With an increasing number of students requiring academic help beyond that of schooling, it comes as no surprise that parents have started to look for other options.
Dot & Line, a creative space where children aged 9 months to 10 years are offered a menu of afterschool workshops including creative writing, reading, art and math, launched an afterschool space called the Dot & Line club in Karachi back in 2015.
With time, the education space became popular with parents and a lot of queries started coming in for more such spaces in other parts of the city
To come around such demand troubles, the company launched a new and affordable initiative called Dot & Line Centres that creates an accessible way for students and teachers to connect. The company is creating affordable after-school learning centres at a respective teacher's home to cater to students of a nearby area.
For example, a student from Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Karachi now has the option to go to a Dot & Line certified teacher's home for afterschool education right in the vicinity.
When asked how the idea of home-based centres came into being, Lina Ahmed, co-founder Dot & Line told The Express Tribune, that students from far off areas would not have been able to travel to other areas for afterschool education.
“Our goal is always to create high-quality learning experiences. In this case, we also wanted to be able to reach every community in Pakistan but at an affordable price point, so leveraging technology from the homes of our certified teacher partners became the ideal solution.”
This certainly solved the demand and supply conundrum but it raised certain ethical questions.
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Ahmed made it clear that Dot & Line has an "extensive vetting process" for both the teacher's academic abilities and their home environment. Once past the vetting program, the company has developed an app to monitor the academic progress of the students.
It combines technology with paper-based workbooks delivered through trained and certified teachers at home within the neighbourhood.
The startup aims to uplift women by providing them flexible, work-from-home opportunities where they can earn up to Rs 65,000 while working only 72 hours a month, which means that in a week a certain teacher has to be available to teach 18 hours.
With a user-friendly dashboard in the app that is designed by a team in San Francisco, Dot & Line has integrated technology well with monitoring and evaluation.
The app keeps a check of attendance, payments, student metrics making it easier for teachers to grade each student and to easily access assessments.
It makes the whole process of teachers working from home transparent. Students are registered based on their unique login information. Furthermore, the parents of each child receive progress reports.
“While our world-class workbooks are where all the learning happens, our app is used more as a comprehensive administrative and evaluation tool for our certified teachers allowing them to work from home, and for us to scale our learning environments while maintaining quality,” said Lina Ahmed, Co-founder of Dot & Line.
She further added that each teacher is evaluated based on how their students perform.
When asked why the team is focused on teaching math and chooses to put that subject first over the others, they said that sometimes children at a younger age suffer anxiety when it comes to numerics and digits which is why this company aims to eliminate the basic conceptual misunderstandings.
Along with that, the majority of the parents stated that their children faced difficulties with numerical problems. Be it budgeting, saving, environmental conservation, all is kept in mind and made very locally-applicable.
“By infusing math with real-world problems, we encourage children to look at the subject as an essential problem solving tool that can and should be applied to their daily thought process, rather than be dependent on rote learning which goes away from conceptual understanding and leads to children grappling with the subject in higher grade levels,” Lina further added.
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Currently, Dot & Line has 45 trained and certified teacher partners in Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad. We asked her how the program different from that of normal tuition centres. Ahmed explained that Dot & Line centres are a low-cost solution for the $4 billion tuition market in Pakistan.
In private tuition centres, the teachers are often those who are already teaching at particular schools with afterschool tuitions often used as a medium to give more information on the courses taught at schools.
Dot & Line runs on a completely different curve with its own standardised curriculum approved by various academic watchdogs while focusing on the core numerical concepts being taught to children.
If you want to apply to become a teacher partner, there is a certain criterion that needs to be met. The most important is that only women can apply for this program as the main aim of this startup is to empower women to work from home and give them an opportunity to use their time in the most constructive way.
“At the very core of our vetting process we are looking for candidates who demonstrate a sheer love for children as well as passion and pride in being a teacher,” said Lina.
The project was funded by the UK Government DFID and is in the process of raising seed commercial investment.
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