Interview times had a great time conversing with a techie who returned to Odisha to start dealing with the little innovators.
Mr Anil Pradhan, the rising innovator with social plugin whose aim has always been in serving deeds that would erase gaps in-between quality education system in village and cities.
Anil had always been a good and obidient student in the school where he started learning C and C++ from the sixth standard and used to attend classes with B.Tech students.
While studying at Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology, Anil used to be the member of Idea and Innovation Club and curb the initiate to design the VSLV – Asia’s first student launch vehicle and satellite to monitor Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur.
Although Anil got multiple job offers after graduation from companies such as Tata, L&T, and Accenture, but he wanted to grow his own school.
His parents were not sure about his decision of rejecting fair paying job offers to pursue something that wouldn’t ensure their son stable income for further livelihood.
Significant achievements: His achievements include the establishment of International Public School for Rural Innovation (IPSFRI) which made him earn the 2018 National Youth Icon Award from Government of India.
He is also leading as “Mentor for Change” at Atal Tinkering Labs, which is the nationwide government-run centres for school students to acquire innovative skills and develop analytical ability that could help in transforming India under Atal Innovation Mission.
The National Council of Science Museums made him the “Innovation Mentor” at the Regional Science Centre in Bhubaneshwar, who was the youngest one to go.
Despite all the accolades, which could have taken Pradhan anywhere he wanted to come back home and establish centre for learning and innovation.
Question 1: How did you achieve in pursuing this idea and what made you decide to open school with such a concept?
Answer: Despite studying in English medium school in Odisha, I was denied to get admission in Carmel Convent in Bhopal all because of my average English speaking skills.
This memory stayed vivid in my mind when I shifted back to Odisha in 2014, where my desire to improve the quality of education in villages was refreshed. In the third year of engineering, in Odisha, I began fondating for the IPSFRI school.
I was born in 42 Mouza and left a to receive a good education.
But I never want people to migrate cities for decent education system.
I also found the conventional school curriculum put burden on students and such system does not produce creative and innovative students who could find solutions for society. To address and eliminate these concerns, I started this school.
Question 2: What are the key factors you are focusing on, and what is/is its expansion?
Answer: STEM education is popular in cities, and urban parents can afford it for their children. By starting up IPSFRI in the villages, we are not only ensuring quality education there but also introducing STEM education.
IPSFRI focuses mostly on skill development and STEM education, while still teaching all other subjects and languages like Odia, English and Hindi.
IPSFRI acquires with innovative tools to teach the most straightforward lessons to the students whereby the school has an innovation room with 3D printer, laser cutters, drill machines, cutting machines, woodcutters, welding machines, and all kinds of small tools.
All these machines are well equipped with the ‘kill switch technology’ to maintain the safety of the children.
To teach kindergarten students regarding how to hold a pencil, we prepared simple tools such as hammering the needle into wooden ply.
We bring students a thread and ask them to put the thread into the needle, using as many fingers as they want.
Once students get to know that they only need to use their index finger and the thumb to bring out this assignment, they automatically learn how to hold a pencil.
Similarly, to bring innovation in geometry lessons, students use 3D printing to understand the shapes and measure the sides.
Question 3: Apart from school learning subjects what all does IFSPRI Offers?
Answer: Apart from training students in basic subjects, IPSFRI provides other classes as well.
One we named is called, “Tod, phod and jod,’ i.e. dismantle, break and rejoin, where students dismantle things such as old computers and build something new from the existing one.
Another practise, called ‘Kabad se jugad’calls for collecting scraps and creating something new from them. ‘Zor ka jhatka’ teach students regarding electronics and engineering.
The lesson entails students learn innovative garden hacks with plastic bottle, which allow them to obseed, nurture it and examine the growth before them.
Besides primary teaching how to utilise plastic waste instead of dumping them, students learned basics of biology and art of taking responsibility for their plant.
Question 4:How would you give it a check on fulfilling dreams to such a successful transition?
Answer: My father, SK Pradhan, taught me lessons that made me what I am today. His dedication and commitment towards countrymen drives me to do something for the betterment of the people.
While, my mother, Sujata Pradhan, inspired me to become an educator, considering how she battled through odds to complete her education. Lack of sound knowledge in remote locations is what made us start school.
I first pitched the idea of IPSRI to my mother Sujata, who was a teacher at Kendriya Vidyalaya and principal of CRPF Montessori School. There were questions about whether this initiative would work.
Understanding how to set up the school, my mother played a crucial role in helping me.
Once basic structure was in place, I converted it into an Innovation School.
She suggested with development of teaching methodology. Generally, funds to start this school were offered by my parents, but eventually, I started investing all my scholarship money and rewards I received in the past.
Question 5: How did you cater out scepticism and encouraged the involvement of the rural population to send them to your school instead of city private schools?
Answer: Initially, parents were not ready to send children to IPSFRI.
They complained if I do not offer mid-day meals and uniforms, why would they send their children to my school.
In 2017, we introduced a school uniform for our students and worked on providing mid-day meals to students.
Moreover, villagers generally do not acquired what the school was precisely teaching. I always used to tell parents – give me a year’s time. If you don’t find it satisfactory, you can go back to your government schools.
Question 6: What next do you hope for your students in conquering more command over your school?
Answer: For the future, meanwhile, we have some ambitious plans up my sleeve. There are plans a foot for mobile schools that would travel from one village to other.
When I was studying in Baral, I used to cycle 12 km daily to reach school and get back. To ensure quality education comes even the remotest of the students, we are worked on a new project, ‘Innovation School on Wheels’, to impact more people.
We have the innovation room inside a bus, with all kinds of tools, and take this bus to remotely located schools across Odisha.
Question 7: What is your source of revenue in continuing such a dream?
Answer: For students with a BPL or Ration Card, education is free, and they are exempted from paying fees. However, students from slightly well-to-do families pay amount per month for the materials.
We do not charge any tuition fees.
Individuals who are willing to contribute can volunteering sponsor particular children while it takes Rs 15,000 a year to sponsor a child. This conserves material cost, uniform and textbooks. Organisations, on the other hand, can fund the tools and equipment used in the innovation centre. Kempii has provided us with the welding machines.
Question 8: Tell us something about your team, and how are they involved in coping up with your big business?
Answer: We has found an innovative solution for recruiting teachers as well. We train students from local engineering colleges to teach students.
IPSFRI consists of seven college students teaching full time with a salary of Rs 3000 per month and 15 volunteers taking special technical classes.
Besides this, we also mentor students in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Odisha and generate revenue. IPSFRI is presently a team of 45 volunteers.
Question 9: How do the team come up with co-curricular activities, and how do they mentor them to be a successful career bidder?
Answer: What’s particularly interesting about the school is our approach to education.
For starters, we do not conduct exams, and no marks are assigned for conventional sense.
Instead, questions are posed to students, depending on their response, they are graded on a graph which shows either an improvement or drop in their academic performance.
We also have a set of activities that includes playing, crafting and experimenting, that assist us in knowing, up to what extent a student is inclined towards a particular field or its interest.
Besides teaching students the basic science and math concepts through practical applications, students are even encouraged to innovate new things.
For example, one lesson engraves students learn innovative gardening hacks with plastic bottle, which allows them to observe a seed, nurture it properly and see the growth before them.
Question 10: What are your hope towards your students and a message for Indian parental control.
Answer: We don’t look for degrees in a teacher candidate. Instead, we look for proficiency and their desire to educate students. We have our innovative training methods too.
In my opinion, a calm and quiet student who doesn’t seem so studious can do miracles one day because education doesn’t mean matching marks with a student’s capability.
Written By- Mousami Jena