Exploring access to education…

“We sit in groups, work collaboratively, share our ideas, ask lots of questions and are encouraged to think. Is school the same in India?”

The question is asked by Taylor, 12, in an interview (via Skype) with Bhushan, who I met on my recent trip to Pune. He has promised to write me a guest post some time, so I won’t tell you his story now. Suffice to say he is one of a group of inspiring young people who wanted to make a difference and started their own NGO, Samhida, working with under-privileged children.

Taylor and Jay are members of a small group of Year 6 students exploring access to education for their PYP unit about social inequity. They chose to inquire into education in developing countries and are in the process of researching and gathering information via primary and secondary sources. They are keen to hear about Bhushan’s own school experience, and are interested in comparing rural areas with city schools, finding out about education for males vs females and opportunities for children living in poverty.

Bhushan describes classrooms in India which typically have 50-60 students in a class with one teacher, making group work unlikely, if not impossible. He tells them kids sit in lines facing the front while the teacher does the talking, that the focus is on writing and maths and that high exam results are viewed as the ultimate goal. The children are fascinated to hear that girls and boys sit separately in class and that, while there might be access to computers, this does not usually include the internet.

He tells them he was first exposed to the internet only when he finished school and began studying engineering and talks about the SOLE  project which gives disadvantaged students access to computers and the internet. (If only the project had more funding to enable greater access!) He, and his friends who work in IT, have set up some old computers, SOLE style, in Yeoli village, outside Pune, and go there every weekend to teach and play with the children.

Taylor, Jay and co. are looking forward to interviewing educators in several other countries in the next few weeks. If you’re in a developing country and would like to respond to their Voicethread, you can find it here on their class blog.


3 thoughts on “Exploring access to education…

  1. It is kind of fascinating how much we take advantage of the technology available at our fingertips. I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I know that I get frustrated all of the time at the amount of homework that is only available online, online classes, and the general amount of work that must be done staring at a computer screen hours at a time. In fact, I was assigned to comment on your blog (but also because I think your outlook and ideas are fascinating), and will be posting summaries, along with a copy of my comments on September 11 to my blog. However, it is difficult to imagine no internet access and few resources for learning.
    I aspire to be a teacher, and I think what your students are doing truly defines learning. Facts and information are only remembered for so long, but a worldly perspective and an understanding of people on the other side of the Earth, just like ourselves, are matters that can be remembered forever. It is also refreshing to see such great people helping others and serving the world, like your friend Bhushan. We often forget that such great things really are not beyond our reach.


  2. What an engaging project! Linking different cultural experiences to a shared experience provides a spectacular way to investigate a topic or concept. I can see your students thinking about their school world and posing questions that opened the dialogue to enable reflection and deep learning. I see this as an example of Piaget’s view about the value of building on prior knowledge.

    In my own work as a publisher, I have always found it valuable to have a strong starting point for new research. Rather than confining the research, my contextual knowledge points me to a line of questioning that enriches the conversation and promotes my reflection and learning.


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