Science education innovation in rural India

On Saturday, we took a three-hour car ride through rural India to visit the Agastya Foundation. Our van bounced along a barely paved dirt road before we reached Agastya, a cluster of buildings, slightly apart from any nearby villages, spread across the top of a hill. The foundation supplements the science education children receive in schools, which (as is the case throughout India) is very much focused on memorization, thus discouraging creativity and, consequently, true mastery of scientific theory. Equipped with science labs and dorm rooms, as well as playgrounds and rooms devoted entirely to fun activities designed to introduce scientific and mathematical laws, Agastya brings in children from municipal schools within a 30 km radius. For those schools that are farther away, Agastya is able to send “mobile labs” (vans with materials devoted to either math or science) to help reach students who are not able to visit. Since groups of students are often only able to attend sessions at Agastya four or five times during the year, the foundation works to spread its education style throughout Indian municipal schools, and does so by educating teachers and making all of its methods scalable. To make Agastya teaching methods easily replicable in under-funded areas, almost all of the activities require very simple materials (such as plastic straws, paper, and recycled CDs). Children’s education throughout the world could benefit from Agastya’s philosophy and methods, so it was particularly interesting to see this innovation being brought first to children in such underfunded and overcrowded schools. -Madeline

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