Building Critical Links, One Rural Teacher at a Time

While India’s national economy booms, educational disparity between rural and urban areas remains a major issue of concern, specifically in terms of resources, infrastructure, and funding. Despite the Indian government’s attempts at ameliorating the problem through increased rural education funding and targeted programs such as the Mid-Day Meals Scheme, illiteracy levels in rural India remain alarmingly high.

Lifelines Education aims to address these educational disparities through an innovative marriage of technology and knowledge sharing between key actors in the educational system. The critical players in this program are rural teachers, who are connected to a network of educational experts through a phone-based academic support service. According to OneWorld South Asia, the program is currently under operation in the Monteswar Block in the Bardhaman district of West Bengal, where it is servicing a total of 13 panchayats, 164 villages, and 571 schools. As a result of the program, a total of 600 elementary school teachers are linked with educational experts through an interactive voice response system that functions through normal phone, the internet, or mobile phone. A more detailed description of the program follows, courtesy of ShareIdeas:

An initiative of the OneWorld International Foundation, British Telecom (BT), and CISCO systems, Lifelines India is a service that facilitates the exchange of vital information using the power of voice as the primary means of knowledge dissemination. It aims at just the right mix of telephony and the Internet for knowledge delivery by providing connectivity, content, and capability via a phone-based service. In its initial pilot phase, Lifelines India concentrated on the agribusiness sector with considerable success. Now the same technology platform has been customized to provide critical academic support to teachers in rural areas…

Through an initial pilot phase launched in July 2007 in 116 schools in West Bengal, 600 elementary school teachers are now able to pose questions on academic matters via a normal telephone, the Internet, or mobile phone. The service is based on an interactive voice response system. Teacher queries are answered within 24 to 48 hours – by phone or email – by a qualified panel of experts. Lifelines India thus helps link teachers with training resource persons, subject matter experts, and field level educational administrators. In the second phase of the pilot, LifeLines will reach out to more than 2,000 teachers in West Bengal…

Over the long-term, the system’s reporting module will help assess knowledge gaps within specific sectors, thereby fostering the development of corrective interventions. The service will also lead to the creation of a rich FAQ database that can be accessed by communities through information kiosks, village knowledge centers, or any Internet access point.

For more information regarding this program, please contact a.sethi@iyfnet.org at the QUEST secretariat.

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2 Responses

  1. […] With the advent of new socially minded technological ventures such as SMS-driven blood donations or cellphone-accessible teaching aids, it isn’t too surprising that legal services are now also available online.  Wait, this […]

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