India has a shortfall of nearly one million teachers. But unique initiatives like Lenovo SmarterEd are filling the gap, reaching those who need help the most.
This article has been sponsored by Lenovo
The school bell rings, and students rush to their classrooms to begin the day. A few minutes pass, as they settle down, waiting for their teacher to arrive and begin the roll call. But no one arrives.
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Ten more minutes and still no trace of a teacher.
To quell the air of restlessness rising around the room, the class monitor stands up to address the crowd, while wondering what to say, “Is it a holiday? Will anybody come to teach us today? What do we do now?”
This is not an imaginary scene, but the reality for many schools in India that are facing an extraordinary shortage of teachers. Even though the country has 3 times more number of schools than China, more than 400,000 of its schools have a maximum of two teachers at a time.
These challenges have now been exacerbated by restrictions that are in place due to COVID-19, especially in remote parts of the country. But, what does it mean for India’s future?
The answer lies in Barbadian novelist George Lamming’s words. “The architecture of our future is not only unfinished; the scaffolding has hardly gone up.”
The scaffolding here refers to the teachers who are responsible for holding up the nation’s future—its students. Interestingly, the term in the context of education also refers to the act of demonstrating how to solve a problem and stepping back to open the floor to students, by offering support and guidance.
In the absence of that physical scaffolding in India’s education system, Lenovo has stepped up to fill the gap with its unique initiative called Lenovo SmarterEd.
An online platform, designed in collaboration with eVidyaloka, a not-for-profit organisation focused on transforming India’s educational landscape, Lenovo SmarterEd aims to encourage Indian youth to participate in digital remodelling of the education system, by matching learners with volunteer educators in one-on-one online learning sessions.
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An e-learning pioneer, eVidyaloka has over 1750 volunteer teachers from over 230 cities in 20 countries teaching online.
It also provides 2-way live interactive classes to more than 20,000 children in 233 villages in 10 states of India, in 7 languages—a feature that is a prominent part of Lenovo SmarterEd, that provides support in English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu, in an attempt to have a last-mile outreach.
“Our mission is to connect passionate and talented volunteers with rural and semi-urban students, to empower India through standards of schooling. We are glad to collaborate with Lenovo India to create Lenovo SmarterEd— a voluntary knowledge-sharing platform which can help facilitate seamless online learning experiences,” says Brinda Poornapragna, CEO- eVidyaloka.
Through Lenovo SmarterEd, students from classes 5 to 12 can now choose the subjects to learn, who their teachers will be, and also decide upon the time to learn, as per their convenience.
Lenovo SmarterEd offers a repository of learning material with links to NCERT and state syllabus e-books, in addition to seamless student-teacher interaction through a chat engine. Using smarter technology, teachers and students are matched using an algorithm that takes into account their respective teaching and learning styles.
“Technology has the power to solve problems, create opportunities and transform the way we all live, learn, and work. Lenovo SmarterEd is secure, extremely accessible, enriching, and is a relevant medium of education fit for the present-day scenario, where schools across the country have been forced to suspend classes. With this platform, we want to empower all segments of the society with quality education,” says Rahul Agarwal, CEO and Managing Director, Lenovo India.
Only with efforts like these, that bring together a population of changemakers and empower them to initiate a transformation, can India truly overcome its challenges to scale real heights of greatness.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)