“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.