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Sunday, 1 May 2016

उत्तर प्रदेश का एक उद्यमी प्रबंधक! - महेंद्र कुमार सचान

( लर्न आउट ऑफ़ द बॉक्स के कृष्णा कान्वेंट स्कूल से)

आनंद मिश्रा
(आनंद उत्तर प्रदेश में लर्न आउट ऑफ़ द बॉक्स प्रोग्राम सँभालते हैं)

महेंद्र कुमार बच्चों को पुरस्कृत करते हुए!
कृष्णा कान्वेंट स्कूल , जानकीपुरम, लखनऊ राज्य में स्थित है | आज से लगभग 50-60 वर्ष पूर्व इस इलाके में कुछ गिने चुने ही विद्यालय थे अतः बच्चों को विद्यालय जाने के लिए 20-25 km. की लम्बी दूरी तय करनी पड़ती थी जो कि अत्यंत कष्टदायक होती थी क्योंकि उस समय आने जाने के लिए यातायात के साधन भी उपलब्ध नहीं थे | जो विद्यालय थे भी उनमे शिक्षा प्रदान करने का स्तर भी अच्छा नहीं था | महेन्दर सचान भी इन सभी परिस्थितियों का सामना करते हुए आगे बढे और उन्होंने काफी कठिनाइयों का सामना किया | इसी के परिणाम की उपज कृष्णा कान्वेंट स्कूल है जिसका  मुख्य उद्देश्य यह था कि बच्चों को विद्यालय जाने के लिए ज्यादा दूरी न तय करनी पड़े और शिक्षा के स्तर में उत्तरोत्तर वृद्धि हो |

महेन्दर जी ने 1991 में बी. एस. सी. पास किया और 1993 में विज्ञान के अध्यापक के रूप में अध्यापन की शुरुवात की | साथ ही साथ बी. एड. तथा जी. डी. बम्बई से पूरा किया | विद्यालय की शुरुवात इन्होने पाँच सहायक अध्यापकों के साथ की विद्यालय में अध्यापको की नियुक्ति करते समय उनकी योग्यता का विशेष ध्यान दिया गया| 1997 में कक्षा –viii तक की मान्यता मिली हुई थी किन्तु बाद में 1997-98 में सोसाइटी रजिस्ट्रेशन प्राप्त हुआ और सन 2006 में हाईस्कूल एवं 2016 में इन्टर की मान्यताप्राप्त हुई |

प्रशंसा का  प्रमााढ पत्र !

विद्यालय में बच्चों के दाखिले को बढाने के लिए सह अध्यापकों और कुछ समाज के अनुभवी लोगों के साथ बैठकर एक सर्वे कराया गया और उसके माध्यम से यह पता लगाया गया की उस कम्युनिटी में लोगों का आर्थिक स्तर क्या है और सर्वे की रिपोर्ट के अनुसार फीस तय की गई ताकि बच्चो के दाखिले में अभिभावकों को कोई ख़ास मुश्किल न हो| विद्यालय के प्रचार प्रसार हेतु सभी सहकर्मियों के साथ गृह संपर्क की योजना बनाई और घर –घर जाकर प्रत्यक्ष लोगों से संपर्क किया और शिक्षा के महत्त्व को समझाया | प्रति वर्ष कम से कम 100 नए क्षात्रों के प्रवेश का लक्ष्य तय किया गया | विद्यालय का सूत्र वाक्य “कर्म ही पूजा है “ को मुख्य आधार रखा गया | वर्तमान समय में कुल 22 सहध्यापक विद्यालय में कार्यरत है |

समय – समय पर विद्यालय में खेल कूद प्रतियोगिता के साथ ही साथ वाद-विवाद प्रतियोगिता का भी आयोजन चलता रहता है | क्षात्रों के ज्ञानवर्धन हेतु समय –समय पर ऐतिहासिक जगहों पर भ्रमण हेतु भी ले जाया जाता है जिससे उन्हें आंचलिक विज्ञान केन्द्रों और संग्रहालयों को भी देखने का अवसर मिल जाता है | गणतंत्र दिवस और स्वतंत्रता दिवस जैसे रास्ट्रीय त्यौहारों पर मेहमानों और अभिभावकों की उपस्थिति में बच्चो के उत्साहवर्धन हेतु उन्हें पुरस्कृत भी किया जाता है | बच्चों को पढ़ाने के लिए मात्र परंपरागत तरीकों को ही नहीं प्रयोग में लाया जाता वरन आधुनिक उपकरणों की सहायता से उन्हें और भी सहजता के साथ पढाया जाता है जो कि रोचक होने की वजह से बच्चों को जल्दी समझ में आ जाता है | शिक्षकों का भी समय – समय पर प्रशिक्षण कार्यशाला के द्वारा प्रशिक्षण कार्य को संपादित कराया जाता रहता है |

