Affordable private schools are low-cost private educational institutes that cater to communities in India and in other emerging countries. These schools are increasingly using low-cost technological innovations that is not only helping them sustain but also providing quality education to the students enrolled.
Different reports put the number of affordable private schools (APS) to around 350,000 in India. As many as half of the total urban school going students are enrolled in APS and enroll roughly 20% of the rural students. APS typically teach from grade 1 to grade 10.
Educational technology is used in 3 different ways in these schools.
- Computer labs
- Technology enabled classes
- Technology for administrative related works
Majority of the affordable private schools buy second hand computer systems which have some default applications besides Microsoft office. Internet access is not commonly available in APS. Computer lab is managed by a dedicated teacher who divides the classes in two parts- theoretical and practical classes. Usually the computer classes are conducted between grade 6 and grade 10. The theoretical teaching is taught using the syllabus of the board to which the school is affiliated. There are 4 types of education boards in India which are Central board of secondary education (CBSE), Indian school certificate examination (ICSE), International baccalaureate (IB) and the state board.
Technology enabled classes
These are held with the use of audio-visuals which are projected on to a surface typically a projector or a white board/wall. Lately, use of smart boards is visible in schools which have interactive surfaces i.e. they respond to touch. Though smart boards are now visible in some APS schools, it is still not very popular owing to the large monthly fees per class the school has to pay to the company for using these interactive boards. Infrastructure leasing and financial services (IL&FS) developed a community computer called K-YAN which is a portable projector with built in Wi-Fi, speakers and USB ports. It is sold to schools along with digital content in subjects such as Math, Sciences and English.
Breakthrough innovations in low-cost computing devices such as tablets have revolutionized the way education is delivered. Recently launched Aakash tablet which is priced under $35 has found considerable acceptance different stakeholders in India. Though it is still at a nascent stage to be introduced in the APS but researchers believe that such devices are the future.
Technology for administrative related works
APS are increasingly using low-cost education administration solutions that can simplify and streamline operations such as maintaining records of student grades and attendance, processing admissions and managing accounts & donations. Organizations such as Pratham Infotech and Empathy Learning systems are providing low-cost classroom management systems to APS across the country. Schools are using SMS as a means to reach out to parents to send notifications such as school holidays, exam dates and fee reminders.
Technological interventions in affordable private schools seem to have a bright future. One account puts the number of private schools in only one city (Hyderabad) to 5,000 schools of which a large part is affordable private schools. New entrepreneurs, NGOs and international funds on education are increasingly investing in such initiatives, thus making it a reality for low-income communities to reap the benefits of quality and affordable education.