New Delhi – While the government has made a resolve to bring back all the students who have left schools between 3 and 18 years into the education system, by 2030, many companies doing CSR (corporate social responsibility) in the sector have also woken up to the challenge.
Companies like Tata Steel Ltd and HCL Technologies Ltd’s CSR arm HCL Foundation find them completely aligned with the goals of the Draft National Education Policy (NEP), 2019. Both, Tata Steel and HCL Foundation have already been working towards reducing the dropout numbers in their respective education programmes.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), on 31 May released the draft. The policy which aims to overhaul the education system in India, cuts a sorry picture about the dropout numbers. According to the draft, an estimated 6.2 crore children between the age 6 and 18 years were out of the school in 2015.
In 2015, Tata Steel Ltd started an education initiative – Thousand Schools Programme – across six blocks in Odisha’s three districts – Jajpur, Keonjhar and Sundargarh.
The company found that over 14,300 children were out of schools in these blocks. In four years, the company managed to bring back 13,281 children to the schools, Smita Agarwal said. She heads the education vertical of Tata Steel’s CSR division.
The drop-out problem was handled through multi-pronged strategy, Agarwal said. Specific courses were designed to address short-term and long-term dropout problems, she said. The former was addressed through non-residential bridge courses (NRBCs) and the latter through residential bridge courses (RBCs), she further added.
The Students were brought to formal education system after the completion of bridge courses.
The company has also employed technology to check the problem, she said. “A learning app has been developed for the classroom containing a range of content. For Odia and Hindi speaking teachers, a Bridge Language Inventory (BLI) app has also been developed to ease communication with children from Ho and Santhal communities,” Agarwal said.
Computers have been installed in education resource centres (ERCs) and residential bridge courses to promote technology-based education, Agarwal said. The company has also distributed over 250 tablets for 125 group projects, she added.
The technology has generated interest among the students, motivating them to continue studies.
Around 970 summer camps were organised in 2018 which covered more than 37,000 kids for various education related programmes and WhatsApp was used effectively to monitor students, Agarwal told this news service.
The company also introduced a Village Education Register (VER) system under the Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) initiative, Agarwal said.
VER maintains data on all the children in a village from their birth till the age of 18 years. The register also keeps a record of the children who leave the village or come to live in the village. VER has now been handed to school management committees, she said.
Thousand Schools was awarded the most impactful programme by the Odisha government, in 2018.
Meanwhile, HCL Foundation has been addressing the dropout problem by employing technological solutions; building school infrastructure and empowering the school management committees (SMCs). The foundation is working on several issues, including education, in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh for social and economic development of the people.
‘Happy School’ is the flagship education programme under the umbrella of its Samuday initiative, where ICT-aided learning techniques loaded with video-based learning tools are being used to generate student’s interest in education, Navpreet Kaur, project director of Samuday told this new service.
This has enhanced the learning experience and bridged the gap between students with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, she added.
The foundation spends approximately 15% of the total Samuday spending on improving the education infrastructure in the schools, it is working with.
Smart learning solution providers TagHive has also jumped into the fray. The South Korean companyhas designed Class Saathi to take the problem head-on. Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pankaj Agarwal feels that the problem of student dropout is grave but addressable through smart technological solutions.
Agarwal spoke about his own experience of working with government schools in Varanasi where the company had done a pilot Class-Saathi, a low cost technology solution. The personalized solution helps teachers to keep the attendance record of students.
“The Class Saathi solution allows for a one-click hassle free attendance to be recorded for each student. The Parent app of the solution also immediately notifies parents about their child’s absence from school,” he added. “This small feature reduced absence and dropout rate,” Agarwal said.
“During our pilot with 20 schools in Varanasi, the attendance increased by over 10% “immediately”, he added. The pilot was done on more than 1,000 students for one month and the results were “encouraging” for the company.
Class Saathi is an integrated solution which provides a clicker device to each student in a mobile app with teaching contents for the teachers. The solution also helped teachers analyse behavior and needs of the students.
“TheClass Saathimobile solution does not require the schools to have computers or tablets or even internet,” Agarwal said, indicating challenges towards setting-up digital infrastructure throughout the length and breadth of the country.
TagHive’s smart teaching solutions is also being used by the HCL Foundation.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development constituted a committee in June 2017, under the chairmanship of former ISRO chairman Krishnaswami Kasturirangan to prepare the Draft NEP, 2019. The government is bringing the policy to overhaul the education system in India.
The committee submitted its report on 15 Dec. The draft policy was released on 31 May and is now open for public feedback, till 31 Jul.