By Sandip Wankhede:
It all started in a small town called Dhule where I studied till 10th standard, in an atmosphere where students were more used to ‘Guides’ and ‘In My Pocket’ books for studying instead of academic state board books. These were not only for studying but came in handy inside the examination hall for copying answers. The same issue still persists in small towns and villages where marks have more importance than the skill set you develop.
Books are more often used to read and learn readymade questions at the last of every chapter. Few teachers understand what teaching really means. Despite having 83% marks in my Class X exams, it became difficult for me to survive in the urban competitive world when I came to Pune in the search of good IIT JEE coaching institutions. The minimum cut-off percentage for admission to any reputed college was 93%. It was tough but I somehow managed to get into a good college.
When I was searching for IIT JEE coaching institutions, I met one of my friends’ sister’s teacher who taught Mathematics for the IIT JEE. He asked me and my friend to explain one simple law of a scientist from our Class X course. We explained it to him, but we had failed to properly understand the word ‘explain’. We simply read it. This man told us the same thing. We were told that we had memorised the law and not learned it. This thought was a turning point in my life.
After completing engineering with a campus IT job in hand, I started an NGO called ‘The Change Foundation‘ at the age of 21 in 2014. Our objective was to change the way students are educated as these were, we felt, inefficient ways of increasing talent. In 2014-15, the Global Talent Competitiveness Index put India at the 78th position for its talent competitiveness despite having the second largest population. This can only be improved if we focus on learning and not memorising.
Another important issue we looked at was the state of rural students. We worked in many urban schools and got to know that many of them have parents who can them help them move in the right direction. In rural areas and small towns, and some urban municipal schools, students not only have inadequate information and educational material but also lack vision and guidance.
So, we started our first campaign called the ‘Brainovention Talent Search Exam’.
This exam aimed at searching for students in rural areas who have the capability of doing something innovative but are unable do so due to insufficient sources of educational material and weak financial conditions.
We managed to conduct the exam in 2015 January in 10 rural schools where more than 3000 students participated. The exam was conducted at two levels where 48 were selected at the first level and then 15 in the final. With help from the Idea Foundation along with GiveIndia Foundation, we provided these students with materials that would help them study better. We also enrolled them in computer literacy programs in their respective areas for more than three months for free.
Around 80% of the students failed to answer simple general awareness questions. 78% failed to solve intelligence test questions. 52% failed to answer academic questions which were set from the middle of chapters in their course work. But 81% of the students managed to answer 90% of the academic questions which were from the end of the chapter.
Based on those results and analysis we designed our question papers to be more precise. This year, we conducted this exam for more than 500 students in rural areas. Selected students from this exam will be made a part of programmes like computer literacy, science projects, smart study and e-learning for better understanding.
Our work is resulting in improving child education standards to develop skilled manpower and sustainable efficient education in rural areas. To reduce unemployment is our long term goal. We do realise that we are not reaching out to all students. We hope that we can slowly broaden our reach.