इस प्रकार महेंद्र जी शिक्षा के छेत्र में काफी नयी तकनीकियों से स्कूली छात्रों के बीच रुचि बनाए रखने में अव्वल रहे हैं जो की उनके स्कूल को कामयाबी की सीढ़ी पर ले जा रहा है|


Monday, 4 April 2016

आइये मिलिए – श्रीमान राजेश भावन जी से

(एक लर्न आउट ऑफ़ द बॉक्स शिक्षक राजस्थान से)

शिवरतन झालानी
(शिव राजस्थान में लर्न आउट ऑफ़ द  प्रोग्राम बॉक्स सँभालते हैं)

श्रीमान राजेश भावन एक युवा, कर्मठ, परिश्रमी एवं कार्यशील व्यक्तित्व के धनी है जिन्होंने अपने शिक्षक जीवन की शुरुआत सन 1989 में (जबकि राजेश जी स्वयं 10वीं कक्षा में पढ़ते थे) समाज के पिछड़े एवं आर्थिक रूप से कमजोर प्राथमिक स्तर के बालको के अध्यापन के साथ की थी जो आगे चलकर बच्चो की संख्या बढ़ने पर अपने आवासीय घर में ही आस – पड़ोस के बालको के लिए आंशिक सामग्री के रूप में जो कि उनके पास उपलब्ध थी, से अध्यापन कार्य प्रारम्भ किया|

राजेश जी  की कक्षा की झलक !
बात उन दिनों की है जब मैंने क्षेत्रीय कार्यक्रम सहयोगी के रूप में लर्न आउट ऑफ़ दा बॉक्स प्रोग्राम से जुड़ा था और पहली बार उनसे मिलने उनके विद्यालय, एक्मे अकादमी गया, वे उस दिन भी हमेशा की तरह बच्चो को अध्यापन करवाने में व्यस्त थे। उस बैठक से पहले, मैंने प्रथम में अपने सहयोगियों से उनके बारे में सुना था। प्रारंभिक परिचय के बाद, राजेश जी ने अपने शिक्षण संस्थान एक्मे अकादमी की कहानी सुनाई।

राजेश भावन द्वारा संचालित एक्मे अकादमी के रूप में वास्तविक एवं आधुनिक शुरुआत सन 2007 में हुई l एक्मे का अर्थ ‘शिक्षा के द्वारा जीवन के उच्चतम शिखर पर पहुचना’ जीवन का वह उच्चतम शिखर जिसे शैक्षिक परिस्थितियों में निरंतर प्रयास द्वारा प्राप्त किया जाता है| इसी लक्ष्य को लेकर ही राजेश जी ने इस विद्यालय की नींव रखी जिसमें कि कम संसाधन होते हुए भी आर्थिक रूप से कमजोर बालको को शिक्षा दी जा सके और वे अपने जीवन के लक्ष्य को प्राप्त कर सके, इस विद्यालय की स्थापना जयपुर के चांदपोल बाज़ार में एक जीर्ण- शीर्ण हवेली से हुई जिसमे छोटी छोटी कोठरी के समान कमरे थे जिसमे बच्चो को पढाया जाता था और बुनयादी सुविधा के नाम पर इस विद्यालय में कुछ भी नहीं था इसकी शुरुआत प्रारम्भिक तौर पर मात्र 6 बालको से हुई जो आगे चलकर धीरे धीरे अगले तीन सालो में बढकर 88 हो गई और वर्तमान में 198 से अधिक है|

शुरुआत के दो साल तक राजेश जी स्वम् ही विद्यालय के प्रबंधक, अध्यापक और चतुर्थ श्रेणी कर्मचारी थे| सुबह विद्यालय आकर की सफाई करना , बच्चो के बैठने के लिए दरी बिछाना, पानी भरना, इत्यादि कार्य स्वम ही करते थे|

