Revolutionising Education — Chapter 2: Udavum Karangal Collaboration

On 6th June 2019, I started teaching a course on ‘Introduction to Web Development: HTML & CSS’ for students of Class XII at the Ramakrishna Vidya Niketan Higher Secondary School (RVNHSS), Thiruverkadu in partnership with Udavum Karangal Trust.

After my previous attempt at this in January, this is a renewed attempt aimed at the same outcome — Enhanced clarity on how to revolutionise education, and along the way, empower a few students with skills they can use.

This started out after I reached out to Pappa Vidyaakar at the Thiruverkadu office of Udavum Karangal in Chennai. I had a brief discussion with him about my organization and expressed my interest in conducting a small pilot program to teach web development to students at their school. Pappa was interested and we agreed that I will come up with a detailed proposal. After a follow-up email and another meeting, we agreed to go ahead with a 4 week-long course on HTML and CSS to the students of Class XII. We also discussed the possibility of topping this initial course with additional, more advanced courses involving JavaScript and JavaScript Frameworks for advanced frontend web development depending on how well this course goes.

In our detailed discussion, we went over the scope of this initiative and the financial and career opportunities that will open up for the students through the program. Both Pappa and the administrators of the school were quite pleased to collaborate.

Group photo with the students, staff and the Headmistress of the school.

A Brief Summary of What Happened

In contrast to the first attempt in January, here we had a lot of positives:

  • We had only 22 pupils (20 students and 2 staff), so we had a small number of students to deal with.
  • The students were all in class XII, so they had the maturity to understand the context of the course and were involved out of their self-interest and handled their involvement without needing any intervention.
  • The school had a well-equipped computer lab with nearly 40 machines and so each of the students had the space to work on their own machine.
  • I was allowed to teach one hour per day on all working days, which added up to 5–6 hours a week, this allowed for continual exposure to the material.
  • All the administrators were quite enthusiastic about this program and we were able to meet eye-to-eye on the scope and significance of this program.
  • As a bonus, all of these students were girls since RVNHSS is girls-only for the post-primary classes. This compliments our enthusiasm as an organisation towards women empowerment.

Over the 4 weeks of the program, the students really progressed in their ability to create and manipulate HTML webpages and add styling to their pages using CSS. The last week and a half were spent on project work, which was to create a website for themselves using what they had learned until then. This was meant to give them an opportunity to apply their knowledge in a creative manner.

Through guidance, each of the students came up with a website, which they then published on the internet. Their projects can be found here.

On the last day, a competition was held to figure out the winning project in terms of aesthetic appeal. Each student had to vote for a peer’s project that they liked and the project with the most number of votes won the prize, which was a large dairy milk chocolate bar.

Overall, the setup and support at RVNHSS really contributed for a smooth and hassle-free proceeding of the course.

The winning student with their website in the background and the prize in their hand.

Last day of class


Although much of the course went perfectly as planned, there were some quirks which led to some new insights:-

  • There was a gradient amongst the students in terms of how quickly they grasped the content. There were students in the top 5–10% who were on pace and understood everything without struggling. There was a majority in the middle, who required assistance and managed to understand 70% of what was taught after a bit of struggle. Then there was a lower 5% who cannot boast of notable confidence in their learning.
  • Due to the gradient and the majority requiring repeated instruction, it was not possible to go at an ideal pace. We had to slow down and in fact, drop some of the planned content to ensure that no one was left behind.
  • Although the school administration was quite supportive and enthusiastic for this program, there was also a certain level of anxiety concerning the academics of these students. This was because this program is essentially an extra-curricular program and these students were in their class XII, which is an important year because of the board exams and the stress that is placed on board exam marks. And being in this course after school hours meant that they had to miss their after-school coaching, which they would have to undergo if not for this program. So a segment of the administration was quite eager for this program to end so that they can resume the coaching to ensure there is no compromise on their regular academic performance.

The Path Ahead

As noted earlier, this is just the first part of a multi-part engagement with RVNHSS that was planned at the outset. The most ideal outcome of this engagement would be to give these girls sufficient training necessary to earn some money as a part-time job as they go into college. But of course, the financial utility is just one dimension of this program. The program is also significant for the reason that it focuses on offering them the tools and letting them use those tools to express themselves creatively through their project work. This cultivates a sense of initiative and nurtures in them the interest to apply their knowledge in creative ways. This I would say, is the most significant outcome of the program.

Moving forward, the next module is scheduled to be held in August, a month from now. I had initially planned to conduct a course in JavaScript and top that up with a course on JavaScript frameworks after that. But I’ve noticed that the girls need a bit more time to learn sophisticated topics and JavaScript is not particularly a simple topic to get into. So I might design the next module to contain something simpler yet useful and self-contained. We may also not be having all of these girls in that module. We may only have the most motivated and capable ones participate since that will allow us to dive deeper without being held back by slower students. Updates will be published in this blog.

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