Started in September 2015, with the mission to improve mathematical and logical thinking skills of children, through Karka Math Lab Lite.
Karka Math Lab was started because only 29.9% of Class 3 students across the country attending Government Educational Institutions were able to solve basic subtraction of class 2. Even alarming were the class 5 kids, of whom a good 39% were still unable to solve the same class 2 subtraction problems. And the trend is declining each year. (According to studies conducted by ASER (Annual Status of Education Report which are released by the minister of HRD, India)
When we reflected on this scenario and how to overcome this problem, we set out on a journey to find what the problems were. We began by observing the functioning of some of these institutions while being involved with them through our Gift a future project and came across the following issues which could be contributing towards these declining trends;
1. Lack of good teachers
2. Inadequate/ Inappropriate learning content (Instead of a gradual increase in terms of difficulty level in Math as the children proceed to the next class, there is a sudden leap making the concept difficult to understand for most children).
3. Lack of understanding the individual skills of students (Teachers in these Institutions are required to balance their teaching functions with administrative responsibilities which leaves them less time to understand the kids and their skills).
This need was what steered us in creating the Karka Math Lab. The main purpose of the project was to create a tangible and robust classroom model, which could easily be adopted in different schools across the country with simple guidelines.
Our solution was a very radical and path-breaking one that was inspired by educational innovators around the world. We adapted the solution for a school setting to replace the classroom model of teaching and transform into a self-learning environment facilitated by technology. This solution has now become a robust & efficient classroom model, which can readily be replicated anywhere!
To make this happen, we started by looking for quality content online. That’s when we stumbled upon a TED talk delivered by Mr. Salman Khan; a US based educator who started the non-profit organization www.khanacademy.org. The motto of Khan Academy is “free world class education for anyone, anywhere” and this was exactly what we were looking for. Once Khan Academy was chosen as our free online content source, the next logical step was to examine its content and map it to the curriculum followed by these schools. This approach of choosing an open source content solves a couple of key problems:
Quality Content: With Khan Academy, we are able to deliver global content to schools that otherwise do not have an access to it.
Quality Teachers: The quality of teaching and learning in these schools were found to be low, with mathematics taught in an undifferentiated, rote-learning style. With Khan Academy we have Mr. Salman Khan delivering all the video lectures himself in a fun engaging way and also ensuring quality and consistency.
We set up a Math Lab at Panchayat Union Middle School, which is a school for underprivileged children. We brought in affordable low-cost computers with connection to the Internet and created a curriculum based on their school syllabus and using only the content (videos & exercises) available on www.khanacademy.org
In order to achieve improved quality of education and performances of students, Karka Math lab made significant, pioneering changes in two aspects of school. We made changes in the Environment, with regard to the classrooms and the facilitation methods as well. These changes are explained in detail below:
We believe, one of the key aspects of a successful learning model is a conducive environment. If the environment is fun & inviting, the learning starts happening on its own. Hence, we spent our initial days planning the most efficient environment that is functional, operational friendly and has a fun classroom design.
The role of a teacher is transformed to that of a facilitator, whose ultimate aim should be to facilitate learning to the kids. We started our first labs with fresh graduates from Universities, who are passionate about education and certainly determined to make a difference.
In order to begin facilitating, one must first understand where a child is in his/her understanding of the subject and how to help them grow from there. Evolving these baselines for every student was the key factor. The process of Facilitation can be divided into the following factors:
1. Developing baseline for each students
2. Facilitate ease of understanding (like; avoiding language barriers, etc.)
3. Implement reward systems to motivate kids
4. Facilitating kids to self manage their time by creating periodical goals & targets for them
The first, most important aspect of Karka Math lab is the improvement in the quality of education. We deliver the best content through a system that is more accessible and informative to the children. After the Karka Math lab started, there has been an improved attendance and reduced dropout rate. Technology is going to rule the future of this world; hence, using of technology at an early age is crucial for these children. This also encourages learning English as they learn Math. The students who perform exceptionally automatically try to help the others who may not be performing as well. Finally, the improved performance of the children acts as major motivational factor for the teachers and parents.
We at Karka, created a dynamic environment for the students to learn. There are significant benefits to this model:
Training gadgets and content are vital – Researches show that the availability of equipment and content is more important in learning than even teachers. Thus, investing appropriate time in creating meaningful content and getting the right equipment are a must.
Learning at one’s own pace: Now, with this model each child gets his/her own workstation. Hence, it naturally lends itself to students learning at their own pace. It offers endless revisits without inhibition or fear to the slow learners until the learning is complete, while challenging the fast learners, allowing them to explore and forge ahead. This has particularly proved great where many students are first generation learners with no family member to offer support or encouragement at home.
Learning is better among peer groups: Many researches have also found that students learn better by interacting within themselves, than when they are taught by untrained teachers. In our case, such an environment also opens up to the scope of peer tutoring, where one student can always seek help from his/her friend who has already completed that particular topic and can feel at ease learning. This has proven especially helpful for kids who are shy or introverts.
The two aspects of the Math Lab discussed above have given way to creating a robust classroom model that can implemented in any spare room of a school and at reasonably low costs. Now, it wouldn’t be fair to end our journey so far without presenting some of our key outcomes over the past 4 years.
The impact on stakeholders:
From teachers to facilitators:
Pre-Innovation – One teacher was imparting education to 40 children, many of the kids were first-generation learners and could not keep up with the pace of teaching. Their frustration due to poor learning outcomes in spite of their best efforts was palpable.
Post-Innovation – the new role of facilitating rather than teaching provided the teachers more insights about each student’s needs and specific interventions were possible.
Pre-Innovation – The school was struggling with declining learning outcomes and significant drop-out rates, which in turn resulted in poor admissions in the school.
Post-Innovation – Thanks to the innovation, the school was able to witness technology being a powerful tool in enhancing the learning curve and convince more students to remain in school.
Pre-Innovation – For many of the students, the interest to learn was at its lowest ebb and their self-belief was dented.
Post-Innovation – This model provided them an environment where everyone could learn at their own pace and realise they too had the potential to learn. It resulted in heightened level of interest and enthusiasm to learn. It also provided them a first-hand experience of how technology can be used to impact their lives, a concept that they can hopefully use in many aspects of their future.
PANCHAYAT UNION MIDDLE SCHOOL
Pudhukadu, Pethikuttai – post
Mettupalayam – Taluk
Coimbatore District – 638459