राजेश जी के अनुसार ‘जो बालक पढाई में कमजोर होते है और एक ही कक्षा में बार-बार फेल हो जाते है और उनका दाखिला किसी भी विद्यालय में नहीं होता है तो उन बच्चो की जिम्मेदारी हमारे द्वारा ली जाती है और इसमें सबसे पहले बच्चो का शैक्षिक स्तर जांचा जाता है और शैक्षिक स्तर के अनुसार उनका दाखिला विद्यालय में करते है और उन बच्चो के साथ मेहनत करके उन्हें योग्य बनाते है| हमारे यहाँ पर प्रत्येक कक्षा में सिमित बालक होने के कारण हर बालक पर टीचर के द्वारा व्यक्तिगत रूप से ध्यान दिया जाता है|'

इस विद्यालय का समय सुबह 8:30 से दोपहर 4 बजे तक है जिसमे सभी बच्चो को पढाना, गृहकार्य देना-जाँच करना और याद करवाना होता है|

कक्षा-कक्ष कम होने के कारण एक ही कक्षा- कक्ष में दो से तीन कक्षाओ का सञ्चालन किया जाता है जिसमे एक कक्षा को पढ़ाने के बाद उसे गृहकार्य करने को दे दिया जाता है इसके बाद ऐसा ही दूसरी कक्षा के साथ और ऐसा ही तीसरी कक्षा के साथ होता है और इसके बाद एक एक करके तीनो ही कक्षाओ का गृहकार्य जाँच भी किया जाता है|
2013 में राजेश जी का पढाने का तरीका !
मैंने इस विद्यालय को कई बार विजिट किया प्रत्येक विजिट में मुझे राजेश जी से अभिप्रेरणा मिली एवं उन्हें देखने और सुनने का अवसर मिला l जब मैंने विद्यालय की व्यवहारिक गतिविधियों पर नजर डाली तो मैंने पाया कि श्रीमान राजेश जी एक अच्छे विद्यालय व्यस्थापक एवं श्रेष्टतम शिक्षक है| राजेश जी अन्य अध्यापको से अलग ही प्रतीत होते है ऐसा लगता है कि मानो की उन्होंने शिक्षण कला में महारत हासिल कर ली हो| उनकी शिक्षण शैली बालको में आनन्द भर देने वाली, रूचि पैदा करने वाली, पारस्परिक प्रतिस्पर्धा एवं आपसी समायोजन स्थापित करने वाली है| राजेश जी के द्वारा अपनी शिक्षण प्रक्रिया में व्यवहारिक गतिविधियों को खेलों, चित्रों, मॉडल, समूह चर्चा और प्रोत्साहन आदि के माध्यम से बालको का सर्वागीण विकास किया जाता है| और इनके द्वारा विज्ञान के अनेक प्रयोग किये जाते है एवं बालको को उन प्रयोगों से सम्बंधित समूह चर्चा के लिए प्रेरित करते है l इनके द्वारा बालको की विश्लेषण कौशल का विकास भूलभुलैया की कहानियो एवं पहेलियाँ की सहायता से करते है| दैनिक जीवन की गतिविधियों के उदाहरण इसके द्वारा बालको को पिकनिक एवं ऐतिहासिक स्थलों के भ्रमण द्वारा प्रदान किया जाता है|

राजेश जी ने प्रतिकूल शैक्षिक परिस्थितियों को भी अनुकूलित शैक्षिक परिस्थितियों में तब्दील किया है| उन्होंने विद्यालयी ढांचे को गठित किया एवं कुछ उतरदायी शिक्षको को विद्यालय का हिस्सा बनाया| इनके द्वारा कार्यालयी व्यस्तताओ के बावजूद नियमित रूप से प्रतिदिन शिक्षको हेतू मोजुदा संसाधनों के कुशल उपयोग हेतू एक बैठक का आयोजन किया जाता है जिसमे रोजाना की गतिविधियों के बारे में जानकारियां ली जाती है और आगे के प्लान पर चर्चा की जाती है|


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Government’s attempt to Disrupt Education System through ICT: A case study of initiatives in Bihar and Rajasthan


Dheeraj Kumar
(Dheeraj works in the Central team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

Digital technology has revolutionized every aspect of modern life. It has become almost impossible to imagine our lives without mobile phones and other communication technologies. In recent years, learning technologies in high-cost schools have taken a leap, while government funded education still lacks the basic ICT infrastructure. Government interventions in ICT in education have been largely limited to the digitalization of data collection process with an attempt to make the system more transparent and responsive.

