India is a diverse country. India has a stratified society with many sections, some privileged to get best in education, while others striving to make optimum use of the available resources to learn, mostly to earn. Education in marginalised sections of the society or the so-called rural areas in the country have indeed suffered a major neglect. As a result many children and young adults have suffered barriers with respect to education and occupation. These barriers include language, practical or hands-on-experience and inability to derive application from knowledge sources that require training and comprehension.
To feed-in the missed out spaces, the concept of learning laboratories was introduced. Learning laboratories can be of different kinds.
A science laboratory is mainly introduced to fill in the deficits that school children, from disadvantaged groups, face during their education. One instance of a Science Laboratory is the Maharashtra state’s Vidnyanavahini, that enabled rural children in Maharashtra to avail an opportunity to practice science and reduce the divide of the urban and rural education. This took place through a Mobile Science Laboratory (MSL) project of Vidnyanvahini, that commenced with aim to reach out rural school children and help them gain knowledge of science through laboratory experiments. This laboratory introduced specific apparatus to children to experiment and learn the fundamentals of science. It helped create awareness about science that exists in daily operations such as environment, health living, etc. The project also introduces to the youth the human reproduction system and hence making them aware of healthy living and cautioning them of diseases. The project also caters to train the science teachers through camps in order to encourage continuing education. The Laboratory is fully furnished, including audio-visual equipment, water tank and generator. It introduced to children rationality and helped children gain practical experience.
Digitised Language Labs
India is land of many languages and skills. With country being swept away by the ever uprising use of mobile technology and Internet, there is an increasing demand to be linguistically skilled along with knowledge of the commonly used software. This is especially true for youth, who are fresh out of the education system but face barriers because of language or application of computer software. Additionally, in order to communicate clearly, it is essential to understand appropriately the cultural context in which communication will take place.
“Language Labs are an excellent tool for learning and acquiring proficiency in languages leading to effective communication which is very critical to success in work places and life in general. Being an automated system it overcomes psychological and emotional barriers. Language proficiency will certainly help when it comes to placement. In areas of team work and customer relations which require effective communication, language proficiency is a great empowerment.”
These young people usually have trouble in learning second language, which in most of cases is English. Accent and colloquialisms due to first language hinders, at times, proper learning and usage of the second language such as English. Digitised language or the Language Labs come to rescue in such scenarios. Language Labs are centres where digital language and accent for a particular language is taught through learning softwares. One language that is desired mostly everywhere today is English. These labs support honing of the communication skills with appropriate pronunciation. These Labs help learners to speak, read and write English in correct manner, with correct intonation. This is applicable for both native and non-native learners. Within labs, usually, teacher gives instruction to one or all the students.
The teachers enable students to have a two way communication, enabled through digitised software. The students are provided with headphones, computers and keyboards through which the can listen, hear, answer, compare, record voices and written text, communicate with teacher and assess their language. There are opportunities to interact in a group or individually. Teachers can assess the performance of the students simultaneously, without the students knowing, through what students repeat on the speakers of their respective headphones.
The language lab software enables delivery of precise language skills for effective communication, removing the limitations of classroom teaching processes. Students listen to the content recorded in language of native speakers or the linguistic expert and then record their own voice, replay and listen to the native voice and their own voice and compare to improve on their pronunciation.
Teachers also can provide personalised inputs/ feedback as corrective measures to any student who seems to be facing difficulty in picking up the language. The students can also view the content or sound of the assignments in form of video or text. It is help of the broadcasting facility that the group discussions are made possible. A control panel is available to the teacher/ expert, through which the instructions are given to respective students without disturbing the fellow students.
For the students the language labs are beneficial:
- Students can get any pre-recorded lessons they wanted to learn
- Repeat, record and replay the native voices and their own voices and text/ video clippings
- Repeat and re-do the assignments
- Be part of individual and group discussions
- Receive inputs from teacher control panel, as soon as the log in Correct self with pronunciation/ assess self
- Communicate with teacher
- Store passages, instructions and replies
The control system with the teachers helps in
- Monitoring individual systems of the respective students
- Plan the lessons in advance
- Give individual attention without disturbing the fellow students
- Teaching any language
- Reviewing and assessing students
- Recording the lessons in digital format
Some overall benefits include learning interaction, self assessment, good methodology, appropriate accent for Indian learners and emphasis on appropriate language development. In schools the language laboratories help in improving Reading, Writing, Grammar, Pronunciation etc. Engagement in multi-media activities at school level also proves to be cost-effective and deployable.
Learning laboratories are professional labs to share knowledge in the area of collaborative research and experimentation. These provide basis for understanding new methods, discussing results and encouraging innovation for welfare issues such as mobility from poverty. Some learning labs provide vocational training and skills too, that cater to the industry based demand.
Many a times computer training is required even by professionals who belong to streams other than IT, to compliment their mainstream course. Additionally, the employees at many places are required to have requisite skills to handle certain software, especially, MS office. Usually in a university setting hardly any emphasis is given to training for preparing students for effective management of software application required in a working environment. These days open source software, Web 2.0 are certain applications that are gaining importance as well. Computer Laboratory or training centres are the saviour in providing for above mentioned skills.
Laboratories, Skill Development and Vocational Training
There is a huge demand and supply gap that Indian markets are facing today w.r.t. the industrial requirement and the qualified skilled labour available in India. Higher education institutions, although are providing good knowledge of the mainstream sector, hardly provide
with options for industry relevant programmes. The reasons for the same include lack of physical and intellectual (faculty) infrastructure, awareness and placement cells.
Laboratories address a part of the above issue. It helps in gaining vocational or non formal skills to be an active employee member of the society. These laboratories on behalf of the higher education sector educate the enrolled youth/ people in phase of continuing education, who are either employed or are looking for jobs. It helps them either gain skills in learning language such as English, improving their communication skills or non-formal skills or vocational techniques. Through these laboratories the enrolled students are turned into certified professionals and their market value in terms of well paid employability improves dramatically. Language labs are of special importance when qualified people are in problem because of their linguistic usage.