At first glance, the façade of Sikh Heritage Model School in the main bazaar of Harchowal village in the district does not seem to be any different from 100s of such schools scattered across rural Punjab.
However, the school is emerging as a pioneer of sorts as Class 3 students here use internet-enabled tablets to crack mathematical problems at a special room earmarked for the purpose.
The brainchild of a California-based social enterprise company, Pixatel, which has provided 34 tablets to the school and also designed the built-in programmes according to the syllabi of both the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB), the initiative has been on as a pilot project since July, 2014.
The facility is being provided free at the two schools, with an American agency USAID (United States Agency for International Development), funding the project. National Public School at Naushehra Pannuan village, Tarn Taran, is the second school where the initiative is on.
"Thanks to Pixatel, our students have access to this gadget. There were some teething problems with teachers and students taking time to adjust to the functioning when we got the tabs in July last year. Now, students have adapted and are doing well," said Captain Singh, the director of the Harchowal school.
At present, the tabs can teach and test only mathematics and has 500 questions built-in on each module like addition, subtraction, multiplication and others for Classes 3-5.
"The questions also have four options and students have to pick the correct option," said Rajwant Kaur, who looks after the maintenance and technical aspects of using the tab.
'Wanted to give back'
Emphasising that the aim was to do something for Punjab, Pixatel
senior vice-president Jasjit Singh, who is based in California, told HT, "I and my other partners at the company are settled in the US, but wanted to do something for the state. We chose education in rural areas as a field where we can contribute. We approached USAID for funding two years ago. They approved the idea and now we have had the project running in two schools for around a year. The results have been good."
50 more schools to be given tablets
Wanting to take the initiative further, Jasjit said they would distribute these tablets for mathematics in 50 more schools in the state by the end of the year. Government schools would also be approached.
"Now, when we find that the project has been a success, we will also introduce content that would teach students the subjects of English and Punjabi," he said, adding that they track the performance of children and record feedback to make improvements to the tablet and the programmes.
With the introduction of these tablets, our performance in mathematics has improved. We get a range of options and the regular use of the tablet has helped make us perfect in solving mathematical problems.
Lovepreet Kaur, Class 5
Tablets were a new thing for us when introduced last year. Using the gadget has made mathematics more interesting and I look forward to learning the subject.
Ravneet Singh, Class 5