written by Dr. Martin Kasper, President of Childaid Network
The public schools in our project areas are not known for good learning environment. They consist of rows of cubes, usually too small for the 50-70 students per class. It’s dark inside. If the monsoon rains drumming on the tin roof or the class next door complains to the teacher, communication is difficult. In the sun, the rooms could also serve as a sauna. On the muddy school areas you rarely find a climbing device.
Unfortunately, the lessons are similarly dull. The teaching material is limited to a small blackboard and white chalk. The teacher has no books, no globe, and no devices other than his cell phone. There is hardly any group work, usually only frontal teaching. It is no surprise then that almost all students don’t pass the state final exams after class 10 is no surprise.
During my project visit in March 2017, I was able to experience a contrasting program. I accompanied Sunil, the board of our new partner “the ant”, and his teams to the villages. In a small van, they move from school to school – in their luggage carefully assembled training cases with everything you need for a lively science education. This time they had unpacked the chemistry box “Basis”. For each student it contains amongst other things a test tube, a thermometer and a grasping forceps. Small groups share a gas burner. This became an interactive lesson, in which everyone was able to playfully learn and understand the topics of energy supply, physical states and measuring processes in a literal sense.
Even more exciting was the “Science Fair”. Mixed student groups of all ages presented their homemade machines. A vacuum cleaner was created for example from a plastic bottle, a piece of tubing and a battery-powered paper ventilator. The hydraulics of an excavator were successfully simulated with syringes and simple hoses. The structure of the digestive system was not only visual, but was also demonstrated in its functions. That was learning for life – often funny and definitely memorable for everyone.
In the jointly conceived project “the ant” now improves the quality of 24 elementary schools on our behalf through regular visits in the next two to three school years. The learning outcomes of the students become measurably better. This succeeds because the teachers are encouraged and enabled to have a student-centered and varied teaching. The training kits only need to be bought once. The units are then designed so that consumables can be purchased for a few cents. This will allow the next generation of students to benefit from the equipment.
Enjoyment of learning has a lasting effect – we experience this in all 200 pilot schools, which we managed with different partners and similar concepts in 2016. The initial successes are so encouraging that we want to further expand these projects.