It's early Monday morning and students of Uvarsad Primary School in Gandhinagar are making their way to their respective classrooms at the start of a new week. Only, this isn't going to be boring new week most kids elsewhere would bemoan.
Uvarsad in Gujarat's Capital city is different. It is a primary education institute that teaches without the aid of the ubiquitous blackboard and white chalk. The learning here is high tech, and involves a virtual experience in pedagogy that is catching the fancy of municipal schools in Gujarat.
Here is a public-private initiative involving the state government and a clutch of enterprises, among which Deep Foundation is playing a major role. The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Deep industries, a company engaged in the oil and gas business. The Foundation has, in association with an NGO called Yuva Unstoppable, undertaken numerous projects in geographically remote areas of Gujarat that have been far removed from the reaches of quality education for years.
“We began with sanitation in municipal schools, engaging in activities like cleaning of toilets and tried to impress upon their faculties that we were genuinely interested in helping them and supporting education in a more meaningful manner,” says Paras Savla, CMD, Deep Industries.
“Our organisation has been working for quite long in Gujarat’s schools. We have worked for the state government’s sanitation programme-EVOLUTION, launched by (former chief minister) Anandiben Patel which aimed to improve basic infrastructural amenities, such as drinking water and urinals,” says Pawan Jain, Vice President of Yuva Unstoppable.
Yuva has benefitted 500,000 underprivileged children across 14 states of India and it aims to upgrade 10,000 government schools across the country, apart from granting 10,000 scholarships to less privileged children to study up to college, Jain adds.
Deep Foundation has excessively adopted the use of Kyan, a core technology designed and developed at IIT Bombay, in its Smart Class initiatives. Kyan typically combines a hi-tech projector with a PC, a DVD writer, a TV tuner, in-built speakers, a 500 GB HDD, 3G-Internet, a wireless keyboard and a mouse – all in one box.
Deep Foundation claims several teachers and principals reported that the usage of Kyan substantially reduced the time required for teaching difficult concepts and improved student attendance, apart from improving enrolment. “Kyan comes with an interactive feature that converts the classroom wall into an interactive teaching surface. You can write, draw, highlight and move the content like a touch screen,” said a teacher working with Deep Foundation.
“I have seen an immense positive change in admission in public schools after the digitisation programme. Now, farmers and auto rickshaw drivers want to send their children to schools that have smart classrooms. There has been a rise of 10-15 per cent in enrolments in the government schools in past one year,” says Savla.
Deep Foundation has encouraged the use of technology such as projectors, laptops and wi-fi routers to enhance the interactivity in classrooms and improve the teaching-learning and evaluation processes. Moreover, the Foundation has focused on e-content consisting of various images, videos, animation, demonstration and visualization of activities, self-learning, and reference material.
The onset of virtual education has shown that it cannot be a "one-size-fits-all" model because everyone learns differently, regardless of age, social background, and geographical location, says Savla.