In India, WhatsApp is everywhere. Whether it’s group chats, video conversations, phone calls, or sharing the funniest YouTube video of the week – it’s happening on WhatsApp. So, what does that have to do with teachers?
We are working to improve learning outcomes in India’s schools at the systems level, which means we are working with large scale government school systems to figure out what can help improve learning from the academic and the administrative perspective. One big part of improving classroom learning is helping teachers get the support and training they need to teach children successfully. As part of that work, we learned that teachers often have to contend with communications challenges between themselves and state, district, and school leadership. New rules, policies, and techniques are traditionally shared with schools via printed circulars that took weeks to reach individual schools – and if there were questions about those new policies or teaching methods, it would take additional time to get answers. Most of the trainings happen in forum-based trainings once in a year, and teachers do not get any support through the year.
Enter WhatsApp. Teachers are already familiar with using WhatsApp in their personal lives, and in Haryana state, the groups working together decided to start using WhatsApp to facilitate important conversations between teachers and the education department. Now, information on teaching guidelines and techniques is being shared in teachers-only WhatsApp groups, in bite-sized information as and when they need them. And teachers can chat with each other and leadership to quickly get the answers they need to implement change in their classrooms.
For us, two big lessons learned in the systemic work are: 1) that mobile-first apps can help advance the adoption of reforms that work in classrooms and 2) technology solutions are simple and many are already available. As we work to create opportunities for over three million low-income students globally to attend high-quality schools, it’s clear that technology-enabled reforms – aligned to the specific challenges each state faces – have the power to change classrooms and help more children gain the fundamental competencies they need to succeed in school and beyond.