Nat Geo Explorer Education Program

March 27, 2013

A member of National Geographic Explorer Education Program conducted a presentation at HBCSE a couple of days ago.  As we know the photo, video quality of Nat Geo has always been a visual treat to us. They are now exploring into the education arena with so called state-of-the-art technology.  After the seminar, during the discussion, I made quite a lot of observations and raised some concerns as well. I thought of discussing here also.

I thought, in order to create a direct impact of the life with its environment, the appropriate context needs to be defined. Although the content was encompassing the world’s geography, to me, it does not make sense if I am not aware of the geography, the life, the environment of my own surroundings, and neighbors. I recalled that in our education system, giving Western names were being criticized and it was emphasized to give names that convey about the Indian context. I thought NGX education program is repeating the same old method.

Again talking about the context, the photos of classroom learning, were shots of  Western people. And it was being contrasted with  the lack of facilities in education which were shots of poor, tribal people with ‘look of hope’ photographs.  I did not understand why do they still hold such prejudice.  (On a side note: I recalled the scene in Munnabhai MBBS, where a tourist wants to see India and he mentions that he wants to see the crying people, sad people. To which ‘circuit’ slams him by saying that all you tourist want to portray is a bad picture of India, don’t you ever see good things of India like, Taj Mahal, etc.).

My concern, was that since the program is packaged with a subscription which can also allow online content, seems to cater to elite schools in India. But the country has a huge number of govt. schools, where there are huge number of first generation learners, let alone English speaking learners, I doubt how the program could cater to such situations. The program seems to be compliant with the smartboard method of teaching. But it does not cater to a traditional chalk and talk classroom teaching which is still being practiced in many schools in the country.

Access to teacher’s handbook is mandatory, but this is possible only after subscribing with a fee. That leaves with no option for a teacher to explore the content. I also could not get a satisfactory answer when I asked whether the content was in public domain.

The presenter made a remark, that NGX education provides knowledge, and quoted KBC’s promo ‘Gyaan hi Sabkuch hai’. To me, this kinda knowledge presented is fact-based knowledge. From the presentation, there was no hint that learning can be activity based. The program is a visual treat of photos, videos, simulations, with text. However it lacks activities. When I raised this issue, the presenter mentioned that there are activities, but it needs to be done under the supervision of teachers.  Above all the presenter also asked whether the Indian textbook provides scope for activities. Immediately I clarified that the science textbooks in the country are activity based which is a direct influence of the policy document NCF 2005.

Anyways, I am still skeptical that such a program could provide support to science learning in the country’s govt. schools, given that a large number of learners are first generation learners, native language speakers, uses traditional chalk and talk method of teaching. Let me further state, that even with such situations, I think, we are certainly doing quite well.


shastralay – vai

November 9, 2009

last weekend (7-8 nov.2009) i visited the experimental school – shastralay located in vai (satara district). a visit which i was looking forward to (see my earlier post). i clubbed my trip with prof. h.c.pradhan who was visiting the school in connection with a meeting. he is on the academic advisory board of the school. we started at 6:00 am from hbcse and reached vai at about 10:30 am. the school is called shastralay.

the shastralay, funded by the kirloskars, is being run by ramesh panse, who has also been involved in setting up the gram mangal in aine. there were other people from various organisations, teachers of shastralay gathered for the meeting. before the meeting could begin, prachi natu took all of us on a tour of each subject lab to show and explain about the setup, teaching methods, students’ activities, etc. at this stage the school is upto 5th std.

after about an hour long tour of each labs, the meeting commenced. panse explained the working principles behind the school, their approach towards learning by doing science, reflection on the initial stages of setup, and planning for further developments. h.c.pradhan gave very valuable suggestions towards shaping up and enhancing the experimental school from pedagogical point of view.

then we had a fantastic lunch break. the lunch was typical of the region–bajara bhakri topped with loni, gajarachi koshimbir, thecha, karlyachi chatni, bhaji, dahi. although the bhaji was spicy, we all enjoyed and were content with the lunch.

the post lunch session was continuation of the meeting, where the teachers shared their experiences and was more of an interactive sessions. i also shared my inputs which have been received positively.

my experiences — personally it was very exciting visit about getting to know about shastralay. i wanted to get a glimpse about what happens at the grassroot level when it comes to education and how it is being practically implemented.

overall it was a very enriching experience for me and travelling on a field trip was fun.

experimental school

October 24, 2009

it began with a discussion over the breakfast table. prerna walimbe and myself were just sharing about our work and interests. prerna from gram mangal mentioned me about the shashtralay, an experimental school in vai, satara district, where they emphasize on learning by doing. infrastructure is developed and they are hunting for people with content expertise. the school is developing subject labs for learning sciences. i found it interesting, and i mentioned that a few years back i visited an experimental school in aine – gram mangal, which is also developed on similar principles. prerna mentioned that they are following on it, and she insisted that i should pay a visit to know more. i was very much interested and was curious to observe such school.

looking forward to visit vai on 7th nov. 2009.