Madhuri goes to school, by video - Mascot for virtual lectures

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By SADAF MODAK IN MUMBAI
  • Published 27.07.11
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Eighty municipal schools in Mumbai had a guest lecturer today: Madhuri Dixit. The actress spiced up the launch of a “virtual classroom” project in the schools under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, giving a pep talk by video-conference to thousands of students who had simultaneously tuned in to listen to her.

“India is not behind in terms of technology,” Madhuri told the students who fired question after question at her — from the cost of studying in the US to alternative career options — as she appeared on screens set up in each of the schools.

“Every socio-economic stratum has intelligent kids. What is missing is access and opportunity. With such initiatives, you are getting a chance.”

Accompanying her in the “virtual classroom” was the brain behind the initiative, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, as well as scientist Raghunath Mashelkar. Uddhav was seen keenly listening to questions from students from the suburbs, and also joked with one who praised his oratory skills.

“You are the first person to call me a good orator,” Uddhav, often compared to his father Bal Thackeray who is known for his fiery speeches, told the student to much applause.

The idea behind the “virtual classroom” initiative is to enable guest academics and teachers to lecture simultaneously to students. “Techniques like a virtual classroom or a smart board which could be used in teaching students dissection of a frog would also create a lot of interest in learning,” Uddhav said.

A pilot project, begun in 24 schools six months ago to check out the feasibility of the initiative, turned out to be a huge success. One municipal school in Colaba logged a 100 per cent pass rate in the class X board exams held in March, officials said.

“More than 75 lectures were held by our best teachers through virtual classrooms in the pilot stage, followed by a 10-minute questionnaire. It helped students understand complex subjects easily,” said Ambasing Magar, the Colaba school principal and convener of the project.

Over the next five years, the project will be extended to other municipal schools at a cost of Rs 15 crore.

“We are making efforts to include all 143 secondary schools in the city. In the pilot project, class X students had used the virtual classrooms for subjects like math, science and English,” said Arvind Hire, the deputy commissioner, education.

Although the BMC, the country’s richest municipal authority, has an education budget of over Rs 1,400 crore, there has been concern of late over the lack of basic infrastructure and quality of education in the schools. Many have also shut down.