Megshala Trust makes great use of public-private partnerships to address the problem of a lack of innovative teacher training methods and training resources that persists in India
Meghshala Trust came into existence in December of 2013 as Jyoti Thyagarajan, one of the founders, sat down with a group of educators. They all had one vision, and that was to educate children to build a better world. They recognised the fact that there was a lack of focused teacher training and high-quality teaching resources. This impacted low-income schools most of all and led this group to target their solution at these schools.
Most states across India currently follow traditional teaching models and teachers lack the tools to make learning effective. Meghshala sees the teacher as a leader and focuses on providing enough support in the classroom to make classroom learning successful. The classes are meant to move classroom activity from being lecture-based to becoming interactive and innovative. In this, the teacher plays the role of a facilitator who can guide the thinking of students and help them arrive at conceptual understanding. Meghshala's raison d'etre is its strong belief that education is not a set of facts to be learnt but a process of creating lifelong learners who think critically and are curious and innovative.
With a generous grant from Tata Trusts, Meghshala had funds to implement a change in the Karnataka Syllabus in 100 Schools. The initial two years were spent on research and soon, world-class content was created and curated by teachers from diverse backgrounds and rich experiences. 2,500 plus lessons fully aligned to the Karnataka State Board syllabus for grades one to eight in English and Kannada were rolled out. Meghshala's e-lessons contextualise world-class pedagogic practices into everyday classroom learning. The 40 minute, multilingual lessons are enriched with engrossing audio-visual content offering a multi-sensory experience for the learner. They are carefully designed to sensitise and inculcate important values such as gender equality, empathy and tolerance. They contain a variety of innovative teaching techniques, activities and videos that shifts the emphasis from merely recalling facts but also helps students to understand the process, think about applications, analyse data, evaluate answers and envision creative solutions to authentic real-life problems.
A fellowship and leadership programme was designed by Meghshala. This was to be a one-year programme for in-service government school teachers to help them inculcate world-class teaching methods and practices. However, the technology that was available at that time was the first hurdle. The teachers had to be trained extensively to use the hardware which was desktops running on non-Windows OS. Finally, rewards came in 2016 when Meghshala received the NITI Aayog Award for The Top 20 Social Innovations, an award in the National Contest on Social Innovation for its contribution to the field of education.
When in 2018, the Karnataka Government changed the curriculum from Karnataka State Board to NCERT for grades six and seven, Meghshala had, with support from the TATA Trust, already begun creating e-lessons for the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) curriculum. Thus, these lessons could be translated into Kannada in real-time for teachers to use. This made the SCERT in Karnataka sit up and take note.
A robust android-based mobile application, simple to use, allowing back-end monitoring and data evaluation was also developed. By August 2017, this application was made available on Google Play Store. It could be offered free of cost, online and offline apps with high-quality lessons for grades one to eight, with a multilingual interface. As a plus, while most Android applications require a high data network, these applications work even without the internet.
In June 2019, Meghshala was chosen to be a part of the first cohort of Gray Matters Capital's accelerator programme. GMC are the impact investors which introduced India's first accelerator programme that was focused on improving learning outcomes through better user engagement design of mobile apps. It participated in their accelerator programme, received mentorship and engaged in many customised workshops in the areas of behavioural design, mobile product strategy, monetisation and product optimisation.
In 2017-18, Meghshala collaborated with the Deshpande Foundation for an app-supported intervention in Kundgol, a rural block in Hubli district. Similarly, it collaborated with Lenovo India to try out a new model in 10 schools of Belagavi. To ensure last-mile connectivity, it collaborated with an innovation start-up, PiNut, to build micro-servers onto which the lessons could be uploaded. Meghshala went live on DIKSHA — The National Teachers' Platform — an MHRD initiative, making all the lessons available to teachers across the nation.
Meghshala has left its imprint in Northeast India as well. With Cisco's support, it engaged with the governments of Manipur, Sikkim and Meghalaya to customise the content for these states.
Meghshala currently has a total of more than 5,500 lessons. They are either mapped to the Karnataka State Board, or contextualised to the NE states, or written for the CBSE and the NCERT curriculum. The key initiative centres around contextualising and aligning curriculum to the local language of instructions. To engage more teachers in the process of content contextualisation and customisation, translation into the vernacular is encouraged. Teachers are provided with a base resource and a platform to translate the content into the regional language, enabling the user to own the content. This helps democratise education.
During COVID-19, Meghshala has been able to reach out to engage teachers with online training and video recording. These videos are uploaded onto the YouTube channel. They then become available to students, teachers and parents.
No stranger to the winds of change, Meghshala continues to pursue its vision. Among many plans to assist blended learning and online teaching, there are ideas for a collaborative content editing tool, augmented content, early childhood education, a student- facing app, higher education and skills and an international syllabus global open-source developer community. Most of all, the objective is to take the beautifully crafted NEP 2019 and operationalise it to reach the floor of every classroom of every school of every state.
Meghshala presents a great example of the Nexus of Good. The NGO, under the inspired leadership of Jyoti Thyagarajan and the sterling work of the team, has been able to demonstrate that quality of education can be improved through a variety of interventions. Such interventions can only be scaled through a public-private partnership.
Views expressed are personal