PRAYOG (Professionals Alliance for Youths Growth), an NGO based in the Gopalganj district of Bihar is trying to give a high-tech edge to rural education by using informative, animated videos, as teaching tools.
Children learn better with visual aids is a fact backed by research. Considering that the human brain is primarily an image processor, it is only natural that visual cues help retrieve and remember information better. Unfortunately, our conventional education system relies mainly on verbal material and far less emphasis is placed on incorporating visuals in the learning process.
PRAYOG, an NGO in Bihar, is trying to bring the modern approach of using audio-visual content as teaching tools to government schools in the Gopalganj district, located 200 km away from Patna.
Toon Masti is an initiative started by the Ernst & Young Foundation, under which informative, animated videos have been created for the NCERT Curriculum, Class 1 to 5. PRAYOG has implemented a teaching module that combines classroom teaching with Toon Masti’s audio-visual content.
Surya Prakash Rai started PRAYOG in 2013 to cultivate the habit of reading in rural Bihar. After graduating, Surya worked with several NGOs till he became a professional consultant. An IIT Bombay alumnus, Surya always wished to give back to society in some way. After visiting schools and interacting with students, he observed that lack of education is the root cause of almost every problem faced by rural Indians. He began by starting a community library in a village in Gopalganj, his hometown, and soon the project grew into a bigger educational initiative.
“There are so many problems when it comes to education in remote rural villages. There is a lack of qualified teachers. Even when the teacher is good and competent, the student-teacher ratio in government schools does not allow him or her to focus on students individually. Plus, there are no resources available aside from the textbooks. Taking all that into account, I decided to take the first step by starting a library,” says Surya.
He set up the library in June 2013, and since then, regular classes are being held at the library every evening for children who do not have access to proper education and cannot afford private tuition. The initiative has grown manifold in the past three years and by now PRAYOG has helped many schools in the district to set up classroom libraries in their premises. Surya has selected and trained four local youths, who are working full-time at the grassroots level. The initiative has also been instrumental in diminishing caste bias in Gopalganj.
PRAYOG collaborated with Prajnopaya Foundation in an MIT-backed programme called the ‘Global Literacy Project’, which is a self-learning module for pre-primary students with the use of tablets.
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The initiative showed great results. PRAYOG is also carrying out newer experiments to give an edge to students receiving primary education in rural India. So when Surya came across Toon Masti, he was immediately interested.
“It’s brilliant! Children love animation and if they are able to learn by watching cartoons, there is nothing better than that. So we contacted the District Collector of Gopalganj and received permission to conduct a pilot project in two government schools from Class 1 to 5. We started in June 2016 with 300 children and the results have been really impressive. We have observed through assessment that the knowledge levels, as well as the response levels of students, have increased,” says Surya.
In each school, a classroom has been allotted to PRAYOG where a facilitator takes different classes through Toon Masti lessons. Currently, the facilitators use a laptop to show the films; however, considering the strength of the class, this becomes a hurdle in the learning process.
“The sound and picture quality of a laptop is good enough for personal viewing or for a small group of two or three. In a room full of 30 to 40 students, it is not easy for children to concentrate on the small screen of a laptop. And we are receiving more requests from government schools and educational officers to implement the project. We do not want the children to suffer on account of low resolution or poor sound quality-related issues faced while using a laptop,” explains Surya.
To tackle this problem, PRAYOG is trying to raise money to buy LED TVs for the project. The NGO plans to propagate the project to 10 different schools in Gopalganj and the TVs will facilitate the process of creating a better learning environment.
“PRAYOG will be monitoring the project in all 10 schools. We are in the process of training teachers on how to conduct lessons using the Toon Masti teaching modules. Facilitators from PRAYOG will help and assist the teachers in any way they can. We will also be involved in the assessment process, as part of the research activity that we have taken up. If the children learn well, all will be well. That is our belief,” concludes Surya.