Yogi Adityanath is emerging as a governance-oriented CEO-type chief minister during the coronavirus crisis. In my previous article for ThePrint, I wrote about how Yogi Adityanath is overhauling primary education in Uttar Pradesh with Mission Prerna and Operation Kayakalp, where real learning outcomes are at the fulcrum, along with necessary infrastructural improvements.
However, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, both government and private schools in Uttar Pradesh are expected to undergo extended closure, and might reopen only in July after the summer vacation. In order to ensure that children at home are engaged in constructive activities and haven’t stopped learning, the Adityanath government is kickstarting a five-step plan that other states can follow.
These five steps have been formulated after curating subject-wise vernacular digital content for children and then disseminating it among 1.8 crore students in primary grades through various innovative mediums with the use of technology. Operating in mission mode, the Adityanath government has pooled in resources and services from a strong network of national and global organisations like Central Square Foundation, Samagra, Sesame Workshop India (the organisation behind children’s cartoon show Gali Gali Sim Sim), Pratham, Khan Academy, Google, WhatsApp, the TeacherApp, UNICEF, MHRD, Doordarshan-Uttar Pradesh and All India Radio (AIR). Here are the five steps.
Turning parents into teachers
One, the launch of Top Parent, a first-of-its-kind free-of-cost mobile application that provides parents of 3-8-year olds with language, strategies, and resources to actively participate in their children’s learning. The application currently houses three high-quality EdTech apps for children.
First is Chimple, which has 80 different learning activities, including interactive games, stories, and puzzles. Lessons are designed as games that teach children reading, writing and math while making learning fun.
Second is Math Masti, which focuses on building foundational numeracy skills in children. The app uses a variety of fun, engaging and age-appropriate activities that are aligned with the school curriculum to help children improve their math learning. It also helps parents track their child’s progress across different levels and concepts.
Third is Bolo (Google), which is designed as a reading-tutor app that helps primary grade students improve their reading skills in Hindi and English. Guided by parents, the app contains word games that could win children in-app rewards and badges to motivate them.
Creating a pool of web-based content
Two, the Adityanath government will make efforts to intensify the usage of the content uploaded on ‘Diksha’ — the national e-learning platform launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development that hosts video content for children in all age groups. Under Mission Prerna, Uttar Pradesh’s education team is working on online learning of students through Diksha app and capacity building of teachers for the past eight months. That effort is coming very handy now. UP’s State Council for Education Research and Training (SCERT) and content cell based in Lucknow did a meticulous mapping of more than 3,000 videos with relevant chapters in the state syllabus using QR codes.
There are three specially featured content categories in the Diksha app. First is TicTac Learn, a library of high-quality digital resources for mathematics and science for students of classes 1-10. The Tic-Tac content is available in Hindi, English, Telugu, Odia and Marathi. So many other states can also make use of this content. The library of more than 10,000 videos are aligned with the curriculum and is open-source and free to use. This repository consists of videos for mathematics (classes 1-8) and EVS/science (classes 3-8). These are bite-sized (4-5 minutes long), animated and high-quality videos.
Second is Khan Academy, a leading international not-for-profit educational organisation, which has more than 1,000 self-learning videos available for children to learn mathematics from class 1-8 in Hindi. The third is content from Pratham Education Foundation, an Indian not-for-profit organisation, which has extremely good video-based learning of foundation literacy and numeracy concepts. More than 500 videos produced by the foundation have been uploaded on Diksha. The UP government is also in advance stages to do more content tie-ups with UNICEF, EY Foundation and Sesame Workshop India.
Connecting teachers and parents
Three, through e-Pathshala, the government plans to disseminate educational content among students through their parent’s smartphones. The education department is using its existing network of more than 1,000 WhatsApp groups with Basic Shiksha Adhikaris (BSAs), Block Education Officers (BEOs) and Head Teachers, and more than 9,000 groups at Nyaya Panchayat level to enable the reach of CM Adityanath’s message to all 5.75 lakh teachers and through them, to lakhs of parents. School principals are creating WhatsApp groups for this purpose. Daily grade and subject wise messages will be sent out by the education directorate at Lucknow and reach lakhs of parents in no time.
Four, the government will target parents without smartphones through Doordarshan Uttar Pradesh (DD-UP). The chief minister’s team is in touch with Prasar Bharti to get a few slots on the channel to provide self-learning content to children.
Five, the Adityanath government will also disseminate educational content through All India Radio and community radios, especially for areas and communities where TV coverage is limited. Slots on AIR and other radio channels are being fixed to provide audio-based learning to children at home. Audio content of UNICEF and Gali Gali Sim Sim and other curated sources will be played on Akashvani.
Educational experts believe that the behavioural change towards self-learning through high-quality digital content, inculcated among children during the Covid-19 lockdown, and connecting parents and teachers through WhatsApp will go a long way in improving the learning outcomes of children in Uttar Pradesh. Other chief ministers can surely learn from the Adityanath government’s robust five-step plan to connect with students in their respective states during the lockdown.
Shantanu Gupta is the biographer of Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, titled The Monk Who Became Chief Minister. Views are personal.