The Ilm-on-Wheels project received financial support from DFID's Education Innovation Fund under Ilm-Ideas program and was first conceived and implemented in 2012, addressing improvement in Maths competency of Grade 4 and 5 students and their teachers in 10 public primary schools in Balakot. Based on the positive results achieved the intervention was scaled to 46 schools in 2013 in the same target area, covering early grade literacy and numeracy component in addition to components deployed previously. Community engagement component was added as well. The beneficiary count increased from 10 teachers and 300 students in earlier phase to 86 teachers and 8,000+ students in the extention phase, completed in April 2015.
Ilm-on-Wheels program was based on TeleTaleem’s Learning Boost methodology of effective and sustainable use of technology to deliver teaching-learning practices at the grassroots level. The program used a satellite (VSAT) equipped, self-contained van, called School Garee, containing computer servers, Android tablets, a power-generator, UPS, and routers to bring technology capability to any school. A primary reason for using this self-contained van was that most locations lack basic infrastructure like electricity, internet connectivity, and Information Technology (IT) skills.
The program targeted higher learning gains in early grade literacy and numeracy using a holistic approach with the following characteristics:
· Just-in-time training of teachers tied to their current teaching context with supportive mentoring.
· Continuous assessment and feedback to students and teachers.
· Improved governance and accountability by actively involving parents and school administration.
· Learning inside and outside the classroom with emphasis on community and home.
· Localized and indigenous educational materials.
· Pragmatic use of technology that is congruent with constraints of developing nations.
Independent project evaluations have revealed positive results for learning outcomes, student and teacher engagement. End-line assessments reveal improvements in Grade 5 Mathematics and Grade 2 numeracy skills. Teachers report improved attendance in classes and increased student engagement. Interviews with teachers and students revealed increased levels of engagement and a perception that the intervention made the classes more interesting.
Teacher interviews produced unanimous agreement regarding the efficacy of the teacher training modules. Video observations of teaching practices revealed a shift towards a more participatory approach to teaching, by involving children encouraging group-work and using tablets to explain concepts. The intervention had a positive impact in making teaching approaches more child-centered. Teacher interviews revealed that the impact of the learning continues beyond the project and in fact even at the time of the project they had begun to use the learning from the project’s training in other classes.
The behavioral shift in pedagogical approaches is a key achievement of the project. Teaching practices in government schools are by and large rote-based and lead to very disengaged students. Video content that was made available to teachers helped them try non-traditional approaches, developed their capacity for incorporating practices that help students learn concepts and acquire literacy and Math skills more effectively.