January 2016 | Cynthia Rodrigues
Equity and excellence
Linking the Tata Trusts' initiatives in the education sector to improving the overall quality of life of the community has worked to the advantage of beneficiaries
The Tata Trusts approaches education through two ways: backing state-level initiatives in regions with challenging social development indicators and by supporting innovation through partnerships with NGOs.
|Students make digital story presentations as part of the Trusts’ Integrated Approach to Technology in Education|
Through the state initiatives, Tata Trusts endeavours to address the needs of the people of that region in order to achieve an improvement in the quality of life, and not just to address health or education or livelihood in silos.
The lack of significant and contextually appropriate early childhood literature, particularly in regional and tribal languages, convinced the Trusts of the need to develop such literature. Parag, an initiative of the Trust, is working with writers and illustrators to create literature, in multiple languages, that is better suited to the local context and milieu.
Tara Sabavala, associate director, Tata Trusts, says, “Children must have avenues to practise their understanding of a language. Stories provide that link between what a child learns in the classroom, and what the child can apply, in a manner that makes the learning fun and enjoyable. A child should not only read textbooks.”
Technology in education is another focus area. The Tata Trusts recognises the potential of technology in education and the need to go beyond making children digitally literate to using technology as a tool to enhance learning of concepts and subjects.
Ms Sabavala says, “Web-based technology allows the use of 3D, games and other devices that hold the interest of children and make them engage with the content. We are seeing these technology spaces more as learning labs than just computer classrooms.”
One of the biggest initiatives that it is about to launch is CLIx, Connected Learning Initiative. This initiative has been jointly designed and conceived by the Tata Trusts, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and will offer modules in local languages and English for subjects such as mathematics, science and English for students of grades 8, 9 and 11 in government schools in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana.
The Trusts has signed on a number of subject experts to provide the content for the initiative, while MIT will bring in the technology that will help improve learning levels. The material will be made available in the form of open source material which will be freely available for anyone to access. It will also be made available to government schools in the four states that have signed on in the initial phase.
The Tata Trusts recently announced its collaborative venture with US-based non-profit Khan Academy to provide free online education through one of the biggest open-access online platforms.
Another key element of the Tata Trusts’ focus on education is teacher training. Recognising that the quality of education is directly proportional to the quality of the teacher, the Tata Trusts is keen to address the issue of training teachers as also of the training curriculum. It has set up a core committee comprising well-known educationists to put forward a strategy on how teacher education should be addressed.
|Teachers learn to make and use flashcards to ensure effective learning|
The Tata Trusts is also committed to tribal education, a crucial element in the cause of the uplift of tribals. Tribal education suffers on account of language issues. Tribal children are enrolled either in ashramshalas (local residential schools) or government schools, where their education is hindered as the medium of instruction is different from their mother tongue.
The Tata Trusts is working to encourage multilingual education and ensure the availability of multilingual teachers to help tribal children transition from the home language to the state language. Currently, the Trusts is working on a pilot in Maharashtra and Odisha. It is also committed to addressing the issue of child protection to ensure that children are not subjected to abuse.
Within the area of madrasa education, the Trusts works with Vikramshila and Azad India Foundation (AIF), besides Nalanda. AIF conducts remedial classes to bring the learning level of madrasa children in Bihar up to the levels expected in formal schools. Vikramshila, working in West Bengal, seeks to integrate the deeni (religious) and dunyavi (secular) elements of madrasa education, another programme designed by Tata Trusts.
Dr Amina Charania, senior programme officer with the Trusts, who has trained the madrasa maulvis on the pedagogy of this programme, says, “The aim is to connect science, maths and social sciences with knowledge about Islam. The activities include children mapping India and Arabia on the world map, studying the geometric shapes prevalent in Islamic architecture and research on Muslim scientists, etc.”
The Trusts works with Samaritan Help Mission in Tikiapada slum in Howrah; SAHER in Mumbai slums; Azad Siksha Kendra in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh; and Digital Empowerment Foundation in Nagaon, in Assam, on using Integrated Approach to Technology in Education in madrasas.
The Trusts also seeks to build alliances with government bodies, such as the Ministry of Minority Affairs and state education boards, to influence policy and legislation towards modernising education processes in non-mainstream institutions that touch a large number of children.
|This article is part of the cover story about the Tata Trusts featured in the January 2016 issue of Tata Review:|
The Tata Trusts has — through integration, use of technology, advocacy, partnerships and more — set course for a renewal aimed at deepening the impact of its numerous charity endeavours
|'The Tata Trusts will have to keep renewing itself'
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Trusts, talks about the trusts' evolving philanthropic approach, future growth and priority issues facing India
|A flavoured solution
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|Food way forward
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|Net gains are cooking
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|In search of that creative edge
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|Schooled for uplift
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|Harvesting hopes, reaping rewards
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|Building the future, brick by brick
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|An urban variant of a rural malaise
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|Going against the flow
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A project in Kutch in Gujarat is, with a push from the Tata Trusts, working to revitalise the folk music tradition of the region by creating new opportunities for musicians practicing the craft
|A canvas widened
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