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Project-based learning revolutionising the education system

Meu Labs Co-Founders Pasindu Thisaranga, Thulith Edirisinghe, and Shayen Yatagama realised that there is a gap in the traditional education system and the expectations of the real world while they were employed in the IT field.

Upon seeing this niche market, they brought the concept of project-based learning to Sri Lanka to bridge that gap, which was the motivation behind Meu Labs.

Meu Labs Co-Founders Pasindu Thisaranga, Thulith Edirisinghe, and Shayen Yatagama

Meu Labs is an open and collaborative learning environment, designed to revolutionise STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) using project-based learning to give students a unique learning experience.

Co-Founder Thisaranga told Brunch that their ecosystem allows your child to explore multiple technologies, industry domains, and creative outlets to gradually understand their own strengths and passions. “We are not just another traditional classroom with exams, grades, or a fixed curriculum that frames unique and creative minds.”

According to Thisaranga, the traditional education system is very good at creating qualified individuals, but not creative thinkers or problem solvers. Right now, the whole country is suffering as the community is unable to think on their feet and generate their own unique solutions.

“Young, talented individuals are forced to study ‘boring’ subjects, are not given the freedom to think because it’s not part of the syllabus, their creativity is numbed and ridiculed, and are constantly being told to play by the rules,” explained Thisaranga, which is why Meu Labs strives to create a generation of creative thinkers and problem solvers by bringing an inversion to conventional education.

What is project-based learning?

Project-based learning (PBL), or project-based instruction, is an instructional approach designed to give students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills through engaging projects set around challenges and problems they may face in the real world.

Thisaranga informed us that the team spent several years researching this concept before developing a curriculum that could be implemented in Sri Lanka.

PBL is more than just “doing a project” in the way you might remember from your own school days. Thisaranga saw a vast difference in how children react to a problem or a question; their studies are all open-ended and there is no right or wrong answer as there is in a traditional education system.

At Meu Labs, they recreate a collaborative space where students work as teams to tackle complex and engaging projects that are designed and developed with specific learning outcomes in mind.

Thisaranga further explained that students acquire decision-making and problem-solving skills while scaffolding their theoretical understanding and building competencies in specific technology tools. They use the guidance of nurturing facilitators who are professionals with vast industry experience from around the world, and give children the opportunity to explore their passions, professionalise their skills, and inspire them to create their own paths to success.

Benefits of PBL

It is known that children have various learning styles; they build their knowledge on varying backgrounds and experiences. It is also recognised that children have a broader range of capabilities than they have been permitted to show in regular classrooms with the traditional text-based focus.

Project-based learning, rather than short-term memory and summative regurgitation, allows students to interact intimately with the objective topic, resulting in a concentration on long-term retention. Due to its ability to keep students involved, PBL also enhances student attitudes toward education.

“Because it emphasises student learning around a focal topic or problem and a meaningful goal, the PBL format lends itself to developing intrinsic motivation. Students want to know what they know, understand, and can do just as much as the instructor wants to know what they know, understand, and can accomplish,” Thisaranga stated.

We understand that these interpersonal aspects of PBL dovetail perfectly with the use of technology in the classroom. Technology-based projects are interdisciplinary, collaborative, inquiry-based, self-directed, motivating, and address the full range of student needs and learning styles.

PBL addresses differences in learning, because students must use all modalities in the process of researching and solving a problem, then communicating the solutions. “When children are interested in what they are doing and are able to use their areas of strength, they achieve at a higher level,” he observed.

Talking about the benefits of PBL during a lockdown, Thisaranga observed that while we are still unsure about whether there will be another wave, or additional lockdowns affecting classroom-based learning, PBL can take place any time, any place. It doesn’t depend on access to technology or expensive materials, and can help to ensure that all children have access to a high-quality education, whatever their means or abilities.

Furthermore, he observed that the adaptability of PBL means that it’s perfectly suited to personalisation and can be flexible to changing focuses within subjects.

Class structure at Meu Labs

Meu Labs classes are designed to be student-centric with a maximum class size of 20 heads, where each student will be assigned to a team of four. Thisaranga informed us that individual attention is given to each student and a class will have a dedicated tutor who is always available to support and guide the young learners along the way.

The classes have three main session components: Tutorial Session – a structured two-hour session designed to orient young learners with career focused technology tools; Lab Session – a semi-structured one-hour workshop where students participate as a group to provide creative tech solutions to solve the weekly puzzle; and Synthesis Spell – a pedagogical mechanism embedded in the tutorial and lab sessions to develop problem solving and creative thinking abilities.

They also have an ecosystem called “Knowledge Explorers” where they offer three categories. Analytics, which is focused on computer science, data analytics, economics and finance, and scientific research; Product Designed, which is focused on hands-on making, robotics, electronics and IOT, and manufacturing; and Creative Expression, which highlights writing, graphic design, video production, music, theatre, and art.

Thisaranga concluded that at Meu Labs, learning is not a tedious task but a fun game where kids can enjoy as well as educate themselves.