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Knowledge Can”t Be Confine: The Stanford Philosophy

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By Mahanshu Parashar:

More than half the world’s population is under 25, which means we live in a very young world. Never in world history, was there a time when so many young human bodies walked on the surface of earth. The collective intelligence and spirit of this population can take the world out of all its problems and take humanity to a new prosperous era. They are the prime targets of all big firms of the world, after all their decisions run the world economy now.

But all this human capital can lie to waste if their energies are not channelled in the right direction. They need education, quality education at that, given by quality teachers. This will help them develop further on existing human expertise and develop advanced technologies for future. We need better Engineers, doctors, artists, journalists, authors everyone and everything. This will require them to get best resources to learn. Such an initiative has been taken by two professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun at Stanford Univeristy.

The professors believe that the knowledge shouldn’t be confined to closed doors. It must be spread freely. With this philosophy they made their course of artificial intelligence at Stanford University, available to everyone around the globe. The response was phenomenal with more than 160,000 students registering for the course.

The professors believed that there was a need of bringing in technology in teaching which is done today in the same way as in medieval times. The overwhelming response in the first few weeks of registration motivated them to look out for ways to hone their skills and teaching methodology for the particular medium. The famous American educational psychologist, Benjamin Bloom showed that one on one tutoring is the best way for teaching and learning hence they kept it as a model for their teaching.

By the help of technology i.e. an overhead camera they used to record videos of them working on a sheet of paper and talking to explain the concepts involved. For the students it felt as if they were being tutored by a friend of them in a comfortable place and not in a traditional crowded classroom with a board. They got good reviews for this teaching method initially and thus went on with the method for the entire course.

There videos were small of 2 minutes to 6 minutes which they learnt from the experience of Khan Academy, as they help in retaining attention. In each video they kept 2-3 quiz questions to make them more interesting and giving them a feel of one on one tutoring. This helped the students to reflect on what they have learnt in the two minutes of the video.

They believe that the students learn best if they are exposed to practical problems and when guided properly they can synthesise even novel solutions. Instead of traditional formula based questions which require rote memorising, they preferred open ended questions. This helped the students to think and apply what they have learnt.

To enforce discipline and regularity which is hard to maintain in an online course, they used the traditional method of due dates for assignments etc. This maintained regularity in study schedule of students and keeping them at par with all others. Their one more innovation was to introduce student forums for their course. There purpose was to get peer to peer problem resolution and concept clarification. Most of these were student maintained with the professors allowing them to learn among each other. All the queries and doubts were resolved between students only within minutes as students from around the world combined their forces to learn the subject matter clearly.

This experiment was based on the Harvard Professor Eric Mazur’s work on peer learning. As they found out, peers can be the best teachers. In words of Norvig, “Peers can be the best teachers, because they’re the ones that remember what it’s like to not understand” This fantastic idea worked really well and students who completed the course felt more comfortable with the subject matter in the end.

In the end, out of the 160,000 who registered 80, 000 participated actively and 20,000 submitted all homework and cleared the course. This was a great achievement as the students were spread in 90 countries in total! Thus, education once reserved for students attending the nation’s elite colleges and universities became available to everyone in true sense.

There’s plenty of speculation around whether Norvig’s online classes, as well as subsequently announced MOOCs like edX, the joint project between MIT and Harvard, will replace traditional higher education. Norvig says it’s ironic that although they set out to disrupt traditional higher education, their online classes are more like a really well-done traditional college class than most folks imagine. But whatever is in store, this experiment was a good start for using the technology for its best use that is to teach people.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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