Technology has transformed our lives in many ways. It is also responsible for taking education from brick-and-mortar classrooms to virtual classrooms. Today, internet has opened doors of opportunity for students with better reach as well as covering an ever-widening range of subjects.
But one might assume that schools need to splurge a lot of money to afford eLearning solutions. And busting this myth is CLT India, which is based in Bengaluru. CLT, which stands for Children’s Lovecastles Trust, aims to use low-cost technology to serve the underserved students across India.
Founded by Bhagya Rangachar in 1997, CLT India’s target group is schools, tutors, students, as well as teachers teaching classes five to ten. The not-for-profit organisation designs low-cost digital STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) content for students in regional languages to help them learn better.
Today, CLT’s e-Patashale (smart classrooms) has positively impacted one million students, 30,000 teachers, and 10,000 classrooms in marginalised communities, says Bhagya.
Solving problem in education sector
Before setting up CLT India, Bhagya worked in the US, and comes with an IT background. She says, she found her calling when she visited India two decades ago, and saw the lack of opportunities available to students in rural Karnataka.
Initially, CLT India started in 1998 by setting up a school lunch programme in 10 villages for daily-wage labourer kids in Karnataka. Bhagya says, unless children are physically healthy, their ability to have good concentration, attention span, and regular school attendance is a challenge.
However, after the Karnataka government started its mid-day meals programme, CLT shifted its focus to improve the quality of education for underprivileged children.
Speaking about the need for improvement in the education sector, Bhagya tells YourStory:
“There is a shortage of teachers, lack of subject matter expertise, and lack of teaching resources. There is a need to equip teachers with the best of STEM resources, and empower them to better the peer-to-peer learning outcomes.”
UNESCO estimates teacher shortage in Indian schools to be at three million. An additional 1.5 million teachers will be required in the years to come. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) places the number of students in government schools at 121 million, and more than half of them are in rural or semi-urban locations, while the teachers churned from India’s human resources remains low.
Bhagya explains the two sidedness of the problem.
“The gaps in the education system are two-pronged. The lack of teachers in general and the teachers lacking subject matter expertise. Extrapolate this situation to the rural parts of India. Lack of infrastructure, including power and the internet, would further make the possibilities of access to knowledge by inspired students dismal."
The e-Patashale program
While the recurring question has been about solving the shortage of teachers in rural India, CLT’s answer to this is augmenting teachers with technology.
For this, apart from producing STEM content in local languages, CLT is also using low-cost technology delivery model for schools that don’t have internet and computing devices. It makes use of a plug-and-play box that gets plugged onto a TV screen or a projector to deliver content.
Further, the front-end technology is simplified for school teachers with a wireless mouse to navigate. This does not require any technical know-how to operate, and costs less than Rs 400 per child per year. Additionally, it requires no internet and the sim-enabled device sends real-time data on usage.
At present, the CLT e-Patashale labs are present in 3,500 rural schools, and 80-90 percent of classrooms are solar-powered to ensure sustainable e-learning ecosystem.
“CLT’s e-Patashale is a low-cost, easy-to-use, tech-based intervention. It is designed to empower teachers with rich pedagogy and make the critical STEM and English subjects accessible to a wider audience. The program provides high quality curricula in regional languages for rural schools in low-income communities.”
With just 15 people in its team, the company has managed to reach 13 Indian states so far. It offers educational content in English, Kannada, Hindi and Marathi, and covers 50 percent of schools in rural India. It has a repository of 15,000 videos and 2,000 PDFs, all developed in-house.
Bhagya says, “We are now looking for funding to scale across India, and we need to increase our team members to scale our operations on pedagogy, technology, and reach.”
By adding more products to its suite, CLT is ensuring teachers and students get access to resources on their personal devices.
The organisation is also targeting to reach five million students in the next two years. In line with this, it has entered into a strategic partnership with SINTL Labs to make its offerings available for private schools as well as reach more practitioners in the segment.
“We are taking our programs to more northern states in India, and have plans to take it outside India in the next 18 months through strategic tie-ups with state governments,” says Bhagya.
“Our source of pride and greatest reward is to put a smile on the face of a newly-engaged, connected, and empowered child,” she adds.