In classes at general public primary schools in India, teachers carry out explanations in line with what is written in textbooks, and children write down explanations and solve problems. There are no supplementary materials or tools for children to have hands-on experience or to engage in experiments about the subjects discussed in the classes, and lessons tend to be given one-sidedly by the teachers.
In this program intended to create classes in which children can enjoy learning, we deem it important to provide them with pleasant hands-on experience as well as digital materials so that they can use them to understand what they have learned even more deeply. To this end, since last year we have been working to understand the needs of both teachers and children, and have prepared “touch and learn” materials to measure the effects of using such materials in classes. Thus, under this program, children are given opportunities to have hands-on experience in the pilot classes provided by teachers in an inventive manner.
Following the occurrence of an earthquake in Nepal in April, fifth graders in Delhi had a pilot class to learn about earthquakes. Digital images explaining the earthquake mechanism were projected onto a screen, and the teacher briefed the students on some of the images, making some of them display on the screen longer using a remote-controlled projector. The teacher also walked around the classroom asking the children questions. Further, children learned what to do in the event of an earthquake through a role-playing game and other hands-on experiences.
As another example, in a class held for fourth graders to learn about the importance of water and the water circulation mechanism, children learned through digital materials how water drops as rain from clouds, how rainwater flows into rivers and then to the sea, and how seawater evaporates into clouds. Children also made a model for water circulation to deepen their understanding of the mechanism. Additionally, the children were divided into groups for an experiment on water purification using PET bottles.
By repeating these pilot classes, teachers were gradually able to learn how they can foster dialogue with children and give them more hands-on experience by making effective use of digital images and other visual materials in the classes. As one example of the effects brought about by this initiative, children experienced an increased ability to think deeply, and began asking more questions as well.
The pilot classes held in India’s three states are attracting much attention from the educational agencies of state governments and are highly evaluated as providing opportunities for teachers to learn how to teach children in an easy-to-understand manner, rather than simply giving lessons, which will in turn promote interactive communication between teachers and children and make the classes more effective.
In order to make the classes even more impactful, we will continue to develop “touch and learn” materials and digital teaching materials in cooperation with teachers and related governmental agencies, and in consideration of the onsite needs at the schools.
A teacher explaining about the earthquake mechanism through the use of images
Model for water circulation made by children
Experiment on water purification made by using PET bottles
Children proactively answering the teacher’s questions
Since September 2014, we have been conducting participatory classes on Environmental Studies on a trial basis at some primary schools in Delhi, Telangana (formerly part of Andhra Pradesh), as well as Bihar. These classes are provided based on lesson plans formulated jointly by the local District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) and fourth and fifth grade teachers. In the classes, children learn through a hands-on approach using materials that they can actually touch in addition to viewing digital materials projected onto a screen.
In order to confirm the results of the pilot classes, we conducted opinion surveys targeting participating teachers and children. The following are the results of the survey conducted in Delhi. To the question, “What is your favorite subject?,” 12% of the children in the fifth grade replied “Environmental Studies” before the launch of the pilot classes. In the results from a survey conducted after the pilot classes, however, as many as 36% of respondents answered “Environmental Studies, making the subject the most popular, followed by Hindi, which had been the most popular subject until then. Also, the percentage of children who evaluated the classes as being “Quite enjoyable” from among five possible choices increased from 39% to 67% among fourth graders and from 33% to 74% among fifth graders. Moreover, tests conducted before and after the pilot classes showed conclusively that the classes contributed to increasing the comprehension level of both fourth and fifth graders in all course units.
Also, the percentage of teachers who rated the pleasure of teaching as “Quite enjoyable” from among five possible choices increased from 55% to 80%. Comments made by the teachers included “Providing children with interactive classes has helped me to foster daily communication with them and encourage them to talk more about various topics” not only in classes but also in school life as a whole. These survey results demonstrate that the classes have a positive impact not only on children’s education but also on their overall school life.
In a school in Bihar, an exhibition demonstrating the results of the pilot classes was planned and held under the leadership of the children themselves. The purposes of holding this exhibition were for children to (1) re-recognize the roles played by science in the fields of agriculture, climate change, clean energy and ICT based on their understanding of the deep relationship between science and their lives and (2) think about how to solve a range of problems to create a sustainable society.
In the exhibition held on February 19, in addition to children and teachers, members of the school management committee, PTA and the DIET also participated. Children chose particularly interesting topics from among themes taught in the Environmental Studies classes, and presented their research results and work on the selected themes, including the growth cycle of agricultural products, water circulation, the solar system, anatomical models, and cooking equipment driven by solar energy. Moreover, at the exhibition, children listened to experts and exchanged opinions to learn from each other. The exhibition was covered by a local newspaper as well.
Children being interviewed in the survey
Children taking tests to check their comprehension level
The exhibition held in Bihar
Local newspaper in which the exhibition was introduced