Learning English and Mathematics the mGuru way

At 22, most of my friends had taken up internships or were job-hopping to figure out what worked best for them. I, however, had no clue what I wanted to do. And then, there are those like Adam Khorakiwala, who at that age had already interned with the World Bank, Palantir, and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIADI). He had also founded mGuru, a mobile learning app aimed at enhancing basic literacy and numeracy skills of K-5 students.

A Stanford University graduate with a major in Public Policy and a minor in Computer Science, Khorakiwala was always interested in “using technology to solve social problems”. While reading the 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Pratham, he realised that learning for the average person is not just poor, but criminally bad. “One out of two kids in Class 5, still reads and does Math at Class 2 level or less. At the same time, I knew that a smartphone could be bought for Rs 2,000 and in the next 3-5 years every family, whether they live in a penthouse in Lower Parel or a slum, will own a smartphone. It made no sense that kids would know so little, while their families have the world’s information in their pockets,” shares the 23-year-old, who was born in Virginia, lived in Manila till age 7, and then grew up in Mumbai until he moved to the US in 2011 to study.

With a scalable solution that could ultimately have an impact on those numbers in his mind, Khorakiwala returned to India after graduating in 2015. “For almost two months, I spent time with NGOs and in BMC schools, where I interviewed parents, students, teachers and NGO leaders to understand their problems, experiences and perspectives,” shares the Lower Parel-resident, who has worked on a range of things, including human rights, development and anti poverty.

From phonics to vocabulary, and grammar to comprehension, mGuru covers basic English skills through interactive games, stories and activities that are “built in-house in collaboration with a few NGO partners like LeapForWord and the Pratham English team. mGuru has around 60 stories, sourced through Pratham, to which we’ve added audio, questions and vocabulary. We have curated videos from the best sources on YouTube,” says Khorakiwala. New users go through a quick assessment that will roughly determine their level and unlock activities accordingly. Kids then go through levels and ‘worlds’ that correspond to different concepts.

“When I interviewed parents in slums around Mumbai, I could not find a primary-school student, who did not go to private tuition. If they’re willing to spend Rs 300-700 a month on tuitions, maybe they’ll pay Rs 40 a month for an app. During our interviews, every parent said that English and Math are the most important subjects, hence the focus on these two,” says Khorakiwala, who started working on the app at the end of 2015. The final Math version of the app should be out in about three months.

The mGuru team of five tested the prototype of the app with around 100 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation school students in Class 3 and 4. They spent an hour with them every Monday and Tuesday; while the kids had a go on the app using mGuru’s devices, the team observed what the kids understood and figured out what made sense. “Students did not know what to do next, or what to press. The app should have been obvious enough from a design perspective for those things to be clear. Aside from ease of use, the other main challenge was stickiness, so we started working with a design firm to make the app colourful, bright, lively and engaging; we added daily notifications and tasks, SMS report cards for the parents, the mascot—Motu the monkey, and the concept of earning and using mangoes and stars to unlock stories and videos,” says Khorakiwala, who is inspired by his parents, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama and several other leaders in technology and politics. He loves food, sports, travel, and reading up on politics, technology and policy.

Currently bootstrapped with funding, mGuru plans to use the money it won this year for NASSCOM’s Social Innovation Prize in Primary and Secondary Education. Used by approximately 30, 000 kids, the app has been available for download on Android phones, since August 2016. While you can download the app for free, “unlimited usage of it falls behind a paywall”. It works without internet (except for videos), and has language options for Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati.

Smartest Study Tips for Tough Engineering Exams – Identify how to grab the renowned Engineering career

JEE, the engineering entrance exam, being conducted at the national level, the competition is bound to be very high. These reputed institutions no doubt will give an excellent push to a brilliant career. But to crack JEE Main and JEE Advanced exams one should draw smart study plans and know better preparation techniques. JEE Main exam is for the candidates who wish to get admission to IIT, NIT and other centrally funded technical institutes. JEE Advanced exam on the other hand is for candidates who seek admission to IIT architectural courses; of course one should first clear JEE Main exam.


Quality not Quantity of Study is important

Often the words like “I study for 6 to 7 hours a day but could not crack JEE, whereas that guy studied only 3 to 4 hours had succeeded” are heard. In this instant, what we should understand is that the quality of study plan is most vital. Study plans should include:

  • Have a precise plan for the topics that are covered for a day, week and month and stick to that plan. If the initial plan goes wrong, rearrange it immediately and accordingly
  • Preparing notes for the topics that you have already covered. These notes will help you to recap at later stage for the exam
  • Solving at least one or two practice papers, sample papers, mock tests and previous year’s gives you confidence and also you will where you stand

Choose right study materials

Choose the right books and materials in the starting itself. Selecting a material that encompasses the entire JEE Main syllabus is crucial and it should be as per the latest JEE pattern.  JEE video lectures are also very helpful as they save your precious time. There are number of books and materials available for free as well as for purchasing. You can decide on them early and start preparations. Since JEE Advanced contains a few extra topics, you need to need to have in-depth knowledge of concepts and their applications.

