Less paperwork, more learning at Vidyanchal High School, Pune


When I was in sixth standard, my school started a brutal new system to discipline us: each "remark" in your school diary would cost you one mark from your final exam grades. Coming late to school, not returning library books on time, wearing a dishevelled school uniform, not polishing your shoes, talking during class or during assembly, forgetting books for classes were all indiscretions that led to such "remarks". I was an average student for the most part, but I went through a bit of a "problem child" phase in sixth standard, and by the middle of the school year, I had enough remarks in my diary to wipe out all my marks from the final exam. Yes, all -- I calculated.

I had to do something , so I pretended to have lost my diary.

But would things be different for me that year had my teachers noticed that I was on the path to self-destruction before my diary was full of remarks?

At Vidyanchal High School (VHS), traditional means of communication between teachers and parents (i.e. notes, diaries, and notices) have been replaced by Myelin, mobile application, which facilitates real time communication between all the stakeholders in the students' education. This means that parents can check Myelin daily and patterns of behaviour can be detected early, and interventions can be planned, if necessary.

"We can now communicate with parents easily. We put up all the notices and photographs about the activities we conduct in school over the app," said Anita Dash, pre-primary coordinator and senior KG teacher at VHS.

Messages are less likely to be lost in transit with this new paperless system. Shweta Murkute, Director of Education Strategy at VHS, shared that messages sent in the form of notes to the parents were previously not shared with the parents by some of the secondary school students. "For the younger children, we did not face such problems, because the parents usually open their bags and looked at their diaries. But in some cases the older children would not show their diaries to their parents and messages about the student's progress or behaviour would get lost in transit. With Myelin, each such message now reaches the parents," said Shweta.

Of the various benefits of the app, saving paper, time, and money are the most important. Less paperwork also means that the teachers can cut down on non-teaching administrative tasks and dedicate this time to teaching their students.

So, how does Myelin reduce paper usage at VHS?

We have all seen this meme on social media: "Did you know? 100,000 trees are cut down per day to produce exam paper. Say no to exams! Save trees!"

We know that the source of this data is disputable, but there is an element of truth to the accusation that the Indian education system consumes tons of unnecessary paper.

VHS has drastically reduced its paper usage this year: The VHS diary was half-notebook sized book of 120 pages where messages to parents were written. Issued at the beginning of the year to each student, this notebook was completely non-reusable.

The calendar was a 2*3 ft large colourful sheet with pictures.

Myelin has replaced both diaries and calendars: all notices, feedback, leave records, and report cards are maintained on the app. It has also made attendance registers redundant.

But it's just a little paper, right?

No! Diaries, calendars, notices, leave records, attendance registers of over 1700 students across various classes amounts to tons of paper usage, with most of the sheets from the diary not even getting used! Bespoke stationery custom-made for very specific uses cannot be reused, and tends to lie around forgotten in some drawer at the homes of the student at the end of the year!

But is it increasing efficient teaching/learning?

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

By reducing the drudgery of paperwork, Myelin streamlines teaching systems, making teaching and learning more efficient.

The syllabus covered in class is also updated on the app, which makes it easy for students who have missed classes on a particular day to catch up with the topics covered in class. "Earlier, when I used to be absent, I would have to find someone to lend me their notes. By then, the teacher would move on to the next topic, and it would be difficult to catch up. Now, with Myelin, I am always kept updated about what I missed in case I'm ever absent, so I can look up those topics myself before the next class," shared Nitya Dhabadgaonkar, a class 9 student at VHS

Anita Dash, as pre-primary coordinator, has a different experience with the app: it has helped her save at least one hour from her 8-hour work day. "When we wrote notices in the students' books by hand, we would spend at least an hour on it -- two minutes per student for 30 students. We had to write these messages while simultaneously keeping an eye on our students. Now we can use this time to conduct a new activity for the students," she shares.

Mukta Manohar, who uses the Myelin app as both a parent and a teacher, says that the app is very useful to save time, which she can then use to explain concepts and to impart values to her students. "We want to teach our students to think -- not just to memorise information. I see the difference this year. I've noticed my students really practising what we preach to them. This year, several girls forbade their parents from buying crackers because we had explained all the negative aspects of fireworks to them!" she shares, delighted that her students are imbibing good values.