in general?

The program has impacted me in the way that it widened my worldview and perspectives on life. Seeing and experiencing the third world country’s living stimulated and strengthened my empathy. I made a lot of friends in the program, either my Australian mates or the locals. I had an amazing experience during my weekend break in the program. I had a misperception that India is a dangerous place and that people in the rural areas are uneducated and superstitious. However, my encounter with a same-aged three-wheel motor driver, and the student guide in the program, broke my stigma and stereotypes about India. In fact, there are many hopeful and kind youths in India and the people are resilient in their own way. I learned so much from them. Still today, I keep in touch with the young three-wheel motor driver. My whole experience in the program taught me not to judge a book by its cover and to look at the positive sides.

If it weren’t for 40K, I would never have become a braver version of me. Everything I experienced in the program was my first time. It was my first time travelling by myself to a third world country, other than my country. The first time living with a group of people whose culture differs from mine. The first time being practical and learning from a real case study. All these experiences cultivated my courage by forcing me out of my comfort zone.

Team photo on the last day of the program having fun at the Holi festival.

Celebrating International Literacy Day

Taking place annually around the world, International Literacy Day shines a light on the importance of literacy as a human right. It calls for increased efforts in the advancement of the literacy agenda towards a more literate, equitable and sustainable society.

Under this year’s theme “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”, the 40K family got together to help raise awareness of the importance of accessible literacy education and digital learning opportunities for all.

Unfortunately, amid the COVID19 crisis, the rapid shift to online learning has magnified the inequalities in access to meaningful literacy learning opportunities in many regions across the globe. It has been a reminder of the critical importance of inclusive, technology-enabled learning that leaves no-one behind.

At 40K, we are proud to play a part in empowering children in under-served, under-resourced communities across India, Cambodia and beyond, and continue our commitment towards the important mission—narrowing the digital divide.

Please join us in wishing our students, and all children across the globe, a happy International Literacy Day!


The 40K Foundation is a registered charitable organisation. Your donations will help us to advance our mission in providing meaningful English literacy education and digital learning opportunities to children in low-resource communities.

Marking the end of a four-year partnership

Thanks to the generous support of the Australian Government, the 40K Foundation has improved access to quality English literacy education for thousands of children in both India and Cambodia.

Last month marked the end of the 40K Foundation’s partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) InnovationXchange. From the time we won the Google Impact Challenge ‘Technology Against Poverty Prize’ in 2017, and continuing through the MIT Solve ‘Workforce of the Future’ challenge, the Australian Government has so graciously stood by us, helping us to chart a path forward and bringing us to where we are today.

Reflecting on the dynamic four-year partnership, 40K Group CEO, Swetha Prakash said:

“The 40K family is immensely grateful for the constant support and guidance we have received from the Australian Government. It has been a collaboration in the truest sense; one based on mutual respect, a strong desire to make a difference, and an unwavering commitment to solve complex problems together.”

Thank you to the Australian Government and to all of the team at DFAT for your generous support!

Support our students through COVID-19: Make a tax-deductible donation today!

Baseline testing being undertaken in a Cambodian 40K partner school earlier this year.

It’s a trying time for our 4,000+ students in Cambodia. 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures has reversed decades of economic progress. Extreme poverty has come roaring back across the countryside, and existing inequalities between rural and urban households have expanded greatly.

All the while, school closures have effectively locked children out of school. Where those in middle-class urban households have been able to access online programs, our students in low-income rural households are falling further and further behind.

While we at 40K have been quick to adapt to the ever-evolving situation, working tirelessly to develop learning solutions that our students can access on a parent’s phone, we admit that these are no replacement for our technology-aided classroom lessons.

This is why it’s so important that students can jump straight back into the PLUS English program as soon as schools reopen, picking up right where they left off. That their families are currently unable to afford the $1 monthly contribution should not stand in the way of them resuming the lessons they enjoy so much and gain so much from.

By making a tax-deductible* donation, you can help us waive the monthly contribution for students whose families have been hit hardest by COVID-19. For every dollar you donate, you will enable one child to participate in PLUS English lessons for a month at no cost to their struggling families. 

On behalf of the students and their families, we thank you for your support during this difficult time.

*All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible in Australia.

Transforming lives: Arunny’s story

Classroom of children learning English in Cambodia.
“I want to spend as much time as I can on the tablet because it motivates me to want to learn more,” ~ Arunny

15-year-old Arunny is in the seventh grade at a small school in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. She is the oldest of four children and is the first member of her family to attend high school. 

Arunny’s story is one of many that has been positively transformed by the PLUS English program. Through its interactive platform and teachings, PLUS English hopes to continue supporting dreams and bringing opportunity to children like Arunny across Cambodia.