Khoj Community School is a school launched in June last year in a slum area of Mumbai. The vision of the school is to create experiential educational opportunities for these students to explore and pursue their dreams, and to develop skills and attitudes to help them engage with and thrive in a multicultural and diverse world. The school started with 26 students in Kindergarten and the number will grow each year as a new grade is added annually. The parents pay 250 rupees a month to send their children here (around USD 3.50/GBP 2.50).
Apni Shala is an organisation that also uses experiential learning methods such as art, drama, games and community projects to help children develop social and emotional skills. This is a larger organisation dealing with around 6,000 children across 40 schools. Apni Shala focuses on life skills programmes to help students develop their personality so that they are able to make positive changes in their lives. Life skills that are intentionally developed are communication, confidence, teamwork, taking initiative and empathy.
Now I've often said that the work I've done with local educational NGOs is the best part of my 6 years in India - if you are to say there's a reason for everything I would say that the reason I was meant to come back to India was to work with the teachers who have given their lives to the most disadvantaged of children. As a technology teacher I'm always asking myself whether technology can bridge the gap for these students, allowing them access to learning that they wouldn't otherwise have. For example in many of these schools there is no money to pay for textbooks - instead the teachers can show students how to tap into the wealth of knowledge found for free on the internet. It also allows them access to learning opportunities they would not find in the schools themselves. Free videoconferencing tools can bring experts into their classroom, helping them to learn from people they would never usually meet. Another way I think that technology can help is through personalising learning. We were keen to show the teachers apps that students could work on at their own pace, developing skills that they need. Students who need help mastering a particular concept are no longer left behind just because other students are not struggling with the same concept at the same time. I truly believe that technology can help students to overcome geographical and socio-economic barriers as well as racial and cultural injustices: it provides powerful tools that can help to increase access to learning to help bridge the gaps.