Preparation Strategies

While there can be many strategies to prepare for an exam, you should draw your own strategies and study plans which suits you the best. The ultimate aim should be sticking to the strategies and plans to reach the goal that you have envisaged.

  • While taking mock tests, first focus on completing all the questions. This will help you to improve speed.
  • Next focus on combining speed and accuracy. One should understand that this kind of proficiency can be achieved easily by repeated and dedicated hard work.
  • Consistency and sticking to daily routines are very important points for preparation

Get Help in all possible ways

You can indulge in group studies for preparation. This will of course help to get ideas of other students and every one share knowledge, ideas and tips. Sometimes when you explain a particular topic to other students you will also gain better confidence on that topic. Talk to your teachers, well wishers and the students who have already cracked JEE exam. Their valuable inputs can be of immense value for your preparation.

Plan Smartly

While managing your time for sticking to your study plan is important, set aside some time for recreational activities as well. Little bit of exercise, playing one or two computer games can give more relaxation to you. Having a smart revision plan will give you lot of assurance to face the exam.

Take care of minor things

Eat properly by including healthy items into your food. Never miss out breakfast, lunch or dinner thinking that you will feel sleepy if you take food. You can perform relaxation and breathing exercises and utilize utmost of your break periods.

Having discussed all the plans and tips to crack the JEE exam, being positive is one of the major criteria. Never allow negative thoughts to invade your mind. Know that word “IMPOSSIBLE” can be interrupted as “I M POSSIBLE”.

Stressed teachers being ‘reduced to tears’

Stressed teacherImage copyrightThinkstock
Image captionTeaching unions have long complained about workload leading to stress

Stressed teachers are being reduced to tears and not being helped with their workload, a teachers’ leader says.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, says she has been told of one teacher crying every night at home and another being ordered not to burst into tears in the staffroom.

She added that teachers are often expected to work extra hours at home.

And she called on head teachers to back their staff, while ministers have pledged to reduce unnecessary workload.

Dr Bousted, writing in the Times Educational Supplement, said how she was “silenced” by a young man who told her how worried he was about his primary school teacher partner.


“Increasingly, when he came home from work, he found her crying on the kitchen floor,” Dr Bousted said.

She told how she had heard from another teacher who had been given a performance objective that she must not cry in the staffroom.

“She did not know what to be more mortified about – that she had cried in the staffroom, or that her line manager could propose such an objective without any thought about what might cause her to cry in the first place,” Dr Bousted said.

She added: “Tales like these are told to me just too often. It seems that teacher stress is increasingly being regarded as par for the course and part of the job.

“A newly qualified teacher, asking for help to deal with an impossible workload which took up every evening until 11pm and all of the weekend, was told by her line manager ‘that’s the way it is in teaching’.

“Teachers, as professionals, expect to work hard but should not be expected to devote every minute of their lives to their work. Teachers need time to relax, to pursue hobbies, to talk to their families and friends. They need time to be human.”


Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said there was no doubt the whole teaching profession, from the newly qualified teacher to the senior leader, was under considerable pressure.

“It’s essential that we all pay attention to the well-being of staff. That’s a shared responsibility between colleagues of the same level, middle leaders, senior leaders and governors, who ultimately carry the duty of care.

“Clearly, if a member of staff is in tears in the staff room, it would be incumbent on the school, someone in the school, to look at what the problem was and discuss it with them, so they can give them the appropriate support they need.”

Dr Bousted also pointed out that the education system cannot afford to be so “profligate with its teachers”.

‘Precious resource’

“At the moment England is in a perfect storm of rising pupil numbers, falling teacher recruitment and poor teacher retention.

“Official figures show that the country will need nearly 160,000 additional teachers over the next three years to cope with a projected 582,000 rise in primary and secondary age pupils by 2020.

“If our education system is to meet this immense challenge, it needs to value its teachers as its most precious resource and treat them accordingly,” she added.

A Department for Education spokesman said teaching remained a hugely popular profession, with the highest numbers of people joining since 2008.

“But we want to ensure teachers can focus on what they do best – teaching and inspiring young people – not needless bureaucracy and paperwork.

“That’s why are driving forward a package of measures including looking at how we can reduce teacher workload by tackling three of their biggest concerns – marking, planning and data management.