Learning technologies governed by ICT and digital framework have the potential to majorly change the way education is administered and transacted in today’s classrooms. There have been quite a few efforts from the state government to solve the access, equity and quality related issues by providing the ICT infrastructure in the selected schools, but the real challenge has been the integration of the technology into classrooms and in the lives of the teachers.

Without a holistic digital education policy, any standalone ICT intervention comes with a risk of widening the already existing gap in the country’s current education system. Vast demographical and geographical diversity of India also adds to the challenge of forming an uniform national digital educational policy. Education being a subject on the concurrent list, makes the role of state governments crucial to formulate policies to overcome the challenge of diversity and maximize the benefits that can be achieved through ICT. While many states are taking active steps in this direction; we look at a few such digital interventions made by the state governments of Bihar and Rajasthan to reflect on the impact of those efforts.

A mid day meal session in progress
BIHAR
In last several years, Bihar has witnessed many reforms in the education system, as well as, faced challenges with respect to infrastructure and service delivery such as connectivity, electricity, and so on. Bihar made an attempt in digitalizing the education system by building a digital monitoring system for implementation of Mid Day Meal schemes.

Mid Day Meal MIS

In Bihar, BEPC (Bihar Education Project Council) implements an MIS (Management Information System) for real time monitoring of the mid day meal scheme throughout the state. The group of all the monitoring officials can access information pertaining to number of meals served, amount of grains distributed and fund disbursed on real time basis. Additionally, it enables the officials to plan for advance two months through funds estimation.

Both the planning and the execution are done at different levels such as block, district and state. Seeing the success of mid day meal schemes in attracting and retaining children especially of parents from low income strata or below poverty line, there is a plan to devise a central scheme throughout the nation. It is likely, that this mid day meal MIS scheme will be replaced by a central scheme of similar nature.

Pilot for Model schools

In order to conduct a pilot on “Model Schools” around 1,000 high schools have been chosen and equipped with a modern computer lab facility. This project has been spearheaded by Adarbhut Sanghathan Nigam and funded by Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). Each of these modern computer labs possess at least one server, 10 computers, networked with printer and Scanner, computer furniture, etc. Each lab has power backup facilities to improve the physical infrastructure and its efficient utilization. The schools have a devoted IT trainer to provide quality computer education to the students. This project is implemented under Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to alleviate the associated risk of failure on operational and financial front. Bihar government has selected two service providers for this project Pearsons and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS).

RAJASTHAN

Rajasthan Education Initiative
The state government of Rajasthan has embarked on digital interventions across the state in an effort to provide quality education and easy access to each student, especially the marginalized children and those with special needs.

One such interventions of Rajasthan state government was Rajasthan Education Initiative (REI) which is a joint effort with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Global e-Schools Communities Initiative (GeSCI) and World Economic Forum. This MoU was flagged in 2005 to improve the general public education throughout the state with a special focus on improving the state of girls’ education, rural marginalized children and children with special needs. REI implemented several ICTs and ICT enabled learning including School Computer Education Program, Computer-aided Learning programme (CALP), Girls of Rajasthan and Computer Education program famous as project GRACE.

A computer class in progress
Though REI could not achieve the targeted success in terms of actually disrupting the education system in the state and lessening the gap, the major flaw was not the initiative but its ad-hoc activities, scale of tasks being limited to pilots and lack of innovative approach. However, this initiative has presented immense learning curves pertaining to management of multiple stakeholders and successful implementation of ICTs and ICT enabled services, especially in the primary education. It proved to be a huge experimental learning, and efforts were made to mainstream REI under the flagship project Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Under REI, about 30,000 teachers were trained in ICT and 15,000 schools received several REI digital interventions, providing access, enrolment, and retention of children, particularly in primary education.

