The level of learning achievement among children remains a major area of concern as India’s schooling system still focuses on rote learning with little re-invention.
In 2008, the percentage of standard II level readers in government schools was 15% lower than children in private schools. By 2018, this gap widened to 21% on a national scale. The declining productivity of schools leads to a substantially smaller number of students learning to read basic text by the time they reach standard V every year.
Solution: STEM learning
Through strong partnerships with various state governments, Agastya International Foundation, along with corporate CSR departments, aims to inculcate a scientific habit among children by giving them access to hands-on learning and by training government school teachers in different experiential learning methodologies.
The STEM programme is targeted at children in classes 5−10. The idea is to enable such students to go through a learning method, transform them into ‘active learners’ who can apply scientific concepts already being taught through the regular NCERT school curriculum.
The first phase entails hands-on learning through observation and interaction, which is followed by a project-based ‘workshop mode’ to promote deeper questions and drive critical thinking, curiosity, and an analytical mind. Select students then move to the ‘explorer’ stage where they are encouraged to create models/experiments and participate in school-wide ‘Science Fairs’.
The next few steps push students to become a Young Instructor assisting the teacher, and eventually an innovator. All classes are tailored to facilitate active learning through simple, cost-effective scientific models, and peer-to-peer learning to boost confidence levels, communication and leadership skills among young students.
This is done through a delivery channel where new methods, lessons, models, and experiments are designed and developed in a 172 acre ‘Creativity lab’. Science centres in various states and cities/urban areas serve as ‘Hubs’ and ‘Mobile vans’ and ‘Labs on Motorbikes’ are used to disseminate knowledge to teachers and students in rural, semi-urban, and urban areas. Ideas are scaled up through teacher engagements in ‘Lab-in-a-box’, where models are used on a rotational basis to intensify learning in schools.
Agastya runs one of the largest hands-on science education programmes for teachers and children in the world with more than 200 Mobile Science Labs, 70 Science Centres and around 60 Lab on a bike / Tech La bike programmes in 19 Indian states.
From 2006−2012, Agastya began building a network of Science Centers throughout Karnataka and stationing mobile labs in communities far from any central hub, in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Meghalaya, and elsewhere.
Agastya’s programmes aim at sparking Curiosity (Aah!), Nurture Creativity (Aha!), and Instill Confidence (Ha-Ha!) and thus, bridging an important gap among educators and students. It encourages creativity, innovation, and a practical, scientific frame of mind that can drive innovators of the future.