I had met Lalit when he was in class 6. He was just like many other kids we see around us. There was nothing extraordinary about him. What was troubling was that he wanted to drop out of his school. His parents and unfortunately even his teachers echoed the same sentiment.
How many kids do you see around whose parents may be thinking on similar lines?
If you step out of the city boundaries and see our government schools, you will realise that Lalit is not alone. Thousands of our government school children drop out of school because they don’t find it interesting enough to go to school everyday or the historical learning gaps have become so prominent and keep piling, that they just can’t cope up.
But all hope is not lost yet. Let me tell you why.
Let’s take the story back to Lalit. I had met him about a year and a half back. And since then, there has been a transformational change in him. He successfully cleared his class 6th exam, comes to his school everyday and very importantly is enjoying his learning.
So, what happened?
A year back, Lalit laid his hands on a learning tablet. This tablet was pre-loaded with hindi medium animated video lessons – story based videos designed to build conceptual understanding in a fun way. And Lalit was hooked. Mainly because of 2 reasons. First being that, at his home, on his father’s smartphone, which by the way he got to use only for 15 minutes in a day, he was playing Angry Birds and Temple run. He was therefore naturally comfortable to work on a touch based device and enjoyed doing so.
Secondly, one day when Lalit finished watching a video on “Electricity” on his tablet and when his teacher asked him a question, he instantly answered it correctly. His teacher walked up and patted him on the back. Imagine yourself as Lalit and then think of the kind of psychological impact this would have had on him. For the first time, he realised that he can also understand concepts, answer questions and do well in his class.
When I met Lalit again a few months back, it was so thrilling to see him now. He was a very happy child and his parents were hopeful again that their kid will do well in school and will have a chance at a better future.
Lalit’s most recent image where he now loves coming to his school. Rohit Prakash with Lalit.
Lalit’s most recent image where he now loves coming to his school
While I was still visiting the school, Lalit’s teacher walked up to me and said a few words. Those few words made us think so deep that as an organisation, it has pretty much defined the new direction we have taken now.
The teacher told me that it took Lalit more than 6 months before he could reach his age appropriate learning level. Can we not think of a way to make this happen faster? Can we not give something to Lalit so that he can also continue his learning at home?
I found this thought both very powerful and yet highly confusing. The first question that came to mind was how will a child access any resource material that you may provide for home learning and secondly how will you ensure that such materials reach millions of students across the country.
The two questions are actually interconnected and the answer to both lies in the ubiquitous smartphones. There is no doubt to the fact that the number of smartphones and internet subscribers in rural parts of our country is increasing at a very rapid pace. There are enough data points to prove that.
And the best part as I also shared above in Lalit’s story is that there is a very natural adoption happening to using such devices. There is no one who is training people on how to use the smartphone or browse the internet. Everyone just figures it out on their own as they play around with their devices.
What if we can leverage this reach and familiarity to touch based devices in rural homes to give our young minds access to digital learning content which is easy and very fun to use. And it is in the language that they understand best.
The need for a local language mobile learning app is perhaps a very genuine need that needs to be fulfilled. And Corona lockdown has made this into the most urgent need. And Hindi medium learning app is the top priority simply because the number of Hindi medium learners is fairly large.
There is an opportunity waiting for us to transform the way rural learners learn and grow.
And I am extremely proud that we at iDream Education have done something about it. The iDream Learning App which we launched in March 2020 is a free mobile learning app that enables users to learn in multiple languages apart from English. These currently include Hindi, Telugu. Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati and Marathi. The content on the app is aligned as per CBSE and all major state boards.
Now, students like Lalit can be sitting in the comfort and safety of their homes and still continue their learning and enjoy it via the iDream Learning App.
There are 2 immediate benefits that I foresee as students and teachers across the country have begun adopting the iDream Learning App:Students can learn as per their own interest using different categories of content – animations, book library, activities and assessments. When we empower the students, very naturally this builds a proactive interest in them to learn.
Use the app to bridge historical learning gaps. There is no restriction on which grade of content you can watch. You just have to reset the app and switch to any grade you want. In a very non judgemental way, students can learn at their own pace and as per their learning levels. All of us know and keep reading about the historical learning gaps but today very few avenues exist which handhold a rural child out of these gaps, and that too enjoyably and without judging him during the process.
In times to come as the number of smartphones and internet subscribers increase tremendously, this would perhaps be a great medium that would be reaching the last mile learners at the lowest of costs possible, thereby making the need of a local language learning app more imminent than ever.
Along with many more, the app is one focussed solution to handhold any child to cover up the historical learning gaps while not being compared or judged against any other child. Let us all bring a collective focus of the civil society and the social sector to attempt new ideas, deepen our grip on the issue, experiment and find out practical solutions to this.
Do you agree? Do share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can connect with me on +91 9971033119
Visit Micropage of iDream Education at India CSR for more detail of organisation.
Rohit Prakash, Co-Founder at iDream Education
Punit Goyal, Co-Founder of iDream Education.