Suvidya Foundation is a Bangalore based technology NGO started by three IIT alumni to empower rural government schools with technology driven solutions.
Every once in a while, you might have seen articles in newspapers with worrisome titles like “Only about 45% children in government schools can read” or “Less than 25% of 5th standard children in government schools can do division” and so on. These are excerpts from the Annual Status of Education Report(ASER) that is published every year. The ASER 2018 report too contained a few shocking revelations. It also compared the data from 2018 to that from 2008 to show how the situation has changed over the decade. In 2018 ASER surveyed 546,527 children in the age group 3 to 16 years across 596 districts in rural India. In 2008 the sample size was 750,000 children across 16,000 villages. Here are some key points from the report.
- Just 44.2% of children in government schools in grade 5 can read grade 2 level local language text. It was 53.1% in 2008.
- About 69% of children in government schools in grade 8 can read grade 2 level local language text. This was 83.6% in 2008.
- An abysmal 22.7% children in government schools in grade 5 can do division. It was 34.4 in 2008.
- About 40% of children in grade 8 can do division. This too has come down from 65.2% in 2008.
The statistics seems to be getting worse each year despite all the well intentioned on-going efforts from the government and non-government sectors. Add to this a severe teacher scarcity and very little hope of catching up with the required numbers any time soon. Then you get a more complete picture of how bleak the situation really is.
According to the data published in 2016 jointly by the District Information System for Education(DISE) and the education ministry, about 65% of all school-going children in 20 states, which is about 113 million, get their education from government schools.
We all know that today’s children are tomorrow’s citizens. Whether they are going to be our country’s asset or liability is largely determined by the kind of education they receive today.
It is this belief that has motivated many NGOs to work with rural government schools in different capacities. Some NGOs are creating simple books and worksheets to promote basic reading skills in rural schools, some others are providing teachers to augment the government’s efforts. Some NGOs are getting the corporate sector to sponsor computers for these schools. Some others are developing co-curricular and extracurricular digital content to help children understand basic concepts. Some are conducting free tuitions after school hours. Clearly, more such efforts are badly needed if we have to turn the tables around.
Hailing from the IT industry, it was only natural for us to explore how technology could help the situation. After much brainstorming we concluded that the need of the hour is a technology that can promote self-learning and peer learning among the rural children using the same syllabus that has been prescribed by the state government. There is no point in inventing a new syllabus when ultimately the children have to answer questions based on the state syllabus in order to get promoted to the next higher standard. This would also enable the technology to imbibe the pedagogic expertise that has gone into creating the syllabus besides reducing the burden on the teachers, giving them time to focus on the slow learners.
The idea of Suvidya Foundation was thus born in late 2011. After about two years of intense efforts the Textbook-on-tablet solution came into existence. A successful pilot run in 3 schools in 2013 encouraged us to expand the operation to more schools.
At the time of this writing, Suvidya Foundation is running its EducateZilla program independently in 35 rural government schools in Karnataka and in a few more schools through partner NGOs. The technology is also available as free apps on the google play store. Suvidya is actively looking to partner with more NGOs to empower more children from rural government schools with this technology.
It has been a very interesting journey so far with some usual ups and downs and some very unusual ones. In this site we intend to publish a series of blogs to describe our journey, the technology that we have developed and deployed, the lessons that we have learnt in the field, the mistakes that we have made and our plans for the future.