Aavishkaar is helping teachers and educators fall in love with maths and science
Aavishkaar, a non-profit organisation in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, reimagines teaching and learning and trains rural women to become innovative teachers in maths and science. The organisation offers fellowship programmes for young teachers who want to bring a change in the way government schools work.
Raja Muzaffar Bhat 14 Feb 2023 8:30 AM GMT
Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
Jeeva is a teacher and wants to set up a Mathematical Activity Centre in her city Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Last year, Jeeva, who is a Teach for India (TFI) Fellow, visited Aavishkaar Campus to get a special training in mathematics and science. The Aavishkaar Campus is located over 3,000 kilometres up north of Madurai at the picturesque Kandbari village on the outskirts of Palampur town, in Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh.
“Aavishkaar has made me fall in love with these subjects. What I have learnt at Aavishkaar is that mathematics and science are not tough subjects at all. Everyone can learn mathematics and science… At some point I plan to do a Masters in mathematics,” Jeeva told Gaon Connection.
Like Jeeva, Nidhi Kumari is also a teacher. The 20-year old from Patna in Bihar, also shed her fear of mathematics at Avishkaar, she said. “I didn’t have any knowledge about mathematics, and teaching the subject to others was unimaginable for me. But, after I joined the primary maths-educator course at Avishkaar, I developed a passion for the subject,” Nidhi told Gaon Connection. She teaches at a primary government school at Kandbari village in Palampur.
The school where Nidhi teaches is one of several that Aavishkaar has adopted, and it is here that the Fellows of Avishkaar like Jeeva and Nidhi, teach mathematics and science to primary school children.
Aavishkaar, which was set up in 2014, is a non-profit organisation that uses innovative teaching methods and pedagogies to teach science and mathematics. The institution works with both educators and students to reimagine teaching and learning.
The organisation offers fellowship programmes for young teachers who want to bring a change in the way government schools work. It conducts capacity building programmes for educators through workshops, and also offers residential camps for students to stimulate their curiosity, creativity and critical thinking in science and mathematics.
Since 2014, Aavishkaar has trained teachers by holding in-campus training programmes, and virtual sessions.
Aavishaar works with the state government and conducts training in collaboration with various District Institute of Education & Training (DIET) centres.
“More than 8,000 government school teachers in Himachal Pradesh have been trained by Aavishkaar in association with Wipro Foundation during the last three to four years. We also work with the Department of Education of the Central Tibetan Administration. Our vision is to create curious, creative and critical thinking citizens through mathematics and science education,” Sandhya Gupta, co-founder of Aavishkaar, told Gaon Connection.
“The teaching and learning of maths and science stand on four pillars: visualisation, contextualization, making content relevant, and constant engagement. These are the core things we make use of, while creating any content around the subjects and sharing it with learners,” Sandhya added.
Bringing maths and science to life
Aavishkaar was founded by Sandhya Gupta and Sarit Sharma, who returned from the US to Palampur in 2012 to settle down. While Sandhya had a PhD on semiconductors, her husband Sarit Sharma was a PhD in electrical engineering.
But, when they did return, they could not find a suitable school for their daughter and they decided to send her to a government school and home school her when required.
Sandhya and Sarit would accompany their daughter to the government school and soon began to teach there. Within a few years, they became deeply involved in revamping the education system, which finally led to setting up Aavishkaar in 2014.
Sandhya and Sarit believed that an educator’s main work is to facilitate the students’ journey of understanding, and therefore the trainers in the Aavishkaar campus are referred to as facilitators.
In October 2022, Kavita, a teacher from Prakriti School at NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, made a trip along with 30 students of classes four to eight, to the Aavishkaar Campus.
“My students are scattered across the campus and they are in the process of learning about the solar system today,” Kavita told Gaon Connection. The children were going to be there for five days, learning basic concepts in science and mathematics, from facilitators or teachers at Aavishkaar.
Dispelling fear of maths
One of Aavishkaar’s main aims is to create maths educators for primary classes. “I was not prepared to become a primary maths educator. I was, in fact, scared of mathematics,” laughed Anjali Devi, a 20-year-old from Banuri village near Palampur.
“Three years ago I had applied for a skill development course at Aavishkar, and since there was no vacancy in the course I wanted to do, I was forced to sign up for Aarohan, a maths educator programme,” she told Gaon Connection.
Several skill development programmes are offered by Sajhe Sapne, an initiative nurtured and incubated by Aavishkaar on its campus. There are three courses for girls — a training programme in rural development, a programme on front-end web development and, a primary maths educator course that Anjali signed up for, reluctantly.
“I applied for Aarohan and was trained as a primary maths educator for nine months. It was a great experience. Within two months, I actually fell in love with maths. Teaching mathematics in primary schools is a challenging task, but I now have a passion for it,” Anjali told Gaon Connection.
Girls from states such as Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand come to Aavishkaar to sign up for these skill development programmes at Aavishkaar.
After completing the nine-month course, Anjali joined a two-year fellowship with Aavishkaar. “I am now in love with maths. When I joined Sajhe Sapne, I was not comfortable with the idea of becoming a primary maths educator at all. But, after the nine months of training, and 13 months of fellowship I am undergoing now, everything changed,” Anjali added. She is also teaching government school children two hours each day.
Training young rural women
Sarit Sharma, co-founder of Aavishkaar, said the aim of the Sajhe Sapne initiative was to train young women from rural and underprivileged communities. “Aarohan maths education programme was launched by Aavishkaar in 2021 in collaboration with Sajhe Sapne and Ashvattha Learning Communities,” he told Gaon Connection.
As Aavishkaar Fellows they can also become science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) leaders. “These Fellows are making mathematics a visual experience, relevant, contextual and engaging through a culture of debate, discussion and jurisdiction. They are also imbued with the spirit of seeing knowledge as a skill and a mindset,” he added.
A long sighted approach to education
An initiative to strengthen maths and science education in the government schools was launched in 2017 by the government of Himachal Pradesh in collaboration with Wipro Foundation and came to be known as DrishtiCONE. DrishtiCONE covers the education system at block, district and state levels. Initially, Aavishkaar began this project with one school in Panchrukhi in Kangra district, but now it covers six schools in the same block.
Aavishkaar Fellows also create content and teach those students of classes 6 to 8 who come to the Aavishkaar for the five-day camps. Aavishkaar has also helped government school teachers adopt its innovative teaching techniques.
The focus that Aavishkaar has on the teaching and learning of maths and science makes it unique, Prapti, a teacher at the organisation, told Gaon Connection.
“I have been part of many workshops conducted by Aavishkaar in the past as a TFI fellow. Its engagement with teachers, from both government and private schools is continuous. via physical and virtual platforms,” Prapti said. She used what she learnt in the classroom as a TFI Fellow and it paid rich dividends she said. “It was a great experience. And that is why I am here again, after completing my fellowship,” she added,
In July last year, Aavishkaar organised a five-day workshop each for science and maths teachers of 50 Sambhota Tibetan Schools across the country. “More than 95 per cent of the Tibetan teachers found the sessions engaging. More than 96 per cent found the sessions to be relevant and useful, and 90 per cent of the teachers found the sessions effective and understandable,” Sandhya pointed out.
According to her, most of the teachers said that they would strongly recommend Avishkaar’s training workshops to other teachers, the co-founder added.