A Broader Approach to Education Technology in India

October 16, 2015Duncan McCullough

Today, more children than ever before are enrolled in school. Yet many of them are not learning the skills they need to achieve their dreams. For example, in India, enrollment levels are 96% or higher for children aged 6-14, yet reading levels remain low. Here at CEI we feature over 120 programs using a host of innovative models and strategies to improve learning outcomes for India’s children, and nearly a quarter of them are leveraging new technologies to ensure that students in class are actually learning.

Pratham’s Learn, Outside of the Box program is one such intervention using modern teaching technology and relevant training to enrich in-class experiences for students across India. The project, delivered in a partnership between Pratham and the Vodafone Foundation, provides a WebBox, which includes a smart phone repackaged as a keyboard, AV Cables to connect the phone to televisions and projectors (also provided), as well as a 2G SIM card that connects to the internet wirelessly. Perhaps most importantly, the partnership doesn’t simply ship technology and move on, but also provides holistic teacher training designed to help teachers integrate the technology into their classroom, as well as ongoing teacher guidance, including lesson-planning support and technical troubleshooting. Continued monitoring and support is built in to ensure that the solution is being effectively used for the benefit of the students.

The Selco Foundation’s Digital Education Program is another program that understands that delivering education technology to a classroom without the needed additional support is not enough. Instead of simply unpacking new computers, this project supports digital education in remote rural areas by helping to set up energy-efficient solar powered computer labs. In rural areas where unreliable power grids can remove any benefits a computerized classroom would ideally provide, this program has leveraged local community relationships to build and maintain solar-powered computer labs in 12 schools, with plans to expand greatly soon.

But education technology does not just mean computers and smartphones. For many, being able to study after sundown requires technology to which they don’t have access. This is the impetus behind the Light for Education program, another initiative of the Selco Foundation, which provides a safe lighting source for the benefit of students and their educations. The students are given an LED-powered study light from the school with the expectation of increased attendance, additional study-time, and the sharing of the resource with parents and siblings. 12,000 students have already benefited from these LED study-lights, and because the program reuses the lights as students graduate, the number of students reached is expected to continue to grow.

Another unique education technology innovation can be found in the Experifun Learning Solutions project. Experifun designs and develops affordable and curriculum-based next-generation science exploratory gadgets for use in regular classroom sessions. Tools like conductor-insulator kits, heat scales, micrometers, and more are provided to students, along with training and lesson-plans for teachers, so that children can gain first-hand experience learning valuable scientific concepts that are critical to many modern career paths. Currently, Experifun operates in primarily urban areas in northern and southern India. In the future though, it seeks to extend its reach to eastern and western India, targeting rural, peri-urban, as well as urban populations.

These technology focused education interventions in India demonstrate the broadening understanding of what makes education technology effective. Simply dropping off the hardware is no longer sufficient. Instead, innovative programs are supplementing these modern tools with additional support, infrastructure, and creative approaches needed to make sure that children’s time in school is as impactful as it should be. For an increasingly connected world, this more sustained approach to education technology couldn't have come at a better time.

Duncan McCullough is a Communications Associate at the Center for Education Innovations, proud Masters graduate of George Mason University, and former White House Staffer.

Photo Credit: Pratham Learn, Outside the Box

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