At Duke's Fuqua School of Business, Duke undergrads for the "Rethink Education: The Innovation Challenge" winter forum pitched ideas such as paying high achieving students to tutor, older students teaching younger students through video tutorials, a program that would have students repair bicycles as a part of their studies and a high tech pen-pal system shuttling messages, knowledge and know-how between schools in Durham and those in India.
More than 100 Duke undergraduates competed to come up with innovative solutions to some of the toughest global education problems in a three-day challenge. And the school of education wasn't the only one to provide thinkers. 48 hours were spent by young people majoring in pre-med, business and other specialties in wrestling with the question of how they could help improve science, technology, engineering and math instruction in both India and the U.S.
The challenge exposed the students to new ideas from education experts, along with former N.C. Governors Bev Perdue and Jim Hunt, as well as inspiring them to think in non-traditional ways. Kenneth Dodge, the director for Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy, believes that since education needs innovation, the aim of the challenge is to enable the students to think of education in a broader perspective.
"The goal is to get them thinking and embedded and immersed in the idea of education and the need for innovation," he said. "Education is a field that needs innovation right now."
As reported by Reema Khrais of WUNC 91.5, 12 teams of undergraduate students closely worked together. A wide range of ideas was presented by them, and a pen-pal-inspired online platform between a Durham Public school and schools in India that would help strengthen teacher instruction and student performance in science, technology, engineering and math education was proposed by the winning team.
The idea won based on several factors. In North Carolina, there has been a need for better STEM student performance. The need for stronger professional development of teachers in India is also being addressed. Encouraging teachers and students in both countries to exchange ideas and tactics affected both problems.
"I think it's a completely feasible solution, just like Teach For America was Wendy Kopp's senior thesis, this could easily be someone's senior thesis," said Eeshan Bhatt, a group member.
A project with a heavy focus on India was also presented by the second place winners. A need to combat the poor retention rate among Indian students led to the idea that middle school students could receive training and financial compensation for tutoring younger students.