Turning Homes Into Learning Spaces For The Whole Family - a low-tech solution for life-long learning among marginalised communities
Tell us about your idea
“I don’t know anything, I am an uneducated person. How can I possibly help my child?”
It is gutting sentences like these that we increasingly hear over the last few weeks and months. Working with marginalised communities across India who already faced a lack of access to meaningful education before the Coronavirus pandemic, things have considerably worsened for them with schools and learning spaces closed indefinitely. Having no recourse to online classes, tutorials and other digital learning tools, they are left on their own.
Breaking The Myth of Education
There is a widespread myth that learning can only happen in designated institutions of education such as schools, and only when designated experts (teachers) are in charge. Unfortunately, this myth has become a deep-seated belief in India and worldwide.
At Project DEFY, we actively try to break this myth through setting-up alternative learning spaces called ‘Nooks’ where everyone can design their own education, without teachers and textbooks. But what do we do when even those alternative spaces cannot be opened anymore?
The answer we came up with is this: if the Learners can’t come to the learning space, let’s turn the homes of our Learners into learning spaces!
What sounds simple is really not easy. On one side, there are so many challenges we face given the world’s largest and strictest lockdown in India. On the other side, as mentioned above, we can’t just switch to a ‘digital learning solution’ as the Learners we work with don’t have access to the required technology.
Therefore, our solution is state-of-the-art low-tech: it includes a telephone and open, in-depth conversations between members of Project DEFY and several members of a Learner’s family.
We call this program FLITE - families learning together. We want to enable the families we work with to (re-)discover the abundance of skills, knowledge and talents that everyone has and transform these into concrete learning projects. This is a free-of-cost initiative for everyone to join. All we ask for in turn is that the families we initially work with become facilitators themselves after the programme and carry out similar activities with other families in their neighborhood, therefore creating a community-based learning ecosystem that endures much beyond the Covid-19 crisis.
To unearth the families’ curiosity for learning and then transform it into real-life learning ideas, we need to create the right learning environment. Rather than artificially creating such an environment with the ‘online classroom’ that forces students to spend several hours every day glued to the computer screen, we believe that the current situation where families are ‘stuck together’ actually is a blessing in disguise.
In other words, we aim to transform the boring state of ‘families stuck together’ into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of ‘families learning together’ that can create better and more trustful family relations and long-term co-learning possibilities.
Implementation So Far
In the first phase (Exploration) of the programme - going on right now - members of the DEFY team are interacting with ten families on a weekly basis. They do this as friends and companions, not as experts. They listen and learn, as opposed to advising and teaching. Our role here is to create the opportunity, space and time for a family home to turn into an inclusive learning space where everyone feels valued and heard. As such, our team aims to hold this space, helps families think about what they need and what they want, and asks questions that enable this thought process to kick-off and thrive.
In our weekly phone calls with the family members, we first spend some time reflecting on the experiences of the past week and then move on to discuss a topic, interest or issue of their choice. Finally, we leave the meeting with something to try over the week as a co-learning activity.
The initial feedback since the start of the project two weeks ago has been encouraging. Families were not only excited to learn new things, but expressed their joy of having others listen to their stories and experiences.
The initial, exploratory phase will continue for a few weeks, until we start with the second phase (Depth), where families increasingly lead conversations and pursue their own, potentially more advanced learning projects addressing concrete needs and interests, acquiring new skills and knowledge as well as the crucial know-how of ‘learning how to learn.’
In phase 3 (Self-dependence), families eventually take up the role of facilitating FLITE with other families in their own communities. Slowly we will reach a complete community connection.
In terms of a long-term vision, we aim to create ‘Learning Societies’ with FLITE that help reduce the distance between family members and between families, while developing a wonderful co-learning process.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.
We are Project DEFY (.org). Since 2016, we are working with marginalised communities across India and some parts of Africa. DEFY creates self-learning spaces called Nooks, enabling individuals to design their own education based on their specific needs, interests and aspirations.
In the last two months, we have seen mainstream education first collapse and then be revived in a way that completely ignored the chance to try something new. It pained us to see that all that the world did was transmit the classroom into the children's homes via the internet. We started thinking what true re-imagination in this context would look like by focussing on learning instead of education. We believe that people can truly contribute to the learning of their communities and all that stops them is the understanding that it is solely the school's job to make this happen. FLITE is an experiment to test if family members and families can co-create learning journeys together.