Learning Delight, a company founded by two management graduates Harshal and Vandan, is making learning easy in government schools across Gujarat, by using interactive software and personal computers. This is how they are making dry lectures fun and engaging for students of Classes 1-8.
An enthusiastic group of 36 students from Class 5, from a government school in Bhuj, have seen a pleasant change in their daily routine in the past few years. Earlier, a teacher would come to class, read from a book, give them an assignment to complete, and dole out some homework before winding up. But now they go to a computer lab where the teachers use interactive software to teach the same lessons. The software, Learning Delight, converts the contents of their books into an audio-visual format – with images, videos and animation – to make learning fun.
The same experiment is taking place in thousands of schools all over Gujarat, where personal computers, clubbed with Learning Delight, are also helping bridge the gap between education standards in rural and urban India.
The birth of an idea
Harshal Gohil, a 29-year-old resident of Rajkot, is the person behind this software. At a young age, he realized the unequal standard in education between rural, semi-urban and urban schools. Born in Bhuj, Gujarat, Harshal studied till Class 7 in a small school, before moving on to Delhi for higher studies. Here, he saw how quality education was accessible to many. In 2009, he went on to pursue a business degree from Nirma University in Ahmedabad. During a Diwali vacation in Bhuj, he noticed the stark contrast between the quality of education there, and in other places he had studied. Lack of interest on the part of teachers, poverty, gender discrimination, and outdated methods of teaching, were some of the visible differences that motivated him to take the next step.
Harshal discussed the issue with his friend Vandan Kamdar and the duo decided to bridge this education gap, using technology. They conducted surveys in five schools in Bhuj and found that many of them already had the required infrastructure provided by the government – including personal computers and smart classroom software. But there was extreme resistance to actually using it on the part of school authorities, mainly because they were not acquainted with technology and were afraid to use it.
“We wanted to make sure that the facilities available in urban India are available in rural and semi-urban India as well. And we felt there was huge scope for doing this with the help of certain technological tools. I think the education system in Gujarat is more teacher-centric as compared to other places. So we started by trying to understand how we could develop better tools to help teachers. And because there is minimal internet penetration in rural India, the solution had to be something offline,” said Harshal.
The duo began working on their project while still in college. They would attend their classes during the day and work on designing the prototype of the software at night. In 2011, they founded Learning Delight – a company that aims to improve the quality of education by digitizing schools in rural and semi-urban areas. They developed simple-to-use, offline software with the idea of making learning a delightful experience using animation, riddles, puzzles, and stories, around subjects like math, science, and social studies.
How Learning Delight works
The software has animated versions of all Gujarat board curriculum textbooks for Classes 1-8, with video and audio links in Gujarati. Once it is installed on a PC, users are able to see seven different items on the menu to choose from. These include textbook chapters and other lessons on basic health care, moral science, and grammar. The teacher selects the grade, subject, and chapter number and the class is ready to begin in just a few clicks.
“We developed the software in Gujarati and made the user interface simple for every teacher to understand. The entire software works on a three-click principle. So, to navigate through the software for any action, they just need to click thrice and they will reach the required option,” said Harshal.
The Learning Delight team has 30 members, including teachers, who help in content creation. They install the software on PCs provided to schools by the government under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Next, they conduct teacher training sessions on how to use the software. There are regular follow-ups for impact measurement and feedback collection as well.
“One of the main challenges was getting schools to agree to use this software. But gradually, when teachers started seeing results, it was easier to proceed. I consider it a success that teachers are now comfortable using the software. There were a few who were scared of using PCs in the beginning. But they came on board once we trained them and it was great to see how they caught up,” he said.
Starting with five government schools, Learning Delight has now reached over 8,000 Gujarati-medium schools across 11 districts in Gujarat. School teachers have reported that students enjoy using the software and look forward to coming to the computer labs. The dropout rates in many schools have declined by as much as 10%.
The company is now trying to expand to more schools in the state. “All students deserve a quality education and we hope to take Learning Delight to as many students as we can,” concludes Harshal.