Digital Education in Rural India “Mera School, Smart School”

Rishav Gupta

Mera School, Smart School’ is a transformative initiative, taken by Dewas District Administration, aimed at modernising government schools by introducing smart TVs to all primary and middle schools in rural areas. This district-level e-governance initiative has significantly increased school attendance, improved learning outcomes, and empowered underprivileged students with smart classrooms. The replication of this model requires a dedicated team committed to the cause of education for impoverished students. Objective of the Project – “Coding for everyone”, a free for all 400 hour Computer Programming course started in the district for Govt. students of Classes 9 to 12th.

Salient features of the work undertaken in the area of Process Re-engineering for Digital Transformation

The “Mera School-Smart School” initiative was implemented for primary and middle government school students. Smart TVs were installed in all the schools solely through crowd funding and public participation. Class-wise and chapter-wise e-curriculum was created and implemented. Additionally, double-lock systems, voltage stabilisers, and waterproofing of smart rooms were implemented to ensure the sustainability of the initiative. Out of the total target of 1669 schools, 1442 have smart TVs to date.

Beneficiaries of the Project

“Mera School – Smart School” benefits students from Class 1st to 8th in all government primary and middle schools.

Brief Details of the Project with specific reference to the District Level initiative in e-Governance

The “Mera School-Smart School” initiative aimed to impart digital education to primary and middle government school students. Smart TVs were installed in all schools solely through public participation, donation campaigns, and CSR contributions. Stakeholders, including political representatives, educational NGOs, donors, and teachers, were regularly consulted and made owners of this initiative. Class-wise and chapterwise e-curriculum was created and implemented. Electricity connections were provided in the remotest schools. To ensure the longevity of smart classrooms, double-lock systems, voltage stabilisers, and waterproofing of classrooms were undertaken with the help of Gram Panchayats. As of now, smart classes have begun in 1442 out of the total 1669 primary and middle schools.

Impact in terms of time and cost-saving for beneficiaries

Cost-saving is one of the underlying objectives of both missions. The open-source content developed under “Mera School-Smart School” is based on prudently selected YouTube channels in Hindi, imparted totally free of cost to government primary and middle school students. This content is equivalent to lakhs of Rupees on EdTech platforms like Byju’s or Unacademy, making private Ed-Tech platforms financially inaccessible to rural students. The content is developed class-wise, subject-wise, and even chapterwise. In this project, no cost is borne by government schools, as the entire infrastructure is crowdfunded, and the content is compiled by government teachers.

Brief on the uniqueness of this district-level initiative

  • The initiative bridges the gap between the education imparted in private and government schools through digital media.
  • Totally free of cost to students and government schools, as the infrastructure is crowd-funded, and content is developed by school teachers.
  • Content compiled in Hindi language from carefully chosen YouTube channels.

Situation before the Initiative (Bottlenecks, Challenges, constraints, etc. with specific details as to what triggered the district to conceptualise this project)

  • Trigger: It came from monitoring the extremely poor learning levels of primary and middle students (also quantified in the annual ASER Report). Discussions with stakeholders pointed out poor attendance in schools as well as obsolete pedagogical techniques leading to monotonous learning. Therefore, the project started with the aim of imparting digital education in all government schools.
  • Challenges: Crowd-sourcing of infrastructure (Smart TVs, Stabilizers, JioFi Internet) is a huge challenge, which was overcome by zealous reviewing with industries (CSR), public representatives, local businesses, and NGOs (Muskan Dreams).

Situation after the Initiative (Specific improvement details in terms of benefits, processes, services, transactions & user feedback, etc. vis-a-vis the situation before)

  • Attendance in government schools has increased as learning from TV is an attraction for kids who have never seen a TV in their lives.
  • The learning levels of students are increasing as the retention from educational videos is more. Also, better insights into complex concepts (like the inside of an atom) are being gained.
  • Parents are becoming aspirational. Some parents contributed to repairing the LED, which was damaged by an election party during Vidhan Sabha elections.
  • Smart classrooms, mentioned in the brochures of elite private schools, are now available to underprivileged students in remote villages today in Dewas.

Brief on Roll out/implementation model

  • Donors identified to provide Smart TVs, Stabilizers & Jio-Fi Devices to schools. Multi-level meetings and reviews were done over 9 months to ensure 100% coverage of schools.
  • e-content developed by our professors. Orientation imparted to all government teachers.
  • Gram Panchayats ensured that double doors were installed in all schools to prevent theft.

Process Flow and data flow of the initiative in e-Governance maybe elaborated

  • Class-wise, subject-wise, and chapter-wise e-content have been developed, and smart TVs have been installed in all primary and middle schools. This content is made available to students either using pen drives (Smart TVs support USB), JioFi Devices, or mobile hotspots. With the help of Muskan Dreams NGO, Android Boxes have also been provided along with curated learning content.
  • A timetable for digital education is prepared for each class in every school covering all subjects.
  • e-learning content compiled in Hindi from carefully curated vernacular YouTube academic channels.

Brief details on the ICT used by the district for the initiative in e-Governance

For “Mera School-Smart School,” multiple academic channels of YouTube that have educational content in Hindi were utilised to compile the curriculum. Various NGOs like Muskan-Dreams also provided e-content free of cost to the district administration. JioFi/ Mobile Hotspot used to provide internet connection. Smart TVs that enable mobile casting, YouTube app, and internet connectivity were installed. Some content in remote areas was spread through pen drives. Android Boxes were also used by some teachers. Basically, in India, Frugal Innovation (Jugaad) is the hallmark, and once our teachers got the TVs, they ensured that it was utilised in the most efficient way possible.

Any other details relevant for replication

Very easy to replicate if we have a dedicated team committed to the cause of education for poor students in our government schools. Since philanthropic mindset people are available everywhere, all we require is their trust that their contributions would be utilised in the best possible way, and no syphoning off would take place.

Views expressed by: Rishav Gupta, IAS,District Magistrate – Dewas, Madhya Pradesh

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