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Wikipedia for Schools Project

Teachers and students in Nyeri, Kenya listening to a tutorial under the Wikipedia for Schools Project.

In 2005, SOS Children, the world’s largest charity for orphan and abandoned children[1] [2] launched the “A World of Learning” project, which handpicks Wikipedia articles and categorizes them by subject for schoolchildren around the world to use. The project focuses on content that is suitable for students between the ages of 8-17 based on the UK education curriculum. In November 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) endorsed the project, which resulted in its relaunch as “Wikipedia for Schools” and its new web address (http://www.schools-wikipedia.org). Ever since then, the project continues to enjoy the support of The Wikimedia Foundation. The website went through subsequent revisions in 2008-09 as well as in 2013. The 2013 edition has 6,000 articles, 26 million words and 50,000 images – making it a fairly large project that caters to the needs of school children across the globe. The online Website also contains “download the website” link which enables users to download the material for use without internet connection. [1]

Hole in the Wall Education Ltd (HiWEL) supported the Wikipedia for Schools project in an effort to expand its reach in Learning Stations in India and African countries.[2] The program has received recognition from around the world for its far reaching impact. According to Subir from Nepal’s online learning project E-Pustakalaya, “Wikipedia for Schools has been really useful in public schools in Nepal. The students of remote corners of Nepal, where there is no internet access, now know about the diverse culture, religion, art, science and lifestyles of the countries around the world. All credit goes to the team that built this wonderful repository of information for schools.” [1] Similarly, Patrick of Treverton Schools, South Africa, welcomed the effort as “fantastic resource for schools with little or no bandwidth, of which there are many here in South Africa.”

According to Jamie Goodland, the annual reach of the online version of Wikipedia for Schools is close to 1.5 million. He also points out that while there are no immediate plans for revisions, should there be any development to this effect, then there may well be a role for Wikipedians play in updating the selections. The software that selects the articles was specially developed for Wikipedia for Schools and allows editors to remove Wikipedia content but not add or change it. Editors only remove vandalized content and explicit content considered unsuitable for its audience; for example, strong language not justified by its context.

This project has garnered the interest of educators from the Teach for India program who implemented the offline version at their schools and spread the word via their lectures (see this discussion on Wikimedia Education mailing list). The Wikipedia project, Offline Wikipedia for Indian Schools, is underway with customized local content for Indian schools. One of the ex-admins of Hindi Wikipedia, Anunad Singh, has called for localized versions of Wikipedia for Schools in Hindi and other Indian languages.[3]  The release of  Wikipedia articles in Malayalam CD  has been a lead in this direction. The idea of handpicking select Wikipedia articles for schools started by SOS Children is no longer restricted to the English Wikipedia. It is now spreading to other languages. This is definitely the materialization of Jimmy Wales’ vision in which he states “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.” That’s what we’re doing.

Special thanks to Jamie Goodland of the Wikipedia for Schools Project for the information used in this post.

Syed Muzammiluddin, Wikipedian

References

  1. a b c About SOS Children. SOS Children. Retrieved on June 19,2014.
  2. a b SOS Children’s Village to provide Free Encyclopedia. Hole in the Wall Education Ltd. (HiWEL). Retrieved on June 19, 2014.
  3. Wikipedia for schools के बारे में. Hindi Wikipedia. Retrieved on June 19, 2014.

Copyright Notes:: “Wikipedia for Schools project, Kenya.jpg” by Abbas, under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, from Wikimedia Commons.

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