Some of you who knows me personally are aware that I am extremely crazy about bringing basic services to Rural India (I do have a personal blog in this regard). One of such services is Quality Education.

What causes learning? 

First of all, learning initiation happens through the exposure. For example, if I am watching a movie wherein someone traveling by flight then I may learn about how a flight looks like or even the feeling of journey in a flight. But then I get exposed to a variety of stuff every day. Do I learn all of those? The answer is ‘No’. I learn only few things which I am curious about. Depending on ‘how much curious I am’ about a particular thing, that much I learn about it. So, it is very clear to see that if we are interested in something then we would learn quicker and deeper. Moreover, interest makes our learning much more enjoyable.

How to identify a child’s interest?

How can we understand what the child’s interests are? If we can figure this out then we can encourage the kids in those stuff. We can even personalize the teaching content to each child. For a long time, I have been thinking about this. Recently I could get the answer for this interesting question. If you interact with any child for sometime, whenever he observes some stuff (interesting to him) he starts asking questions. As you answer he would ask more and more. Most parents and/or teachers discourage this process as they get disturbed frequently or if they don’t have answers. Actually asking questions shows his interest on that particular object/thing.

What a child needs to learn at minimum in order to succeed in this digital world?

Atanu has written a detailed post on this topic. Let me reemphasize it. Digital world is full of information (currently it is in the magnitude of petabytes) and it is much much more than any individual can consume. This means, child need not learn whole text-books that are available to him rather he should learn few concepts that are interesting to him. In particular the child must learn how to construct such concepts on his own. Here, technology/schools/parents/friends/etc may help in filtering the petabytes of information and provide qualitative information which suits his requirements. In order to utilize this aid effectively, at the fundamental outset, he must be skilled in “reading, writing, logic or arithmetic and ‘how to learn'”.

 How to train a child to learn on his own?

We have a private school of 700 children (Sarojini Vidyalayam) in a rural village near Guntur (Andhra Pradesh, India) and experimenting this process in the following manner. Every week we have one specific day called “FUN-DAY”. On this day, we conduct some interesting stuff to entertain children. One of such thing is called “Question Hour”. In order to attend this class, each child is expected to bring a note (Doubts book) wherein he mentions his doubts those came into his mind during the week. These doubts could be anything like, why sky is blue? or  why don’t fan falls down? or why is air invisible? etc and need not be specific to their class subjects. Now assuming the classroom containing 50 children, all are divided into 5 batches (10 students per batch). Now batch-wise, that is, 10 children are to clarify their doubts among themselves. When they can’t answer certain questions which will be written on teacher’s notebook along with the names of the students who raised those doubts. Now the class teacher answers whatever she knows and passes unanswered questions to Principal. Question hour ends with this. Then the principal arranges a “Dial an expert” hour on the next FUN-DAY. Wherein, on a speaker phone an expert answers some of those unanswered questions to the children.

The goal of this process is to make sure that children ask right questions (obvious ones are filtered out much before it comes to the expert level). Now the expert is required to give answers filled with many more questions and provide examples/reference books/programs/etc. So that the children get the answer but then they become much more inquisitive to answer those questions (of the expert) on their own by reading the reference materials. We are considering the rewarding program for the children who answers these. Yes, learning happens through practice. So why, we have created this process in order to make the children learn on their own.

Can this process be scaled to the national level?

We are piloting these concepts at our school. Once we have matured processes, we want to use technology in order to automate and scale it to the masses across India (or elsewhere). This is what I am currently working on. If anyone is interested, then write me a mail to my gmail id: malapati.

NOTES:

  1. Expert could be anyone who is relatively higher educated and regionally known person.
  2. Children (for that mater, anyone) learn by observing others or things around.
  3. Before inventing such system, our initial constraint was that not to disturb existing school system procedures.
  4. I am writing a book on Google tricks in order to help children to filter information on their own.

Malapati Raja Sekhar

I work with few small startups focused on rural services (for-profit). I am based in Mumbai, India.