Turn The Bus Brings Digital Education to Rural India

Turn The Bus Brings Digital Education to Rural India

In rural India, access to education for underprivileged communities is quite limited, especially when children have limited time because they have to help their aging parents and contribute to their family in various ways, just to make a living. According to Vikram Chalana, TurnTheBus’s CTO, “these communities access to education is severely limited and education is their only way out - their ‘escape route’ out of the poverty trap.”

Turn The Bus, a US registered 501(c)(3), aims to change this through their mobile app education platform where content is created by students, teachers, and retired professionals, and the curriculums are self-paced. (The majority of content are videos that are uploaded to YouTube.) TurnTheBus is enlisting the community to help the community. The timing is excellent - smartphone access is on the rise and data is cheap. Vikram likens his platform as the “Kahn Academy for this community rural India.”

In Bihar, India, the rural graduation rate from high school is a mere 40% and even less for girls. Turn The Bus is implementing a pilot program in 2020 to be ready for finals in March. Their goal is to increase the graduation percentage. Can they achieve, with the help of their app, a graduation rate of 60-70%?

The odds are in their favor yet they still have challenges. Currently, through an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Jeevika, an NGO that operates in India and is funded by the World Bank, they have access to ~10,000,000 women, and through this network can provide their app to these families. Even with access to potentially millions of children, there needs to be a fundamental shift in these kid’s mindsets as it has been shown that the main use of smartphones is for entertainment. Having curriculum created by peers, mentors and familiar faces should help the adoption. Additionally, he has a solid and tested technical foundation, using Open edX, a full-featured, open source platform from which to build learning management tools and platforms.

Vikram and his team joined DemocracyLab to help to get the mobile platform ready for the pilot rollout. At the last two hackathons, they have worked to:

  • Transcribe video into text (in Hindi) that it is searchable and can be read by those that are hard of hearing.
  • Load created content into Open edX
  • Build the Search engine
  • Add a Chatbot interface for Search (to mitigate typing errors with the difficult Hindi text, and because children are used to speaking into their phones)
    Turn The Bus is seeking Hindi speakers that can help with these transcriptions, along with developers. If you are interested, please visit their DemocracyLab profile and visit their site to learn more: https://turnthebus.org.