Smart talk plans

NGO Bal Utsav has big plans for government schools in Tamil Nadu, starting with a ‘smart’ facelift for 400o- Edexlive

About 400 public schools in Tamil Nadu are soon to get a makeover with Bal Utsav, an education-based NGO, announcing its foray into the state. The NGO is set to provide internet-powered classrooms in schools across South India, through its flagship program – iShaala.

Bal Utsav partners with content providers and EdTech companies to make age-appropriate content available and to enable blended learning for students. This content can be accessed through children’s personal devices, their parent/guardian’s devices, or even smart TVs and tabs provided to teachers.

iShaalas are model schools designed for government school children that are innovative, inclusive, interactive and most importantly, internet powered. To begin in the state, the program will be implemented at the Government Model Higher Secondary School in Saidapet.

“This has already been implemented in over 200 schools in Karnataka and the project is now being extended to Telangana and Tamil Nadu. The program focuses on four key areas: school infrastructure (internet connectivity, smart TVs and EdTech content), WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), teacher development (upgrading) and scholarships for students,” explained Bal Utsav co-founder Ramesh Balasundaram.

Over the next three years, he adds, the plan is to implement iShaala in at least 75 public schools within a 200 kilometer radius of Chennai.

“According to the recent Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 70.3% of Indian children are enrolled in public schools in 2021. But only 18% of public schools in Tamil Nadu have internet facilities. There is an urgent need to make these institutions ‘smart’ and ‘internet-connected’ to allow them to operate at their highest level of efficiency,” said Binu Verma, co-founder of the NGO.

It is important to have model schools to stop the trend of failing public schools and revitalize them, she added.

Notably, the state government is actively promoting the implementation of smart classrooms and training students and teachers to adapt to this new way of learning. This initiative could further fuel digital learning and equip schools with pre-loaded educational content on smart TVs. It aims to give teachers equipped with tablets the means to provide online lessons, in the event of new confinement.