Changing the face of education in rural areas
SCALE entered the field of school education in 2008, on a request from some schools in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The scenario was not encouraging due to lack of proper infrastructure, shortage of good teachers and the right pedagogy, and poor or no financial support. The dropout rate was high and even those who attended school were doing it just to get a certificate, rather a qualification on paper. To SCALE, it was clear that the students were not benefiting from the existing standard of education available to them.
Raising the Bar: SCALE’s mission was to improve the quality of education imparted at these schools. First, we addressed teaching through regular training of teachers. We trained them in innovative teaching techniques. We distributed indigenous hands-on kits to students. SCALE’s mission was to ensure that the children look forward to attending school, and experience the joy of learning. We wanted to see exuberance and joy on their faces.
Teacher training: SCALE equipped teachers with essential and practical knowledge in mathematics, including rudimentary statistics and science — both physical and biological — to handle the day-to-day matters in the rural environment. This way, we felt we could motivate the drop-outs to go back to school.
Making maths fun: SCALE focussed on teaching essential mathematical topics, such as fractions, decimals, measurements, estimation, unitary methods, rudimentary statistics, measurement of area, plotting of graphs, algebra and geometry. Our focus was to have fun with numbers.
Teaching through experiments: In Science, SCALE wanted teachers to be trained in demonstrating concepts through simple experiments. We trained them in explaining concepts like the properties of water and air, application of levers and pulleys, electricity, bar magnets, electromagnetism, chemistry of air and water etc through experiments. In Life Sciences too our focus was on teaching through experiments. Teachers were trained in explaining concepts like photosynthesis, metamorphosis, solar energy and rain harvesting through experiments and practical knowledge.
Towards more confident students: Over the last seven years, SCALE has noticed a marked difference in the level of students’ knowledge and outlook. They look smarter, and more confident, and ready to compete with students from other more well-off schools.
Till date, about 10,000 students have benefitted from SCALE’s IT and Science laboratories. We’ve successfully implemented teacher training programs in select school. SCALE has also helped a few schools computerize their school records. The faculty today has to spend much less time in documentation, leaving them with more time to teach.
Investing in human capital
SCALE has been striving hard to improve the quality of teaching and learning for the under-privileged children. Back in 2008, we adopted five schools in Uttarakhand as an experiment. We felt schools need both good teachers and good equipment (such as visual props and models) as a medium for learning. To us, this methodology was essential to impart correct knowledge, help in effective teacher communication and ensure greater motivation of children. As a result, providing these schools with computer laboratories became a critical element of this process.
SCALE also felt that a science laboratory was necessary in schools. The benefits of these facilities were clear, with one teacher commenting on how important visual aids, science models and equipment were in engaging every student and facilitating learning. We realized that students learnt more and remembered more when the schools used the resources provided by SCALE.
Today, SCALE has set up 19 IT laboratories in schools. These computer laboratories have made a big difference to the confidence and persona of the students. In the Vidya Mandir Junior High School in Haldwani, the first school adopted by SCALE — which has a computer as well as a science lab — a specialized teacher ran lessons where students learnt typing in both Hindi and English, components of hardware and key knowledge about popular programs and software. It received similar feedback from the rest of its adopted schools. Even the well-off schools (that had computers) weren’t able to make such an impact on their children. SCALE’s computer literacy program was playing an important role in shaping up the overall education imparted by these schools.
SCALE has so far been able to donate 160 computers to 19 schools in the country along with setting up five full-fledged science laboratories. Another 14 schools have been provided hundreds of visual aids for education as well as 8,000 books. Over 10,000 children have benefitted from these initiatives.
Schools in border areas: SCALE gave further thrust to its school education program in 2016 when it got associated with the India-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to provide IT literacy to eight primary village schools located on the India-China border. Our key mission today is to help provide dignity of life to families in the border areas. We are also providing these families with solar lights and running computer literacy programs. These initiatives conform with our vision of providing quality of life to the marginalized sections of our society.
With this initiative, SCALE has embarked on yet another journey!
Smart learning reaches schools in rural areas
As mentioned in the Project Overview, a key reason why children drop out from schools is their growing lack of interest in the school curriculum – particularly in subjects like mathematics, science and computers. Poor performance in class examinations lead to loss of confidence and fear of studies. As a result, parents too were getting convinced that pursuing further studies is a waste of time. From the point of view of a society, this is a huge loss of human resources.
There was no doubt that nearly all school dropouts were intelligent and competent youngsters who could have completed high school education, given the right environment. Our projects instilled confidence in students by arousing interest in studies, particularly in subjects like mathematics and science through simple experiments relevant to our day-to-day lives. Computers too played a crucial role in generating interest in subjects and making academics more exciting.
Creating an IT ecosystem: SCALE had added another feather to its cap by tying up with Computer Shiksha (CS) to deliver computer education using Self Learning Videos developed in-house that act as trainers. For this, SCALE has provided computers, projectors, internet, CCTV and UPS to five schools. Through CS, the nominated SCALE faculty learnt a lot of things, such as how to maintain computers, how to impart education through the Self Learning Videos, how to train teachers and how to keep a watch on the classroom using CCTVs. Along with CS, SCALE is creating an ecosystem in schools to not only deliver computer literacy programs but also to create the right IT infrastructure that can be leveraged for scores of other programs.
Our plans for 2017: As a part of our mission to bring quality education to the doors of remote rural schools, SCALE will be introducing smart learning IT tools in subjects like Science, Mathematics and English in 2017. For areas with low, or no internet penetration, we plan to introduce menu-driven classes in schools by using projectors and computers.
It is proven beyond doubt that good education is the only route to a better future. Education driven by SCALE is more about knowledge, good culture, creativity, positive attitude and well-placed confidence. We hope that in times to come, all like-minded organizations and individuals work cohesively to build a knowledge-driven society.