By connecting classrooms within the region, Niladri Parial’s project is helping to bridge boundaries in learning and accelerate intercultural understanding in South Asia.
Niladri Parial, The Connected Classrooms Project
Reflecting on the school ecosystem in Nepal, I have seen a lot of us growing up lacking a broader view of the world. We have been limited from connecting with the outside world by the boundaries of our classrooms. There can be a lack of connection with the local community, much less an interaction with classrooms from other schools.
When I became Principal at Triyog High School in Kathmandu, Nepal, I thought of ideas to give students a broader perspective of the world outside the classroom. What if classrooms in Nepal could connect to other classrooms – in this region and across the globe? What if we could give students a richer learning experience through interactions with other schools and their communities?
When I joined the Indo-Pacific Venture in 2018, we worked on finding solutions to the challenge of how to use technology to accelerate education in South Asia. It was the perfect opportunity to pitch this idea of bringing together students and teachers by connecting classroom learning, via the use of technology. My group, composed of leaders from different sectors from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, embraced this concept and together we created a working prototype. Thanks to an amazing group of motivated teachers and managers at my workplace, within a few months, my school started to implement it. Thus, The Connected Classrooms Project (TCCP) began.
The programme encouraged me to shed my limitations and stretch the boundaries of what is possible
Connecting classrooms and students
We started a small pilot between two classrooms from two different schools in Kathmandu. The teachers co-created a two-week curriculum around the theme 'Plants Around Us'. It gave students a glimpse of the community around them by visiting botanical gardens and local nurseries. It challenged teachers and students from both schools to work collaboratively and learn from each other. More importantly, it connected them to the members of the community through meeting and interviewing local gardeners/nursery-owners. This pilot proved to be the first step towards remote learning and a meaningful transfer of knowledge between educational institutions.
Connecting classrooms from Nepal to India
In November 2018, we launched our international pilot connecting our school with SNEH Foundation in Pune, India. Through Common Purpose, I met Shraddha Deo, founder of SNEH, who runs a school for disadvantaged children in Pune. She was as excited as we were to be part of TCCP. The children connected over Skype and took turns sharing about their lives, families and culture. I think it all comes back to Cultural Intelligence, a concept that Common Purpose strongly talks about. The idea is, by fully immersing the students in each other's cultures through TCCP, they will be able to better understand and relate to one another, thus increasing their Cultural Intelligence.
Connecting classrooms across the world
Since our pilot launch, TCCP has expanded nationally to different regions in Nepal. Within South Asia, we are planning to connect with schools in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka through several Common Purpose alumni that I’m in touch with. Internationally, we are looking to connect our classrooms with those in Indonesia, South Africa, Kenya, and hopefully a few more in India. Through the Common Purpose network I’ve been connected with Theodora Subyantoro-Imbenay from Indonesia, Vivienne Taa from Kenya, Madeleine Selmer-Olson from South Africa, and others, who are in the process of helping me connect to classrooms in their countries. The diverse network that we have made through the programme has been incredible. These connections have been instrumental in enabling TCCP to connect classrooms from different countries. The programme encouraged me to shed my limitations and stretch the boundaries of what is possible. It provided me with the correct thinking tools, the best possible connections, and an appropriate platform to exercise my potential as a leader in the region.
Impact of connected classrooms
As of today, we've connected 60 students from four different schools within the South Asian region. TCCP has proven that collaborative learning is the key to creating creative learners and truly global citizens. It has given both students and teachers new perspectives on the lives of people, not just around their country but also around the region. It has helped to bridge boundaries in learning and has accelerated intercultural understanding between these connected classrooms. I believe that no school can be complete without collaboration and partnerships with different schools, industries, and the community around it. Children should grow up in a connected world, and they should be able to learn from each other. The hope is that by giving them rich experiences for connection, we can take their learning to another level. The hope is they grow into mature, responsible citizens with an understanding of different beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds.
The Connected Classrooms Project is constantly looking for more classrooms or industry experts to connect with. If you'd like to be a part of TCCP or if you want to replicate the project in your school, please contact Niladri Parial at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.