Team Members: Shoghi Bagul, Anmol Anubhai
My Role: Conducted interviews with local municipal school teachers and 'Teach for India' fellows. Involved in ethnographic research of local schools.
Mentor: Prof. Tapan Parikh, Cornell Tech, USA (earlier at School of Information, UC Berkeley)
How might we help 'Teach For India' fellows and local municipal school teachers resolve their questions, discuss problems and share stories easily?
Making quality primary education accessible for all, including kids from low income backgrounds is crucial for any society to evolve. In India, kids from low income families attend municipal schools where quality and attendance need attention. We conducted ethnographic research of multiple local schools and child help centers in Ahmedabad, India. We interviewed 'Teach for India' fellows as well. We realized that one of the major hurdles that teachers face while teaching in municipal schools is an unfortunate scarcity of resources and guidance. If they face a problem while interacting with a child then they have nowhere to go to. Thus there is a need to provide assistive guidance to municipal school teachers.
Teach For India (TFI) is an organization dedicated to the improvement of education quality and reach for children from low-income families with a goal to work towards education equity. Their model and methodology are impressive. They recruit extremely well educated/qualified TFI fellows to commit two full-time years to teach primary kids in such under-resourced schools. This would improve education and also inspire the other municipal school teachers present there (the ripple effect).
User Research and Key Insights
Towards our aim, we decided to first interview TFI fellows in order to understand details of the problem. To start with, we interviewed TFI fellows at “Shwaas” NGO. We conducted ethnographic research by attending a number of their sessions and observing the problems that they faced while teaching. After interviewing them, we interviewed the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) education officer who helped us realize that instead of first targeting the municipal school teachers, who lack in motivation, we should begin with the TFI fellows who are a strong inspiration to the municipal school teachers. The TFI fellows are very well educated. Based on our interviews, we realized that they needed less help with general subjects and needed more assistance/guidance while handling certain psychological issues that the children faced.
From our interviews we learnt that a large number of children from low-income slum areas face difficult situations at home and witnessed alcohol abuse, domestic violence and many other social evils. Thus, we decided to focus on psychological issues that these children face and try to find ways, using creative teaching methods, through which they can be educated in spite of such issues. We made two pools of students. One pool consisted of primary children who might suffer from disorders like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) while the other pool consisted of teenagers who might suffer from depression, peer pressure etc. Also instead of directly helping such students using an active line we thought we should start by educating teachers and parents through a passive line first. We met a leading Psychiatrist in Ahmedabad and learnt about ADHD. After this, we studied ADHD in detail.
Design Solution and Iteration
We finally came up with a short and fun model script on ADHD. The script, recorded at Drishtee, an organization using communication and the arts for social development, described the symptoms to identify ADHD and teaching methods for ADHD-affected kids through a skit narrative.
For feedback we then met another TFI fellow who worked closely with kids dealing with psychological disorders. She alerted us that our script should never directly use the word “ADHD” or for that matter any disorder’s name. She said that this encouraged teachers to label the children based on their disorder and these labels did far more harm to a child’s psyche than the disorder itself. Hence we re-designed the scripts based on this extremely crucial feedback. We then conducted pilot tests using these recorded scripts for teacher’s training modules.
The teacher’s training module would give teachers a mobile based virtual counsellor cum discussion forum thus ensuring maximum reach in view of the unavailability of internet in a large number of rural areas in India.