Rajasthan students learning with SMILE during lockdown – education

Every morning Lakhvindra Singh walks around 1FD village in Sriganganagar district in northern Rajasthan, announcing: “School ka samay ho gaya, sab video dekho (It’s time for school, everyone watch the video).” The 37-year-old government schoolteacher posted secondary school reminds the parents the video has landed in mobile phone of parents and that they should show it to their children.

In eastern Rajasthan’s Karauli district, around the same time, Rameshwar Bhairwa watches the video with his two children, in Class 1 and 9. The 38-year-old of Azizpur village says he learns with his children. “I am lucky to be part of my children’s education. The videos are so interesting that even I like to watch them,” he said.

Every morning at 9, videos land in 20,000 WhatsApp grounds across the state through which the education department delivers e-content for digital learning. The groups are named SMILE, acronym for department’s initiative called Social Media Interface for Learning Engagement.

“Education department has launched several initiatives to ensure continuous learning for all students through digital means in this crisis period. The department’s objective is to keep students engaged at home and to prevent learning gaps in this crisis period,” said Manju Rajpal, secretary of school education department.

SMILE programme is one of those initiatives. All students of Class 1 to 12 get 30-40 minutes of e-content at 9am in WhatsApp groups of their parents. “Children in 13 lakh households and 3.4 lakh teachers are connected with the programme through the WhatsApp groups,” Rajpal said.

Government teachers are mandated to call five parents or students every day to motivate the child to watch videos and clear any doubts that they may have in the e-content. “Teachers have a personal connect with their students and their calls will add immense value to our efforts in creating impact,” the secretary said. Many teachers, like Singh of Sriganganagar, go around the village to remind parents about the video every morning.

On Saturdays, there’s a quiz to test e-learning. Panchayat-level education officers (PEEO) have created two groups each; one is for parents and the second, for teachers. The e-content is reviewed by a team of experts at Rajasthan State Council of Education Research and Training (RSCERT), state’s academic body. The department’s digital library currently has over 500 videos and is publically available through the SMILE YouTube channel for any child to access.

Rajpal said the department has received more than 1,000 videos from teachers from every district across grades and competencies since the programme was launched on April 9 during the lockdown to prevent spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

For students who don’t have access to internet, the department has launched a radio programme called Shikshavani. This is a one-hour broadcast on 25 stations of All India Radio, which begins at 11am. “The content includes interesting stories and recordings on life-skills for children,” Rajpal said.

Education minister Govind Singh Dotasara held a video conference on Thursday to review the programmes. More than 4,000 officials of the department attended the review.

“We have received feedback from over 2.5 lakh parents, students and teachers on the e-content. 92% students and parents reported to like the material being sent and found it beneficial. 96% teachers reported to like the e-content,” the minister said after the meeting.

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