Taking a definite step forward, Government of India has initiated the National Mission in Education through ICT which has been envisaged as a centrally sponsored scheme to leverage the potential of ICT in teaching and learning process in higher education institutions.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Reflection on LOTB Assessments


Baishakhi Paul & Jitesh Dhoot
(Baishakhi and Jitesh work in the Central Team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

Learn, Out Of the Box programme started its journey with the introduction of a new technology called “WebBox” which was provided to low income schools with an objective to make classroom learning fun for students and to improve learning levels. Schools were provided with required hardware and WebBox had preloaded content for class 6th and 7th of Math and Science. Moreover, the exceptional feature of internet access through Webboxes was made available to all schools. In order to maximise the utilization, LOTB provided and still continues to give rigorous classroom support and teacher training.
To assess the usefulness of WebBox in classrooms, learning level and performance of students, enthusiasm and perception towards various teaching-learning practices and teacher skills, the programme underwent an evaluation through Internal and External assessment and inferred the following:

Internal Evaluation

To measure the student’s learning outcome pre and post tests was conducted which was pen/paper based in 50 random schools in 6 states. Mysore and Delhi had less than 50 schools so fewer schools were chosen from these states. Assam and Himachal Pradesh were not included as they had a different academic calendar. The assessment tools were designed to understand the changes in cognitive and content dimension among students. Significant improvement in performance was observed in high engagement schools where monthly subject specific usage of WebBox was more than 5 days. Qualitative assessments were conducted in 30 schools across 6 states followed by 12 and 6 schools respectively in Delhi and Mysore. In qualitative assessments, most of the students reported that they understood the content from WebBox, and that it promoted group work and helped them understand the concepts better. LOTB has deduced from its journey that most of the students prefer studying with friends more than doing it on their own. Science experiment videos were the most liked and accessed content from the WebBox amongst students. Majority of teachers accepted that technology helps to build interest amongst students. All classroom observations pictured that most schools had basic infrastructure for an interactive digital classroom but many classrooms had various problems like space, poor internet signal etc. WebBox related issues were a major challenge in the programme. From internal assessments it was also observed that teachers needed support in pedagogical skills and content knowledge. Also, additional support was required to integrate various activities into conventional teaching in classrooms.

External Evaluation

The external assessments were conducted in phases with changes in the design of study from being proto-type in first year to experimental-control design in third year. To understand the usage of Webbox, assessments were organized in Assam, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand in two ways that were pen/paper based and qualitative study on treatment and control groups. Only students who appeared for pre-test were evaluated for post-tests. With average changes in scores it was clear that the overall performance was improved in small steps and not in masses. Students and teachers both accepted that WebBox had improved the student attendance and their interest in learning. A large number of teachers reported that classroom participation had improved due to different activities conducted in the class.

There have been many positive impacts of the WebBox though many teachers felt that wireless technology would improve their teaching experience as that will give them mobility. The external assessment team also provided a suggestion to redesign a few areas of the programme as technology and teacher training is critical but at the same time not sufficient to improve the learning outcomes of the students. They also recommended on making the content error free, engaging school authorities and providing additional training and incentives to the teachers.

Way forward – Based on our past experiences and learnings throughout the programme journey in the last three years along with the impact assessment reports, we are trying to reflect through more focussed interventions and programme redesign.


Monday, 21 March 2016


Rekha Gupte
(Rekha manages the Learn, Out of the Box programme in Mumbai)

LOTB has the opportunity of interacting with diverse schools and teachers. Regular visits of our field staff in Mumbai schools exposed us to the fact of teachers facing challenges in teaching and learning methodologies. Some teachers keep exploring various ideas and try to bring innovations in their teaching-delivery mechanisms but majority of them stick to their regular teaching styles.
Teaching-learning implementation in Mumbai classroom

Teachers often don’t get a chance to brainstorm on problems faced by them. LOTB rendered support and took a step to cater these difficulties of school teachers where they could think, discuss, ideate and implement various solutions. This helped us to build a network of teachers who would work together to solve various issues faced by them innovatively.

The Process of Networking

Teachers of Mumbai schools were asked to pen down any one unique innovation which they implemented in classrooms and received a positive feedback from students.

The "changemaker" brainstorming session
Initially, not many were interested in sharing their experiences but gradually as we started showing them the bigger picture, the intent and the importance of the activity, the engagement and enthusiasm proliferated. As we all know group learning is always helpful, similarly the group of teachers collectively worked like a think tank and figured out ways for efficient interactive teaching-learning mechanisms.

All the thoughts recovered from these intensive brainstorming sessions were collected, shortlisted and stated as “Out of the Box Ideas”. A group of teachers subjecting to these unique ideas was formed and they were appreciated and lauded for their vision of excellent education. Apart from verbal recognition, many teachers were given “Changemaker Influencers” certification from STiR.

