Pradeep Ghosh, Founder & President, Oasis
The Museum School
What is The Museum School?
While access to basic education is now a right for all children in India, there is a great disparity in the quality of educational provision. Huge differences exist between the education received by poor and rich children with the former often taught in cramped multi-grade classes with one teacher. Schools may be small with few resources. This inequality of education contributes to an inequality of life chances, choices and an endless cycle of poverty. While privileged students get top quality infrastructure, extensive resources and many well-qualified teachers, poorer students lack these vital components of quality education.
The Museum School started out with a question; If education is the foundation of a country, why should such inequality exist? The Museum School aims to address the issues of poor infrastructure, limited resources and a lack of trained teachers by making use of a City’s Museums to provide quality education for socially deprived children. The project specifically targets children who are not attending school and equips them with an urge for knowledge, and confidence of expression, to re-enter mainstream education. The project is founded on the idea that museums are amongst the best teaching aids in the world and an untapped source of knowledge. The Museum School has subject experts from the museum training teachers to deliver high-quality education using the exhibits.
The Museum School grew from a Social Innovation Lab, OASiS, which identifies social problems and tries to find out-of-the-box solutions. For OASiS, quality education meant having an infrastructure and resources that nurture a child’s inquisitiveness, enough trained teachers to support and extend this curiosity, and exciting practical aids to support their teaching. They realised that their City had a wealth of subject-specific museums, with exhibits and resources that could promote and support learning.
An agreement was reached with five museums to allow them to take children to the museum every day. A group of volunteers mapped the exhibits and identified how they could be used to meet the needs of the curriculum. Student teachers from a local teacher training university joined educated girls from local slum communities to teach the children.
Children are driven to the museums where they are engaged in stories, games and activities, leading them to the topic for the day. To develop curiosity, children are encouraged to identify the exhibit for the topic. They are then provoked to ask questions about the exhibits and fill in the gaps in their knowledge. The Museum School’s curriculum offers a holistic education including academic knowledge, life skills, expression and debating skills, performing art skills and vocational skills, like most privileged children.
Confidence has been seen to increase and this helps children not only to return to mainstream education but also demonstrate their continuous love and quest for learning, by returning to The Museum School, after school provision.
Over the past 12 years, The Museum School has taught more than 3,000 underprivileged students, some of whom have gone on to study at university, some have started their own businesses and some have returned to the school as teachers. The Museum Schools has also had a positive impact on the children’s communities with the children acting as Ambassadors. Women from the community, who have trained to teach in the school, gain a higher status in the society, as teachers. When once parents may have been reluctant to let their children go to school, The Museum School is now oversubscribed.
A key challenge is the distance between the underprivileged areas in cities (slums) and the museums. This challenge is heightened in rural areas where there are no museums at all. In order to overcome this difficulty, The Museum School is exploring the use of virtual reality. Lessons at the museums are being recorded in 3D to provide an immersive experience for students in rural schools so that they get the same quality education virtually. The Virtual Museum School (ViMS) is open to receive funding and resource support, from all those willing to invest in taking this proven approach of quality education, to all children of the world.
The Museum School has won several awards including UNESCO’s ‘The Wenhui Award for Educational Innovation in Asia and the Pacific 2016’. The project is also part of the My primary school is at the Museum project, developed by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London.