The India Education Collective (IEC) working closely with State Governments, is transforming education in India to make public or government schools the "first choice" for students, parents and teachers. In addition to shifting greater decision making powers concerning planning and practices to the local level, fundamental changes are taking place in the classrooms. IEC is focused on empowering teachers; promoting capability based learning; and harnessing the potential of technology to advance learning opportunities in its mission to make the public school system more equitable, accountable and qualitative.
Teachers are encouraged to see themselves as facilitators of learning by designing "equal opportunity" creative environments where learning can happen.
The once quiet classrooms where all eyes and ears are on the teacher are being replaced with dynamic learning-labs where students are learning by doing. Competency based learning with hands-on, active engagement is credited with helping them internalize information far better than watching and listening.
Another key change in the education revolution is a focus on assessing each student's current knowledge and dispositions in order to facilitate their individual learning journey. To improve learning outcomes, the IEC turned to Gooru and the Learning Navigator, a free and open app to help accelerate learning outcomes.
Even in rural and often remote areas with limited access to technology and the internet, the Learning Navigator is proving to be an effective tool for teachers and administrators. One teacher with a cell phone can assess a student's knowledge and quickly input the information in the student's profile. Teachers can see in real time how each student is progressing over time and can assignment them additional activities based on their performance or dispositions. It is not uncommon for teachers to have students of different ages and grade levels in the same classroom. The Learning Navigator is helping them by providing access to thousands of free and open resources and assessments. Teachers who create lesson plans for several grade levels each day can search the catalogue of curated content on numerous subjects and grade levels to add specific lessons and assessments to their plans. This not only saves time for the teacher, but also saves resources in learning materials and text books for the schools (see video below).
The IEC is supporting governments to implement the changes across eight states in India. Currently more than 80,000 children are transitioning away from rote learning to building their capabilities and changing their attitude toward learning. More than 1,800 schools across the states are in the process of adopting 'transformative' learning practices, and 3,000 teachers are engaged in redefining classroom processes with the ultimate goal of graduating students who will be leaders in their chosen occupations. Workers and engaged citizens who know how to learn, can apply their knowledge and abilities in creative and novel as well as familiar situations, and who can work well with others. The kinds skills and qualities that are valuable in the work place and in life.
Dakanpada is a small hamlet in the state of Maharashtra, India with a population of less than 500 and literacy rate close to 59%, much lesser than the national average. The Zilla Parishad Public School has 2 teachers and 31 students. All of the children attending this school belong to the Bhill Tribal community. In and effort to improve learning outcomes for students in Dakanpada and other rural, undeserved schools, Gyan Prakash Foundation (GPF) is working with the communities, schools and teachers to develop innovative, sustainable and replicable rural community based models of self-learning. Models that tap into a child's natural curiosity and ability to explore, discover and learn.
Harish Chandra Awhad, the fourth and fifth grade teacher encourages his students to imagine, express and write beautiful stories, which has been evident in the work the students have produced. A baseline assessment conducted in September 2017 also showed significant growth in learning levels of students.
When the Gyan Prakash Foundation initiated work with this school in August 2016, the Cluster coordinator noticed several gaps in the learning levels of students across different subjects. The GPF coordinator analysed the school report cards of each child, and had several meetings with Awhad, who was initially resistant to change. The Cluster co-ordinator continued visiting the school and provided support to the teacher in understanding the learning needs of his students.
On one of the follow up visits to the school, the coordinator found the teacher sitting in the ‘‘Vachan Jhopadi’ (a reading hut), one of the best practices introduced by the government of Maharashtra as an innovation to improve reading habits in schools across State. During his regular visits to the school, the GPF coordinator often observed the teacher sitting in Vachan Jhopadi along with the children. During his initial discussion with the Cluster co-ordinator on the learning levels of students, the teacher said that though his children had the basic competencies in reading and writing, they were unable to express themselves clearly in writing and were not able to write even simple stories. He also understood from the Co-ordinator that one needed to engage with the children starting from where they were and understand their unique learning styles and contexts..
The children who spoke Bhili language in their homes were also encouraged to speak their language in school as well. The teacher started to encourage children to ask questions, stimulated their curiosity and helped them to imagine and visualise. The children gradually started to write down small conversations, give names to characters and progress was seen in their writing skills over time. The teacher collected a number of pictures from textbooks and storybooks. He gave these pictures to the children, one picture at a time and asked the children to take their time to observe the pictures in detail. Gradually the children started to show progress and were observed writing small stories in their own words.
Today, the children are able to write meaningful stories based on the pictures given to them. They can imagine and create conversations between characters in the pictures and build small stories around them. An assessment of children’s learning conducted in September2017 also reflected the progress in children’s abilities across different aspects. More than 95% of students in grades 3 and 4 can now write simple and creative stories.
“My goal was to get children to read and write creatively. I continued to give them storybooks. I was patient while they were developing their writing skills and gradually each of my children started writing imaginative stories in Marathi”, Awhad now shares with pride.
The GPF coordinator was excited to share the progress seen in the school with the Kendra Pramukh (Cluster level official). Once the Kendra Pramukh had interacted with the children and observed the developments in their learning levels he shared his observation with teachers from other schools through the Teacher Collective process (Shikshan Parishad) held for all teachers in the cluster. In September 2017, Mr. Awhad was invited to share his experience in bringing about these changes in his students.
Through these processes, other teachers in different schools of the cluster have also adopted some of the practices that were used effectively in the Zilla Parishad school. Mr. Awhad has now become a member of the Cluster Resource Group and continues to support other teachers from the cluster with concerns related to learning.
Gooru is proud to partner with the Gyan Prakash Foundation (GPF) and support its mission to help underserve children realize their full potential to become independent and socially responsible citizens. The GPF is bringing the Learning Navigator to teachers and schools across the state of Maharashtra. Teachers will be better able to track each student's knowledge and skills and facilitate their independent learning journey. The Navigator will also allow the GPF and the State to see in real time how their programs are working at the local, regional and state level.