Reflection

A teacher sharing her ideas
As expected, teachers were happy after their first network meeting and started participating proactively. They were recognised individually and praised by the school management and formed an identity of their own.

The teachers started feeling empowered as they formed a cluster that contributed to a pool of diverse ideas and innovations and were constantly commended for. They started seeing a value in their work and respected each others opinions.

With the introduction of this networking exercise, teachers started sharing their other classroom experiences and envisaged a different classroom environment.

So, do you think networking always makes life easy?

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Application of 'Application' in Education


Durgesh Tiwari
(Durgesh works in the Central Team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

As applications are soon becoming the next centrepiece of our lives, we look at a few common and uncommon applications which can be used innovatively in schools with students or among teachers:

WhatsApp
Teacher groups are increasingly becoming prevalent on WhatsApp. While initially the platform was used for social interactions, some schools have started sharing subject related questions and other education related information on the platform. LOTB is currently undertaking a pilot in four of its states to connect teachers on WhatsApp and engage them in insightful conversations. Teachers have been excited about the pilot and have been responding with great enthusiasm. Watch this space for more on this!





Google Earth
This humble application provides a unique perspective of Earth and helps teachers to delve deep into the planet with their students. While this application can be very helpful to explain concepts of geography, it can also be a great impetus for gathering early attention of a child. 



Khan Academy
Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. While self-learning is still not a common practice in schools, this application is being used by teachers for enhancing their content knowledge. Khan Academy has recently launched their website in Hindi.



Epathshala
An integrated application for students, teachers, educators and parents; e-pathshala presents content through a relatively simple interface. The students section provides digital textbooks for all classes, eResources such as videos, slideshows etc. while the teacher can explore curriculum material, policy related documents etc. This application was launched in November 2015 by Government of India during the National Conference on ICT in School Education and has been used extensively in schools.

With mobile phone penetration on the rise and teachers becoming more comfortable with technology; use of mobile applications in classrooms will be much higher in the coming times.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Teaching Innovations from Uttar Pradesh


Shubhendu Chakravorty
(Shubhendu works in the Central Team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

As in daily life, a creative response to a peculiar problem is generally termed Innovation. While this terminology may be foreign to teachers in low income private schools, its execution in classroom is not. In fact, lack of resources and eager minds often become breeding grounds for such innovations.

This piece documents such innovative teaching practices from two such schools in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

A teacher conducting the Oral period
THE ORAL PERIOD & OPTIMIZED USE OF INFRASTRUCTURE!
[Sunrise Career Convent School, Lucknow]

Problem
The Principal of Sunrise Career Convent School had been concerned about the low learning levels of the School, especially since many students could not even memorize alphabets or recognize numbers. The learning levels remained very low in spite of adequate classroom focus.

Background
The School has a two gate system in the School, i.e. apart from the main gate of the school building a second gate actually blocks the access to the students’ area. As per the Principal, this had been done to clearly demarcate the student and administrative area.




The Initiator-Mrs. Snehlata Shukla
Innovation
The School has used the rear end of the second gate opening to the School courtyard as permanent display for Number Counting, Alphabets, Parts of Human Body etc. and introduced an ‘Oral Period’ which made knowing Alphabets and Numbers fun and that too outside of Classroom!

i.e. - Innovation Explained

• Grouped as per Learning Levels
The Oral Period is attended not by one Class in particular but a mix of students depending on their learning levels. The photograph displays a group of children from different classes attending the period.

• Visual Recall
Apart from the period the Gate helps in visual recall of the numbers etc. and children also use it for games in the recess breaks.

• Teacher Connect
As per the Principal, any new teacher joining conducts the Oral Period as it gives her a chance to connect with children across classes.


Impact
Posing with the Principal
The Oral Period has significantly improved the learning levels of students. Interesting activities are conducted with younger kids for making them learn numbers & alphabets. Learning becoming more activity oriented and this being outside the classroom has been the key!

Sunrise Career Convent School was awarded third prize in the ‘LOTB Teaching Innovation Contest’ organized during the current academic year.

USING THE WEBBOX WITHOUT MUCH USING IT!
[Oxford Academy, Lucknow]

WebBox content used for blackboard explanation

Problem
The School is 25kms. from city in rural Lucknow. Most guardians are farms owners and laborers. The attendance of students is extremely erratic especially during farm seasons. The learning levels and basic conceptual clarity has been very low in the school.

