Published: 02nd June 2021
Why can't teachers like me teach in government schools? The question that led Jyoti Thyagarajan to start Meghshala
What does it mean for kids in gov't schools to get quality education? Rashmi Patil speaks to Jyoti Thyagarajan, Founder of Meghshala, a nonprofit organisation that's helping gov't school teachers enha
Technology has helped us grow in leaps and bounds as a nation. In the midst of a raging pandemic, education continues online for most parts of the country. So if education doesn't stop for students, why should it stop for teachers? With a view to use technology to provide tools and resources to teachers to improve the quality of education in government schools, Jyoti Thyagarajan and Sridhar Ranganathan started Meghshala in 2013. As a teacher herself, __-year-old Jyoti used her previous experiences and pedagogic practices to develop teaching kits and included them in their eponymous Android app. From then till today, their app and organisation have left a deep impact, both on teachers and students.
We speak to her to find out the interesting story behind Meghshala and what they have been doing since 2020. Excerpts from an interview:
1. What is the story behind starting Meghshala?
I started teaching when I was 25 years old, I taught Math and Physics. As part of my husband's project, who was working for a non-profit organisation, we moved to Africa. There, I taught students in Lusaka, Zambia, before we moved to Liverpool. I pretty much taught international children for close to 40 years of my career. When I moved back to India in 2007, I continued to work with a few international schools in Bengaluru. When I turned 60, my contract with these schools ended and I retired. During my time as a teacher in India, I noticed that students studying in government schools across the state received substandard education. It dawned on me that we weren't teaching our kids well.
One day, after hours of tossing and turning, I woke up at 2 am and told my husband that I had made a big mistake. I realised that I had spent too many years in my career only teaching children from privileged communities. For teachers like me, it shouldn't be difficult to choose to teach the kids who are at the bottom of the pyramid. I believe that we should democratise the idea of where a person is required to teach. There is nothing keeping people like me away from working in government schools. It only keeps the thought of classism alive in the education sector. There are teachers who come from different countries to teach at an international school. Why not teach in government schools instead? I think this idea must be democratised to provide quality education to kids if we expect them to earn well.
Jyoti Thyagarajan, Founder, Meghshala
Now, I want to reach out to 40 million kids in India who study in government schools and low-budget private schools. But how can I do that with limited resources? That's where Meghshala comes into the picture. I started it with other teachers like me. So far, four states in India have signed an MoU with us to help them enhance the teaching capabilities of their teachers. Sikkim, Manipur, Meghalaya and recently Karnataka have agreed to use our Meghshala app and resources.
2. How exactly does Meghshala help these teachers enhance their capabilities?
Meghshala's TeachKits are designed in a way that they are curriculum-aligned, multimedia teaching resources that are delivered to teachers via an easy-to-use Android application. The teacher uses these lessons either as an in-classroom facilitation tool or as a pre-classroom preparation tool to enhance her classroom instructional expertise. The continuous use of these TeachKits will help them upskill themselves from simple content delivery to classroom facilitation expertise, an approach children will enjoy over a period of time. Besides this, we provide them with real-time resources to maximise efficiency, mentorship and guidance, both online and offline. These TeachKits are currently available for classes I to VIII students, both in English and other vernacular languages, for Math, English, Science and Social Studies. Currently, the app is downloaded by over 14,000 people. Similarly, another app called Ontum Education is going to help the teachers in low-budget private schools enhance their capabilities.
3. Schools have been shut for over a year now. How can we help students and teachers reconnect in the classroom? We can't obviously jump straight into the curriculum.
It is going to be difficult for students as they wouldn't have been to school for one and a half years. Imagine being disconnected from your office for more than a year or so. How can the first day of school be normal or the same as before? We felt that there was an urgent need to organise a catch-up session of sorts so that the kids can use the first month in the classroom to adjust to the new normal. Then, teachers can start their lessons. This short-term curriculum will help teachers focus on how gently they must hand-hold their students. We have to teach skills and not just content. We are hoping to present this curriculum to the state government and see if they want to roll it out as a bridge curriculum in all other schools as well. It is free of cost and even low-budget private schools can make the most of it. We will be providing training to these teachers through webinars on how to use this bridge curriculum. We are sending out invites to teachers who can join us. Once these webinars are completed, teachers will receive these videos so that they can continue to learn from them. This will make our process easy.
Reach Out: meghshala.online