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.