Asha

Rural Technology Center

Asha for Education, Chennai has formed a partnership
with Pravartak (subsidiary of IIT Madras)
to establish 3 Rural Technology Centers in Thiruvallur District.
We hope to expand these to many more centres over time.

Problem

Technology affects almost every aspect of life in today’s world. Access to healthcare, paying for services, information about farming, traveling using maps are all made easier with technology. However, access to quality technical education is sadly lacking in our villages in India, since the personal technical resources are expensive and there is a dearth of technical skills in these villages to impart knowledge. The current computer science curriculum in high schools is too broad and the impetus to complete the curriculum creates an environment where the ability for the student to understand the material and use it effectively is sacrificed.

Solution

Asha has been working with elementary and middle schools since 2015 to educate students in both digital literacy and computational thinking. Asha has used advanced block based programming tools like Scratch from MIT and Blockly from Google to teach programming. These tools are so easy to use that the middle school students have both mastered these in a few short weeks and shown tremendous enthusiasm in learning. Asha expects to build on this expertise by using proven methodologies like the curriculum from code.org that have been used and tested in other countries successfully. We also intend to use IIT’s experience and expertise in quality technical education.

Plans

Asha’s program will consist of three parallel strategies.

#1

Asha will partner with higher secondary schools in the villages near the centres and help the schools with their curriculum with emphasis on hands-on learning and project based activities.

#2

Asha through its technology centers will offer a more comprehensive curriculum introducing computers, programming with simple tools, programmatically control hardware devices like sensors and controller and provide insight into latest technologies.

#3

In addition to these, the centres will also be a digital library where children of all ages can come and play educational games, and gain experience with new technologies.

#1: In the government schools Asha teachers will teach introductory digital literacy and programming to children in classes 9 and 10. This will be continued for non-computer science students in the 11th and 12th std. For students taking Computer Science or Computer Applications in their 11th and 12th std, the current syllabus is very demanding and the schools tend to focus more on theory and less on practical implementations so they can get through all the materials within the given time. Unfortunately, when it comes to actual programming or project work, the children are left with no experience. Asha will focus on providing support to the children to learn actual programming with computers and execute projects using that knowledge.

#2: The Rural Technology Center will be located in the same villages. Here too we will offer courses to 9th to 12th standard students. The goal of these centers is to make the children comfortable with the use of technology by providing both digital literacy skills and computational thinking skills. Our foundational coursework will follow the guideline provided by internationally acclaimed code.org curriculum. We will enhance this with additional courses on programming hardware devices like IoT and sensors using microcontrollers like Raspberry PI and Arduino Boards. We will also provide introductory courses on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Virtual Reality and so on.

#3: At times when courses are not going on in the centres, they will serve as a digital library. Children can come there and play educational games, and use the computers in any other way with the supervision of the centre teachers. Asha will also acquire cool tools and provide them in labs to stoke the curiosity in young minds. Tools will include 3D printers, small robots that can be programmed and drones that can be used for multiple purposes. We hope to create a generation of digitally literate people in these areas.