Culture & Society

Filling The Education Gap

The Filo app is transforming the lives of underprivileged students in government schools

Students using Filo app for studying
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Prince Kumar is a student of class 11 and has been preparing for JEE for the past few months. He neither attends any coaching classes nor any paid online courses. He is sure that he will be able to qualify for the engineering exam. A resident of Chaurasa village, Aliganj block, Jamui district, Bihar, Prince studies at a government school and has garnered this confidence in a mere span of 10 months.

On asking ‘how’, he says, “I will tell you everything. My brother was searching for something on his mobile and suddenly an advertisement of Filo appeared. The ad said that if you have any questions with regard to your subject, you can ask, and answers would be explained properly. On the Filo app, teachers would be available on live videos and they would explain the toughest questions with clarity. After some days, we were informed in school that in our district the app was free, and we could ask any question through this app. This happened in October last year. I was in class 10 and used to travel to my uncle’s place for tuitions 10 km away. The day I started studying from the Filo app, I stopped going to my uncle’s place. I prepared for three months on this app for my class 10 exams. I used to study the whole day on this app. If I failed to understand any question, I would click its picture and upload the same on the app and the teacher, through live video, would explain the problem with clarity.”

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A student using Filo app for atudying

Prince secured 77 per cent marks in the board exams and he gives the credit to the Filo app. He says that he was not very good in social studies. However, with the help of Filo, he could score the highest marks of 89 in that subject. When he downloaded the app for the first time, he had uploaded a picture of an equation chapter from mathematics. Prince says that within a minute a teacher came live on the app and solved the question.

Prince has a brother and a sister. His father is a farmer. The financial status of the family is not good enough for Prince to go out and prepare for the exams. He is studying with the help of this app and is quite excited about it. Filo has become an alternative to the lack of teachers in Bihar.

Prince is not the only student in Bihar who has been trying to get basic conceptual clarity. Numerous students have solved difficult sums with the help of this technology while being at home. According to the Bihar Government, two lakh students from class nine to 12 are active on this app. Anupam too has been using this app. He also belongs to Jamui district. He is studying physics, chemistry and biology at Inter High School in Basaiya village of Sikandra block. 

He says, “I have been using this app for the last three months. I didn’t have money to enroll in online tuition classes. As soon as I got to know about this app, I started using it. Today, a teacher on the Filo app taught me a chapter on work, power and energy in physics in just 15 minutes. My base has improved due to this app. If there is any doubt in any subject, I upload the picture on the app and the teacher clears the doubt.” Anupam’s father too is a farmer and his family has seven members. Anupam says that he has asked almost 100 questions till date and these have been explained in an easy manner.

According to the Unified District Information System for Education, between 2020 and 2021, the largest number of government schools was opened in Bihar, the highest in the country. In 2019, the number of government schools increased from 72,610 to 75,555 in 2020-21. But the number of government teachers have decreased in the state. As per one report, about 1.75 lakh teachers have to be recruited. 

Former Higher Secondary Education Director Manoj Kumar says that the number of schools has increased in Bihar, but the paucity of teachers poses a problem. Kumar says that children were earlier facing a great difficulty in their studies. That was the reason the Bihar Government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Filo.

Kumar says, “We had launched Filo app in December 2021. Bihar needed this app as there was a gap in the children’s education on account of fewer teachers. Filo has tried to bridge this gap. Students have benefitted on account of this app. I feel that as long as there is a problem of teachers in Bihar, this kind of app can act as an alternative method of teaching.” 

Worldwide, Filo is providing tutors to 40 lakh children in 15 countries. In India, the company is doing this work as a campaign. Its name is Sampoorna Shiksha Kawach. At present, 3.5 lakh children in government higher secondary schools in Bihar, Rajasthan and Jharkhand are using the Filo app. They get timely free help of teachers in 12 languages 24X7. Around 60 teachers are always available with Filo. 

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School students using Filo app

Khushi Sharma hails from Shahpura block, Jaipur district, Rajasthan, and is a class 12 student of a government school. Her house and school are located in Radavas village of this block. Sharma secured 96 per cent marks in class 11 and she gives the credit to Filo. She says, “The best part of Filo app is that the teachers are available on the app 24X7. I came to know about this app in April last year. Most of the times, I take the help of this app. We are not taught in a proper manner at school—the way it is taught easily by the teachers in the app. I was able to complete the 11th standard syllabus only with the help of this app.” In the same manner, Anil Kumar, Sanjay Meena, Manish Sharma and a half a dozen more students of government schools are studying with the help of the Filo app in Rajasthan.

According to the Rajasthan government, about 1.5 lakh students studying in government schools are using this app. Dhiraj Srivastawa of the Rajasthan Foundation, a state government organisation, who is a coordinator between the state education department and Filo, says: “We started this as an experiment in July 2022. We shortlisted 10,000 children to observe the number of students who showed interest in the online classes. The impact was so good that the number increased from 10,000 to 25,000. The government has appreciated the way this app works.We are hoping that the government makes this app a part of the state education system.”

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Under the Sampoorna Shiksha Kawach campaign in Dumka, Jharkhand, four students have qualified for the JEE Mains exam with the assistance of the Filo app. Filo says that at present they are operative only in Dumka. They will soon be starting this campaign at 10 other districts of Jharkhand. 

Karn Satyarthi, who launched the Filo app in Dumka district, says: “We launched the Filo app in 26 higher secondary schools in Dumka in August 2022. Filo takes live classes for children studying in the 11th and 12th standards of these schools for three hours. It is done in a two-way process, not one way. This means that the children can also ask questions from teachers who are taking live classes of students. They clear their doubts at home through this app.”

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School students using Filo app

Out of the four students who qualified for the JEE Mains exam, Ankit Kumar Ram is one of them. He had passed his 12th standard exams securing 87 per cent marks. He says, “I have been taking the help of Filo app for a long time. If I am unable to solve a problem, I click a picture of the same and upload it on the app. The teacher, through the live class, tries to clear my doubts. I cleared my JEE Mains exam by studying on this app. I am preparing for my exams next year by using the Filo app.”

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The Filo online education app was founded by Imbesat Ahmad, Rohit Kumar (IIT, Khargpur) and Shadman Anwer (IIT, Delhi) in December 2020. Ahmad feels that in India, crores of rupees are spent on education and its infrastructure without any concrete outcome. The quality of education does not get better, which affects the literacy rate. Referring to National Achievement Survey (NAS) report, he says, “There are 90 per cent children in class 10 who do not understand mathematics, as they could not clear their concepts in their seventh, eighth and ninth standards. Children studying in the eighth class have problems in basic division. This is a learning gap and it is a big problem in government schools. Covid has further enhanced this problem. As per our research, we found that most children cannot attend online classes because of the poor financial condition of their households.” We came up with the idea of the app because of these reasons, he adds. 

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“We have also taken care of those children who do not attend school daily. About 87 per cent of the children who are unable to understand any concept at home, stop studying. Our work starts at that very moment. We are available for children 24x7 and try to provide teacher’s help within 60 seconds,” says Rohit Kumar. Filo app has been presented with two awards this year by the Union Government for its services in the field of education.

(Translated by Kaveri Mishra)
 

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