According to the website, the project’s mission is to transform learning outcomes in low-income Pakistani students by leveraging access to the internet and world class educational resources.
The Reading Room Project is an innovative educational technology venture that provides low income students access to online learning resources together and provides a supportive environment through which they can fully utilize these resources. The project aims to take incremental steps to contribute towards the education emergency in Pakistan.
The project aims to leverage the worldwide education revolution through online learning by allowing underprivileged schools access to this new mode of knowledge transfer. By first providing free computer literacy and then bringing in resources, curriculum and a specially designed method of implementation, the project aims to bring up the level of education these children are receiving.
The Pilot Project
To initiate its interesting method of education, the Reading Room Project or RRP chose to collaborate with a small school in Shah Rasool Colony in Clifton, Karachi. A computer studies program is being developed for primary and secondary level students where a majority of children are from low income families. These children usually have little to no interaction with a computer. The project team believes that support and access will help engage these children and further enhance the promise that they display.
28 year old Mashall Chaudri is the brains behind this project. A student of politics at Georgetown University in the USA, she decided to pursue math classes purely for academic interest. When she looked for online resources for help, she realized the potential wealth of information that is available, providing both solutions and inspiration. She turned her inspiration into this project with the help of the i2i Accelerator which is a four month long program based in Pakistan where entrepreneurs receive support and mentors to help develop their ideas. RRP was part of their 2013-14 session and has managed to successfully set up a pilot project in a short span of time.
How it works?
The children begin their day with a tutorial and then move on to their workstations for practice sessions. These are guided by a licensed software designed for self-guided learning. Daily progress is recorded, allowing a child to go back and complete where they left off as well as to retry any exercises that were difficult to complete. Once the children become comfortable using the system, they can move on to polishing math or English skills through creative games and exercises.
Children are guided and encouraged to seek their own solutions and answers to any issues or problems that they encounter. The entire aim is to provide an alternate learning style that is far removed from the traditional memorization techniques. Eventually the aim is to allow the children to learn how to break down problems and resolve them incrementally rather than getting overwhelmed by the complexity of a problem or a situation.
The project aims to work towards concrete goals such as improving learning outcomes for their pilot class and work towards ensuring a reduced dropout rate which is currently at a high rate of 45 percent. The project also aims to create an essential change in perspective for the children in how they see, perceive and approach the world around them. The aim is to open up their world view and create a permanent shift in how they approach problems and concepts.
A major concern for the future is the sustainability and scalability of the project. The team also needs to identify a source of long term funding. The team is approaching the Sindh Education Foundation, which is a semi-autonomous organization working to improve access to educational facilities. This sort of collaboration is a promising start to replicating the pilot project success long term and in other schools as well.
This is an exciting new venture given its objectives and scope. Computer and internet literacy is absolutely vital in today’s world and this is a vital skill to impart to bright children from low income families. If successfully sustained and scaled, this project could make a lot of difference to the children who become a part of it.