IndiaEDU to offer Indian schools access to technology

Credit: Thomas Hofman/Photo Staff Credit: Thomas Hofman/Photo Staff

IndiaEdu is a new Carnegie Mellon student organization that was formed this semester to take innovative steps toward ending educational inequity in India. Its founders aim to supplement the curriculum of underprivileged grade schools in Indian slums with videos of age-appropriate lessons taught by Carnegie Mellon faculty. IndiaEdu’s other main goal is to provide Indian schools with the technology that is necessary for presenting the learning modules.

According to the website of Teach for India — the Indian equivalent of Teach for America — currently 40 percent of India's population is illiterate, and “more than one in three children who begin primary school will drop out before reaching fifth grade.”

“Education is how you bring up a generation that shapes the future of a country,” said Abeer Agrawal, a junior electrical and computer engineering major and vice president of IndiaEdu. “Schools in India don’t have enough teachers and don’t have enough money to teach people properly, so we hope to just make some small contribution and help a few people.”

The Carnegie Mellon students in IndiaEdu have chosen to help two particular grade schools in Malad, Mumbai: Umedbhai Patel English School and Divine Child High School. According to [SLANT12][SLANT12], the Umedbhai Patel English School hosts approximately 500 students in kindergarten through 10th grade in four classrooms. While the schools cannot currently afford computers with Internet access, IndiaEdu is taking steps to provide them with such amenities. “We want to take care of their IT requirements. They don’t have enough computers. They have no Internet,” said IndiaEdu President Dhruv Swaroop, a junior in mechanical engineering.

Physics professor Kunal Ghosh advises the budding student organization. Ghosh is the faculty advisor to many organizations, but he said he has had a lot of involvement with IndiaEdu because it is so new. “I’m their cheerleader,” Ghosh said. “Ten years down the road they will know that they tried to improve the lives of others. This will be remembered as a worthwhile experience at CMU.”

To date, the IndiaEdu students have recorded one presentation on the characteristics of light, intended for middle school-aged students and given by Carnegie Mellon professor of physics Leonard Kisslinger. The organization hopes to spur increased participation so that faculty from across campus can share their passions with the students in India and throughout the world.

“Some kids in remote India will remember this. These strangers wanted to help them. That will be transformative for them, also,” Ghosh said.

Before learning modules recorded on campus can reach students in India and elsewhere, however, Swaroop explained there are several intermediate steps that must be taken. In addition to the basic video editing process, subtitles and captions must be added to each of the videos. “Once we get the content up, anyone can view it because it’s all electronic. I hope that by the time I graduate, enough people would have heard about it, in India and elsewhere, that we would have a system working where professors can record videos for us and they go online instantaneously,” Swaroop said.

Despite challenges with technology that they will undoubtedly face, Ghosh believes that the IndiaEdu students’ efforts will be worthwhile. “No matter how busy we are, student or faculty, we must find a little niche in life to serve unselfishly, even complete strangers.... We have been blessed to have been given an opportunity to serve our world.”