CHENNAI: Around 400 government schools in Tamil Nadu will soon get a ‘smart’ facelift with Bal Utsav, an education based NGO, announcing its foray into the State. The NGO is set to provide internet-powered classrooms in schools across South India, through their flagship programme iShaala.
Bal Utsav partners with content providers, ed-tech firms, to make age-appropriate content available, and to enable blended learning for students. This content can be accessed either through children’s personal devices, their parents devices or Smart TVs and tabs given to teachers.
iShaalas are model schools designed for government schools children, that are innovative, inclusive, interactive and most importantly, internet- powered. As a start in the State, the programme will be implemented at the Government Model Higher Secondary School in Saidapet.
“This was earlier implemented in over 200 schools in Karnataka and the project is now being extended to Telangana and Tamil Nadu. The programme focuses on four key areas: school infrastructure (internet connectivity, smart TVs and ed-tech content), WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), teacher development (upskilling) and scholarships for students,” explained co-founder of Bal Utsav, Ramesh Balasundaram. Within the next three years, he adds, the plan is to implement iShaala in at least 75 government schools within 200-kilometre radius of Chennai.
“According to the recent Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 70.3% of children in India are enrolled in government schools in 2021. But, only 18% of government schools in TN have internet facilities. There is a need to make these institutions ‘smart’ and ‘internet connected’ to enable them to operate at their highest level of efficiency,” said Binu Verma, cofounder of the NGO. It is important to have model schools to arrest the trend of ailing public schools, she added.
Notably, the State government is actively promoting the setting up of smart classrooms and training of students and teachers to adapt to this new mode of learning. This initiative may further fuel digital learning and equip schools with Smart TVs preloaded educational content. It aims to empower teachers with tablets to conduct classes online, in case of another lockdown.