Imagine for a while that you are a teacher in a government school. You enter a classroom as the one shown above where due to lack of space over 60 students are cramped into one room. Let’s add another layer of complexity to the situation – the group comprises of students from three different grades.
Now, you have 45 minutes and your job is to teach all the students, engage with them in the best way possible and ensure that all of them learn.
It will be tough. In fact, it will be very tough to do your job well in this scenario. Unfortunately such a situation exists in a large number of government schools across the country. Needless to say, our students are the one’s suffering the most with the teachers feeling immense pressure all day long.
Let’s look at some facts to understand the situation better.
The District Information for System in Education (DISE) in its latest report on Karnataka states that while 10,592 schools in Karnataka have three classrooms, 14,064 have two classrooms, 2,083 have only one classroom and 164 schools have no classrooms at all. The report further adds that 30% to 40% of even the available classrooms are in need of serious repair work. The National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NEUPA), Delhi, established by the HRD ministry, collects all the DISE data.
As per another survey conducted by CRY across 71 districts in 13 states and metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkatta, it was observed that 39% of the primary schools and about 52% of the upper primary schools are without classrooms.
Aam Aadmi Party, which claims to have made significant improvements in Delhi’s government schools also faced the tough challenge of providing classrooms to students in their schools. Expressing concern over lack of classrooms in government schools, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has been quoted as saying that it can only be imagined what students must be learning when there are over 150 of them in a room. His exact statement “If there are over 150 children in one classroom, even if God decides to teach, he can’t,” is a true reflection of the scenario across the country.
In many cases, due to lack of classroom, students have to sit in the corridors or under a tree in the playground irrespective of the outside weather conditions just so that they can learn.
Such lack of classrooms in the government schools is an alarming situation considering that the average class size—or students per classroom—in India across the levels of schooling is 42. States such as Bihar and Jharkhand fare worse with an average of 78 and 67 students per classroom, respectively. What this means is that the schools are forced to make students from different grades sit together in one room. It is only a wishful thinking to assume that any teacher will be able to equally engage all the students at once. While the teacher feels the burden to even ensure basic discipline in the class, it is the students who suffer in the long run with their learning levels going from bad to worse.
Has someone made an effort to resolve this situation?
Although, we are yet to see significant infrastructural developments, however over the last decade, a lot of investment has been made by CSR and state governments in setting up smart classes in government schools. The premises being that the animated multimedia videos will be able to engage students better which will increase their interest in learning eventually leading to improvement in learning levels.
We agree that smart classes do have some role to play in a student’s learning cycle but it is definitely not enough. We did a small video sometime back to showcase key challenges in smart classes and why they have failed to deliver the intended impact. You can watch it here:
Considering the problem we are discussing, we see two major issues why smart class is not be able to engage all students well:
- A smart class based setup can only show one type of content – multimedia videos. There are over 60 students sitting and watching these videos but every child being unique will have a different preferred way of receiving the information. Even a well-animated video may also not be able to engage all children equally. Unfortunately smart classes work on an assumption that all students in the classroom will enjoy watching the video equally, which rarely happens
- Secondly, due to lack of classrooms, we saw earlier how students from different grades are made to sit together in one classroom. In a smart class you can play a video on a topic relevant only for one grade at a time. Students from other grades feel left out and eventually lose the interest
While students continue to suffer, a teacher also feels helpless. They very soon realize that smart classes don’t help them in any way, instead only increase their burden of switching them ON/OFF daily and maintaining them. As a result, a large number of government schools do not use smart classes on a regular basis.
Do we have a way out?
TABLAB from iDream Education can play a transformational role in solving this crisis. TABLAB is a personalised learning tool, which delivers five different categories of content covering the entire learning spectrum of a child in the local language and aligned with the state board. The entire content is delivered through a platform, which does not allow the child to misuse the tablets in any way. A child can choose to learn whatever they wish to learn, through any mechanism such as videos, games or books and at a pace, which suits them best.
If we go back to our scenario of cramped classrooms, while the teacher is teaching students from one grade, he/she can engage the students from other grade through TABLAB. Without any disturbance, all groups of students will continue to learn in the most optimised learning environment ever. After the teacher finishes with one group, he/she can swap the tablets and continue to teach the second group while the earlier one engages through tablets.
And because students even in rural areas are already familiar with touch-based devices, they easily take up to learning on the tablets. Local language multimedia and play way app based content ensures students enjoy learning which increases engagement leading to proactive learning.
At iDream Education, we strongly believe that student centric digital literacy can truly transform the rural education system in our country. What are your thoughts?