“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come” – This is precisely the thought which has taken shape in the form of HiWEL. ‘Hole in the Wall’ offers a refreshingly fresh perspective on the learning process. Today’s children not only need basic education but also the ability to learn from their surroundings and adapt themselves to the rapidly changing paradigms. Dr. Sugata Mitra, Chief scientist at NIIT had been toying with the idea of unsupervised learning and computers. On 26th January, 1999, Dr. Mitra’s team carved a “hole” in the wall that separated the NIIT premises from the adjoining slum in Kalkaji, New Delhi. Through this hole, a freely accessible computer was put to use. This computer proved to be an instant hit among the slum dwellers, especially children.
Since its inception in 1999, Hole-in-the-Wall has grown from a single computer at Kalkaji to more than a hundred computers at various locations across India and abroad. The driving force behind this is the concept of Minimally Invasive Education proposed by Dr. Mitra.
These slum children could actually learn on their own that too in such a cost effective manner with benefits like improved group dynamics, better in-class behaviour.
The essential features of a Learning Station are :
Playground Setting: The learning station is set up in an outdoor playground setting which children can easily access at any time. It ensures that girls, who would generally not be sent to close rooms housing a computer can now easily access the computer in an open setting.
Another advantage is the Unstructured and Unsupervised nature of this setting which ensures that the entire process of learning is driven by a child’s curiosity.
Integration with the School System: A big advantage of HiWEL learning station is that it fits in nicely with traditional schooling reinforcing learning in a fresh, innovative package.
In schools where the Learning Stations were installed, some teachers have reported improved retention and increased receptivity among children.
HiWEL’s endeavour is to make the learning stations accessible even in the remotest locations. For this, the HiWEL team has come up with several patented innovations to ensure that a standard computer can be used in extreme weather conditions. Till now Learning stations have been successfully deployed even in Leh (ladakh) and Jaisalmer.
Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd.(HiWEL) is a joint venture between NIIT Ltd. and the International Finance Corporation. The Government of Delhi first adopted the idea and in 2000, 30 Learning Stations were setup in a resettlement colony.
In 2001, a national research program was started in which Learning stations were set up in 23 locations across rural India. By 2004, HiWEL reached Cambodia and the idea hasn’t stopped spreading.
Just recently HiWEL was conferred the coveted ‘Digital Opportunity Award’ by World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) for path breaking work in spreading computer literacy at the grass root level.
HiWEL is now poised to scale up the idea of Hole-in-the-Wall to make a significant contribution to improving elementary education and life skills of children across the world, especially those in disadvantaged communities in rural areas and urban slums.
All images are courtesy www.hole-in-the-wall.com
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