KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has approved a ‘Digital Learning’ project to be launched in collaboration with Teach the World Foundation (TTWF) to bring out-of-school children back to school.

He took this decision while chairing a board meeting of the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) on Tuesday. Education Minister Syed Sardar Shah, Chief Secretary Sohail Rajput, Planning and Development (P&D) Board chairman Hassan Naqvi, Finance Secretary Sajid Jamal Abro, School Education Secretary Akbar Leghari, SEF managing director Kazi Kabir and other officers were also present.

The CM directed the SEF to start 125 microschools in the suburban areas of Karachi and Hyderabad immediately.

Mr Kabir briefed the CM that it would be a joint project between the SEF, Sindh government and TTWF, which pioneered digital learning in underprivileged communities and whose expertise was recognised by the World Bank and various other such institutions.

Sindh Education Foundation and Teach the World Foundation to start 125 microschools in Karachi, Hyderabad

The primary objective of the digital learning project is to lay the foundation for solving the education crisis in the province by bringing out-of-school children to school. The project would leverage digital learning, which offers the most effective solutions to the crisis.

The meeting was told that the project would start as a pilot programme for around 10,000 out-of-school children in Sindh and 2,500 in-school children; if successful, it would be expanded to millions across the province.

It was informed that the provincial government ran over 42,000 schools, representing the vast majority of schools in the province, with SEF being one arm running over 2,600 schools.

The CM said that there was little to no accountability for learning outcomes, and the situation had been vastly worsened by the recent floods.

During the discussion, education minister Sardar Shah said that the traditional approaches would not solve this crisis in an acceptable time frame.

“The estimate of six to seven million out-of-school children in Sindh is not authentic, but even if true, the education department will need 150,000 additional teachers and 25,000 new schools to bring them into school,” he said.

Speaking about the opportunity, he said that digital technology offered an unparalleled opportunity to solve this crisis in a relatively short time.

It was observed that digital technology solved all three crucial problems causing the educational crisis: access, quality, and accountability.

The meeting was informed that the digital technology promoted self-learning and enabled “gamified learning”, which created high engagement and resulted in accelerated learning and higher learning outcomes.

Mr Kabir said that digital technology provided digital skills, which are now a crucial component of functional literacy. “Digital learning is the new wave. It was massively validated recently by Covid-19. It enables adaptive learning, augmented reality, and virtual reality, which would further enhance learning,” he added.

The CM was informed that TTWF used the world’s best educational games to teach reading, writing, and mathematics, delivering them on tablets/smartphones in a facilitated setting.

The meeting was informed that the proposed solution was a mix of digital microschools and in-school digital classrooms to provide access to out-of-school children in localities without schools and quality education for children enrolled in existing SEF schools.

The meeting was informed that the SEF, in collaboration with TTWF, could launch a microschool for 100 children within two months, and it would cost Rs3,500 per student/per month. The TTWF in-school programme for 105 children costs Rs1,700 per student/per month. The programme is managed by a facilitator, who is trained in less than a week.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2023

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