“It is vital schools have systems in place to help limit stress for staff, and provide appropriate support if needed.”

MU postpones exams for nine postgraduate courses

MUMBAI: Mumbai University postponed the commencement dates of around nine postgraduate courses including MA and MSc due to late admissions this year. Late results, followed by delay in admissions of several postgraduate courses had shortened the academic term forcing the university to reschedule the exam. Some of the exams have been postponed by over a month. One of the TYB Com (semester VI) paper on October 29 was also rescheduled as it clashed with a CA exam.

The dates of commencement of exams that were postponed include MA (other than Mathematics, Statistics, and Geography) credit-based grading system (CBGS) semester-I, M Sc (other than Mathematics, Statistics, and Geography) and M Sc Research (semester I), MA (Hons) in Sociology (Semester-I), TYBA (five-year integrated course in Russian) (Sem V), MA (Hons) in Politics (Sem I and Sem III), MA (Hons) in Sociology (Sem III) and MA (Hons) in Public Policy (Sem II). The university has put up the notice on their official website.

Coimbatore’s Bharathiar University continues to violate UGC norms on off-campus centres

COIMBATORE: Even though the University Grants Commission has warned state government-run universities against offering distance education programmes outside the state, Bharathiar University continues to flout the norms. UGC had sent a notice to the university registrar demanding an explanation on why the university continues to violate the norms despite receiving the warning.

In August, the UGC had sent a circular to all the universities in the country stating that any state government-run university is not allowed to run distance education centres outside the state. Following this circular, Bharathisdasan University, Trichy, had acted upon the UGC circular by issuing notices to shutdown its off-campus distance education centres outside Tamil Nadu.

However, the UGC circular dated September 15, and received by the Bharathiar University on September 18, said, “This has reference to UGC letter dated August 6, 2015 wherein the university was directed to immediately withdraw affiliation/recognition granted to private institutions in various parts of the country against the policy of the UGC regarding territorial jurisdiction. The university (Bharathiar) has not submitted its compliance report in this regard.”

The circular also said that the degrees awarded to the students studying in these private centres outside the territorial jurisdiction will not be recognized by the UGC for the purpose of employment or higher studies. A copy of this circular is with TOI.

University registrar K G Senthil Vasan declined to comment. UGC has also sent a copy of the circular to the principal secretary of the higher education, state government of Tamil Nadu. Selvi Apoorva too was unavailable for comment. Former vice-chancellor James G Pitchai, who was in office when the circular was received by the university, too refused to comment.

Dates for class XI first and third semester exams Gujarat board changed

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Examination Board (GSHSEB) has decided to advance the examination dates for the first and third semesters of class-XI (Science stream). The exam would now be held from November 2 to 9.

Board sources said that the earlier schedule had papers on all days. “As per the norm, the schedule of the fourth semester exams is designed in such a way that students have at least one holiday before each paper. Thus, some quarters argued that as the results of all semesters count in the final analysis, the norm should be followed for the first and the third semester exams as well. The new schedule has one holiday followed by one exam,” said an official. Officials stated that 1.35 lakh students would appear for the first semester exams whereas 1.3 lakh students would take the third semester examinations.

The move might disturb vacation plans of families, said sources. “The earlier schedule had the exams getting over on November 7. As the new one pushes the schedule by two days, in some cases, families would have to re-book tickets,” said sources.

AU students’ union polls on September 28: V-C to students

AU students' union polls on September 28: V-C to students

ALLAHABAD: Breaking with the precedent, vice-chancellor A Satyanarayan on Thursday assured a group of student leaders that Allahabad University Students’ Union elections would be held on September 28.

The announcement is unprecedented as varsity usually appoints a faculty member as returning officer (RO), who then formulates the schedule for elections, including dates of sale of forms, scrutiny, withdrawal of names, date of polling and announcement of results.

However, talking with student leaders, the vice-chancellor said that the varsity was clear on its stand of holding the elections on September 28.

“I have asked the proctor to issue I-cards to all students and all departments would be asked to complete PG admissions so that elections could be held on either September 27 or 28,” said V-C Satyanaryan while talking to TOI.

Timely election was vital as it would allow students and faculty members to focus on academics, he said and added that the process of providing guest faculty in various departments too had been completed.

The V-C further added that detail programme for holding the election was being readied and things would clear out in next two days as AU would soon finalize the name of RO.

Sources said that varsity authorities had met district administration on September 8, wherein both parties agreed on September 25 as suitable date for polls.

“Now that the V-C has assured students of elections on September 28, we will request district administration to support AU authorities in its peaceful conduct,” said AU’s chief proctor R K Upadhyay.