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NGO’s take online teaching to rural children

June 24, 2020
Dipta Joshi

Dealing with COVID-19’s debilitating impact on the education, several non-governmental organisations – NGO involved in dispensing education to rural and economically backward children adopted online teaching methods to ensure continuity in education. For the not-for-profits involved, the switch resulted in developing innovations in their out-reach formats as well as curriculums to meet the challenges of their far-reaching grassroots movement.

English E.Teach, an educational NGO launched by the Bombay Community Public Trust (estb.2009) and led by Astad Parakh until Jan 2020 has been creating and disseminating animated English digital content to make it easier for vernacular medium children grasp the content. Creating videos that match the Maharashtra state board prescribed textbooks page-by-page, the NGO has been sharing content  with over 41,000 municipal and government-run (zilla parishad) schools across Maharashtra without any charge to for the past eight years.

As a response to the Covid-19 related lockdown, the NGO launched a free online campaign- ‘English E.Teach 30-day challenge’ that required children to watch the specially created video for just 30 minutes. Beginning March 30, the initiative garnered over two million views from students and teachers from the most far flung rural areas of Maharashtra.

“Our second online campaign called ‘Phonics with English E.Teach’ was launched on June 1. The campaign aims to teach phonetics which is vital to learn English, especially for children who otherwise don’t get to listen to or practice how to speak correct English. At the end of each day, parents share videos of their children learning English through our phonics video of the day and answering that day’s questions,” explains Piroja Shroff, CEO, English E.Teach Project.

Cosmo Foundation (estd. 2008), a community outreach initiative of New Delhi based flexible packaging company, Cosmo Films (estd. 1981) has reached out to almost 10000 plus rural marginalized children providing them quality education in English, life skills, arithmetic, languages and computer education through online digital platforms.

The foundation has partnered with several government schools across 19 villages in Karjan,Vadodara district in Gujarat and 15 villages in the Gangapur block of Aurangabad district in Maharashtra by training a team of more than 75 local youth as teachers. Forming Whatsapp groups of parents, teachers then share audio and video study exercises developed by Cosmo Foundation’s senior English faculty. Topics like picture and story comprehension, phonics, public speaking by recording individual videos, loud reading of newspaper headlines to learn correct pronunciation, grammar classes are held through the use of Zoom app. Group mentors upload individual corrections and answer keys at the end of the day.

“Due to Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, education of rural students and youth was stalled as the schools and colleges were closed. Our immediate challenge was to shift education to a digital platform. 90 percent of our students’ parents had smartphones and used the Whatsapp platform for communicating. We undertook an extensive exercise of calling parents and created 42 parents’ Whatsapp groups for different classes. We reworked curriculum and formulated a comprehensive weekly schedule. We also plan to share motivational videos, career guidance orientation and value-based movies and plays; so that it constructively engages parents and students in the education process,” says Mamta Baxi, Program Coordinator, Cosmo Foundation about the online teaching method.

EnglishHelper (estd.2011) an education technology company committed to helping people learn or improve their English has been investing in Maharashtra since 2014 to demonstrate the impact of curriculum embedded AI technology in enabling English literacy in government schools. The company has entered into an agreement with the government of Maharashtra to expand its AI technology enabled English reading program ‘RightToRead’ to 65,000 government schools in the state. The initiative that uses its patented multi-sensory AI software – ‘ReadToMe’ was already implemented in 15,000 schools across Maharashtra before the COVID-19 related lockdown was announced.

In an effort to ensure continuity of English learning for government school students, the AI reading and comprehension app; ReadToMe Student Edition has now been made available on Google Playstore since May 2020. The launch of this app makes it easy for students to download the app onto any Android device and read their grade specific textbooks thus continuing their curriculum based English lessons despite the closure of schools and tuition centers.

“The use of the app for reading prescribed English textbooks at home helps close the ‘learning loop’ for first generation learners who typically do not receive any academic support at home. Self- learning at home is an important supplement to classroom lessons. The app is priced for affordability by students from low income backgrounds. The deployment of the AI technology for English in all government schools of Maharashtra supported by the same app, available to students for self-study at home, creates a tech-enabled learning model that signals a transformative opportunity for large scale change across the country,” says Sanjay Gupta, CEO (Global), English Helper.

Also read: 26 NGOs Enabling Indian Education

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