From Director's Desk

 

The American India Foundation is committed to disrupting poverty, catalyzing social and economic change in India, and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development, with a particular emphasis on empowering girls and women to achieve gender equity.

With 70% of India’s one million public schools lacking basic computing technology, the country is facing significant challenges to prepare its youth for success in the 21st century global economy. We believe that education is the most powerful weapon to disrupt poverty which ultimately leads to social and economic change. AIF’s Digital Equalizer program (http://aif.org/investment-area/education) is an initiative for reforming public education which Utilizes technology to bridge the digital divide in India and transform under-resourced schools into dynamic places to teach and learn to create large-scale, sustainable impact in education.

While we all agree that times have changed dramatically, schools, barring a minority, continue to do what they know or are comfortable with. In spite of the much publicized dismal education reports, we believe that all is not lost and that there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel for the future through school teachers. What we need to do is seek out creative ideas for enhancing learning, clear actions and simple solutions. The Digital Equalizer (DE) Program strives to work with schools and governments to both design and deliver such solutions. DE is unique in that we train, support and enable teachers, head-teachers, school administrators to enhance the efficiency of the work they already do in schools. We don’t just train teachers but follow-up through classroom observations to provide feedback and achieve desired results.

The Digital Equalizer inspires students to take charge of their learning for life, become active constructors of knowledge and view the entire world around them as a rich resource. We aim to provide intellectual and value based education which would inculcate desirable traits like compassion, honesty, perseverance and sensitize them, enabling to grow up with a sense of responsibility and commitment along with academic excellence. DE aspires to prepare individuals who are confident, can make independent decisions and exhibit leadership qualities. DE envisions higher learning levels for all students and empowering teachers through an outcome-oriented system that sets measurable learning goals.

True professional development entails taking stock of what the teachers/ schools do in their current practice and diagnosing therefore what they need to do to ensure more effective and authentic learning for students and then training and supporting them to develop the appropriate competencies. Under DE program, we have introduced the DE Way of Teaching (DEWoT) – a simple but powerful way to deliver a lesson-plan to make the classroom transaction not just engaging but effective. The DEWoT stands on the pillars of Student Engagement, Technology Integration NOT Technology Education, Project Based Learning and Reflections and allows tremendous freedom and flexibility to teachers to design and deliver solutions suiting to her/his needs.

Alongside the Program targets bottom 20% students in each of the schools and the focus is to improve the involvement, confidence and learning outcomes of these students. The DE team has a challenging task of delivering through a Minimum Guarantee Approach which ensures that both the government and donors investing in the program are getting the value for the dollars. It goes without saying that tremendous support would be required from the government in making this a reality. In addition, Technology Enabled Financial Education in Schools (TEFES) and SwachhVidyalaya initiative has also been rolled out in states where the DE Program is running as well as delivering high quality content to demystify the myths especially for Science, Math and Social Science subjects.

A quintessential feature of last years was recognizing the efforts of DE teachers through Schools and Teachers Innovating for Results (STiR) partnership which helped in getting Roehampton Certificates to teachers shortlisted across 7 states. This partnership helped in identifying the “bright-spots” from the DE cohort of teachers and we would be continuing our efforts this year as well with more intensity in the states like Punjab and Haryana.

With so many corporates like Dell, Citi, Oracle, Tata Sponge, CAMS, AMAT supporting the new ideas and innovations under DE, a very interesting and exciting year is on the anvil, and only way to delight the stakeholders/ beneficiaries is to focus on high quality execution through a dedicated, capable and passionate team members.