For 2017 IDRC Research Award Recipient Sujaya Neupane, carrying out fieldwork in Nepal was literally coming home. Neupane spent time in the remote western villages of Thapagaun and Jhimpa — his childhood home — to find ways of improving science education by using digital learning tools.
The quality of education is vastly different in Nepal’s rural and urban areas, he explains, leading to poor educational outcomes in rural schools. But with the advent of inexpensive technology and free multimedia resources, science teaching materials can be accessed at low cost, he says. His goal was to determine how sustainable digital libraries could be set up in rural schools.
“One can’t hope to educate young people today without computers,” says Neupane. “I used a Raspberry-pi computer board as a server with embedded open-source learning tools, including those provided by Khan Academy and Wikipedia. Tablets were used to access these materials wirelessly from the server,” he explains. The Raspberry Pi is a low-cost credit card-sized single board computer designed specifically to promote education.
A team of teachers-cum-researchers in two secondary schools worked with Neupane to establish a protocol for using the digital learning materials.
Establishing an e-library in Jhimpa has opened up sources of knowledge to students who never had access to a library before, says Neupane. He and the on-site research team are now exploring how to evaluate the impact on students’ learning when the project ends in mid-2018.
Of his IDRC experience, Neupane says “being able to go back and live in my village and conduct research in schools there jointly with the teachers was the most memorable,” says Neupane. “Through this experience I am determined to work to develop an education system in rural Nepal as a volunteer and independent researcher.”