Improving educational outcomes EkStep at a time

Students who hail from the slums are not interested in learning. This statement, although a sweeping generalisation, is unfortunately a complaint we hear too often from teachers at schools catering to low-income families. The teachers lament that giving these children homework, or any sort of post-school studies, turns out to be an exercise in futility.

Is it fair to conclude that the children are disinterested in learning based on incomplete home work? Research shows that 50% of children’s education is affected by the environment at home. Parents of most the students being considered here have little or no education, leaving them ill equipped to help with their kids’ home work. We believe that effective post-school learning can only be achieved when either or both of the parents are invested wholly in the child’s educational progress. We decided to put this to test.

The Pilot Design 

Technology was to play a major role in our experiment. We designed a one-month pilot that would involve teaching children English on a tab, using the Genie app provided by e-learning platform EkStep. The objectives of the experiment were to improve learning outcomes, use after-school hours profitably and increase parents’ investment in their children’s education.

We chose one of our partner schools, RM Education Society, a government-aided school in Bengaluru’s Goripalaya, for our experiment. Urdu is the medium of instruction 90% of the time in this school. The students are mostly first-generation learners and most parents are either illiterate or can read Urdu and very basic English.

Our plan was to load eight tabs with EkStep’s Genie app – that had instructional material designed by the Mantra4Change team – and have children learn from it in after-school sessions. About 24 children from third and fourth grades enroled for the session. They were divided into eight groups of three each. Each group was given one tab.

There were no issues with behaviour management during the classes as the students had voluntarily enroled for the pilot programme.

The children had to stay back an hour after school for three days in a week. Each group was guided by a parent of one of the kids. The app had alphabets, flashcards and small stories fed into it as we chose to test the effect on the children’s English learning outcomes. A survey was conducted before the experiment to understand the level of parents’ involvement in the children’s education. The kids’s competence in English was also evaluated before the pilot began.

During the Pilot

Over the month, we observed that the children’s enthusiasm rose perceptibly and many new students joined the study as well.  Also, since the students had voluntarily joined the pilot programme, there were no issues with behaviour management during the classes. They were seen to be completely engrossed in the contents on the app.

The sound-heavy nature of the instructional material helped the parents to get more involved in the children’s learning process.

The parents who were to monitor the children’s learning were first tutored on using the tab. This helped spark their interest in the experiment, which progressively increased as they witnessed their children picking up and using English words. The fact that the learning material was sound-heavy also seemed to help the parents- they no longer felt so overwhelmed by the written word.

Learning Outcomes Improve

At the end of the month, the results from the study were collated. The students showed a marked improvement in learning outcomes. Most students showed a mastery over alphabets, their knowledge of words showed improvement and an increase in the students’ English fluency was observed. Most satisfying of all was the keenness with which the students and parents attended the pilot, despite the inconvenience of attending it after regular school hours. It was heartening to see parents getting more and more invested in their children’s learning even after the pilot programme ended.

“I downloaded the App after the classes and am teaching my kid using the App now,” Mohsina Taj, one of the parents who was part of the pilot said. Technology had improved engagement of both the students and parents and sparked a willingness in them to learn independently.

To read more about the experiment, click here: EkStep_Goripalya Report

Now, every time we visit the school, we are flooded by requests from children, teachers and parents to conduct another session of the pilot programme as soon as possible. This interest and enthusiasm has got us thinking of expanding the project to include more students and parents in the community. After all, our experiment had met its objectives.

By Rafi MT & Anjali Nambiar, School Transformation Leads at Mantra4Change

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