TABLETS TO TEACH
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Education is one of Amrita SeRVe’s main focus areas, as children are our future. Amrita CREATE— Amrita Centre for Research in Advanced Technologies—runs Amrita Education Centres in all of our villages. Children are given after-school classes in order to supplement and build upon their existing knowledge. They are also taught human values, yoga and meditation. In order to allow self-expression, competitions are hosted, allowing after-school evening classes to become sites of fun, learning and overall development. The children at the education centres even have their nails cut and hair combed, if needed.
One of the key elements of the education programs is the use of tablet-aided education. In fact, Amrita RITE—Rural India Tablet Education—was launched in 2013 at Amma’s 60th birthday celebrations in Amritapuri. The e-learning project is a unique tablet-based technology that targets the learning needs of multi-grade rural students. The tablet helps establish skills in basic literacy, language learning, science and mathematics.
Literacy Rates in India – 2011 Census
Take the experience that has been felt in the village of Dagara in Gujarat. Previously, the village school only went up to 8th grade, but with the new computer-based education, students can now remain in the village and complete their studies up to 10th grade. That helps in allowing them to pursue a profession that will further support their families and aid in the development of the community. Up until recently, because of safety concerns, parents would not allow their daughters to leave the village for higher studies beyond 8th grade.
Meera, one of the graduates and mother to a two-year old child, enrolled in the programme after a gap of eight years from school. She had been eager to take up her studies again to attain a Bachelor of Education Teachers Certificate. Meera said, “I want to be a teacher so that I can reach out to those who are deprived and help them move ahead in life.”
Shanti, another graduate, had resumed studies after a gap of two years. She now wants to become a nurse and serve in her community. The successful completion of the 10th standard will help her reach that goal.
The women said, “We have classes every day from 2 pm to 7 pm, with no holidays. We love to study and don’t feel bored at all. All our families are farmers. It is our dream to bring glory to our village by introducing new professions. Thank you Amma, for helping us achieve that goal.”
Thanks to the natural curiosity of children in using new hands-on technology, tablets provide the support that rural children, in particular, need to stay in school. At the same time, the learning program is designed to work where there is little or no internet connectivity.
It also supports 9 regional languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. The result is that simple educational apps, such as reading labs on tablets, motivate students to not only learn, but also to enjoy reading. This gives them confidence to attend school regularly and at their appropriate grade level.
The tablet initiative also has the goal of addressing adult literacy and education. CREATE has developed similar adult education programs that involve interactive applications. They help the user learn to write the English alphabet as well as regional language alphabets. After the alphabet is mastered, the application moves on to words and sentences using immersion techniques.
Another important goal of Amrita RITE is to create an inclusive education program that empowers the girl child and, so far, positive results have been seen. The gender ratio across 41 remote villages in 21 states is 51% girls to 49% boys, nearly equal. Though many villages have far fewer girls in schools, Amrita RITE’s intervention has raised the awareness about education and, overall, has impacted more girls than boys.
All our families are farmers. It is our dream to bring glory to our village by introducing new professions. Thank you Amma, for helping us achieve that goal.
The holistic curriculum, based on Amma’s vision, provides both ‘Education for a Living’ and ‘Education for Life’. Amrita RITE’s integrated methodology provides technology enabled mother tongue instruction in class subjects, computer literacy and health awareness on topics such as nutrition, sanitation, substance abuse and adolescent health, as well as social awareness for adolescent girls on topics such as gender equality, child labour and trafficking. All of this is supported by sophisticated e-learning aids.
The positive impact of Amrita RITE is being seen worldwide. Prof. Prema Nedungadi of Amrita CREATE was an invited speaker at the Vatican conference on “Children and Sustainable Development: Challenge for Education”. The event was held November 2015 at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In presenting Amrita RITE, she made the case that enabling inclusive education, if done in a holistic manner, has the potential to achieve many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Overall, Amrita RITE has seen tremendous results. More than 2000 children and 1500 adults are impacted by the free services provided by the education center.