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Rote no more: Hands-on approaches infuse freshness to education
Sunday February 22, 2015 2:43 PM, Shweta Sharma, IANS

Rote learning techniques have long-plagued the Indian education system, where even "science is taught like history".

Infusing freshness into a system where earning maximum grades takes priority over understanding, experts have come up with solutions like teaching mathematics through video games - allowing students to go beyond the obvious.

"In our classrooms, science is taught like history - students are 'told' about the concepts but don't get to explore, experience or challenge! Our labs encourage children to find and verify what is written in the book rather than explore and challenge concepts," Rakesh Kumar, founder, Experifun, told IANS.

Started in 2012, Experifun designs and develops curriculum-based affordable, innovative and exploratory products for exploring in-classroom science concepts.

They allow students and teachers conduct innovative science experiments and activities. The offering contains various kits covering the entire gamut of science for curricula like Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), Cambridge, International Baccalaureates and state boards.

Agreed Priyadeep Sinha, founder, Gyan Lab - a start-up working in the K-12 (Kg-Class 12) education space striving for fun in learning - said education today needs to be more "application-based".

"What we deeply need to realize and understand is that a 90 percent in exams should not be the ultimate goal of learning since, in the real world, if you cannot apply what you have learnt, you lose out to others who may not have scored better but can apply knowledge better. And to bring about a change in how education happens in this country, we need to realize that a child, not a teacher, should be at the centre of the learning process in a classroom," Sinha told IANS.

According to the India Labour Report 2007 by TeamLease Services staffing company, 90 percent of employment opportunities require vocational skills but 90 percent of our colleges and schools output has bookish knowledge and that 57 percent of India's youth suffer from some degree of unemployability.

The report also said that "the present education system focuses on knowledge and rote-based learning, rather than on developing broad abilities of application. While there have been numerous government committees set up that have recommended changes in the course content and examination pattern, little has been done to transform the system."

"There should be a 'hands on' approach that is geared more towards problem solving rather than on 'memorizing without understanding'," it said.

Gyan Lab and Experifun are not the only initiatives that intend to engage students with education, encouraging them to apply their understanding to better use.

There are others like Nayi Disha, which builds educational-based computer games for preschool children and ThinkLABS, which instills a scientific temper in school students through innovative programmes and prepares college students for careers in embedded systems and robotics.

"We are using Experifun science kits in our school for past one year. Interest levels and conceptual understanding of students in science subject have improved as they can relate the concepts in the book with application in the real," Manish Kumar, founder and country director, Seed Schools, Hyderabad, told IANS.

So, what do Nayi Disha games teach?

"All our games are centred around baby alien Kaju, and the world around him. Each game starts with a visually rich story, where Kaju comes across something peculiar, gets into trouble, or has to help somebody out. As humans, we forget theories and formulas, but stories are something we latch on to. Starting out with a story really builds a bridge between the child and the concepts she is learning," Nayi Disha Studios co-founder Kartik Aneja told IANS.

He added that once the story is played, children have to help Kaju achieve a particular set of tasks through physical movements.

"No keyboard or mouse is used by the children. They jump, clap, flap, jiggle and wiggle to solve learning problems. Our games cover topics in math, languages and general knowledge (which includes science)," he said.

Shivangi Gaur, a parent, said that children prefer activities that keep them engaged while also help them learn new concepts.

"Such initiatives are needed as they keep students engaged and help them understand concepts better. A lot of times, I rely on platforms like YouTube to add extra audio-visual touch while teaching my child. And to my surprise, he then understands it better," Gaur said.

(Shweta Sharma can be contacted at shweta.s@ians.in)




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