WebBox used as visual display and reference tool
Background
One of the best performing Schools in the state, in terms of participation-the Teacher and the Principal have been enthusiastically using the WebBox for Math, Science and even other subjects. However, it was observed by the Teacher that students are not able to cope with the WebBox content and may be find it uncomfortable or even intimidating.

Innovation
The Teacher decided to change the approach and instead of using the WebBox actively in the Classroom, he started preparing for his classes extensively from the concepts, activities and examples of WebBox and delivered it using blackboard while using the WebBox also, to explain the diagrams etc.

i.e. - Innovation Explained

‘See’ is the most preferred section primarily since the video content can effectively replace long explanations of the Teacher and serve as a useful introduction to the topic. However, the uniformity in approach of the content may at times hinder understanding especially of the slow learners or irregular students. In this case, the Teacher customized the use of the WebBox and instead of using it as a primary teaching element in the classroom, it was used to pick up concepts, activities and examples which were used in the class through chalk & talk method while the WebBox was used as a secondary tool. This has also enabled the teacher to weave in a lot more local examples especially related to agriculture-the primary preoccupation of the students when not playing!
Happy kids pose during recess!

Impact
Both the Teacher and the Principal have found this approach working as students understand concepts much better. Though aspects like group discussions still don’t form part of the class but there surely is progress in the overall classroom environment.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Journey of WebBox in Learn, Out of the box


Durgesh Tiwari
(Durgesh works in the Central Team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

Learn, Out Of the Box made an intervention in the methodology of teaching in classrooms by introducing a unique device in schools called “WebBox”. This self sustained device had preloaded content for class 6 and 7 of Math and Science. The content was loaded in a defined framework of “See, Think and Do”, essentially to cater the needs of diverse learners and their learning styles. The WebBox did not aim to replace the traditional syllabus or teaching methods, rather, supported efficient delivery by teachers in classrooms with its additional learning content through internet.

The unique device-"Webbox"

In the first year of WebBox, teachers were less receptive and comfortable handling the technology and textbooks together. Also, the initial motivation of teachers towards using WebBox was reduced which was a challenging task for our field staff and consumed majority of their time. The process of transitioning our traditional classrooms into technology enabled classrooms was critical for the program. Our team dealt with a lot of apprehensions of teachers like: underlying functionality of WebBox, importance of videos and images in classrooms, usage of internet, time management, etc. By the end of first year, teachers had understood that technology and textbooks used in tandem reflect an ideal classroom.

The second and third year of the WebBox , saw its deployment in several schools with various teachers trained on the same. Teachers had started utilizing the WebBox in classrooms as per their comfort. The ease to operate technology had increased thus enabling teachers for:

Motivated boys at Mukundpur Urban learning centre
• Showing Videos to Students
• Conducting Group Discussions
• Conducting Activities
• Using Practice Questions and Quizzes for assessments
• Using internet to show additional content to students etc.

This disruptive approach also seconded the theory that urban teachers are more exposed and comfortable with technology as compared to rural teachers. WebBox had become a part of daily routine of teachers and its usage had been proliferated because of content related internet surfing. It helped the children to absorb concepts easily and gave ideas on creating low cost TLMs with its “Think and Do” Section.

While the Web Box was a substantial device in its own, there were a few technical setbacks like: android version, wired device, 2G connection, etc. As technology has now become an integral part of all LOTB schools, there is an immediate need to upgrade the WebBox to a much efficient solution to counterpart the advancements in technology and continue the spirit of this intervention amongst the teachers.



Monday, 22 February 2016

Ten Facts about Affordable Private Schools


Hila Mehr
(Hila is an MPA candidate at Columbia SIPA, and co-author of the report Education Technology in India – Designing Ed-Tech for Affordable Private Schools. You can follow her on Twitter @HilaMehr)

[This piece was originally published on Ed-Tech India in January 2013 and has been reproduced here with permission from the author]

Our research into ed-tech solutions for low-income schools in India has focused primarily on affordable private schools.

Affordable private schools (APS) are an educational alternative to government schools for low-income families. These schools are unaided by the government and charge fees as low as Rs. 120 per month, and no more than Rs. 1500 per month. APS are popular in countries like India, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan. Parents choose APS for a variety of reasons, including the perception that private schools provide higher quality education than government schools, and because APS are primarily English-medium schools. The APS sector is particularly robust in India. There are an estimated 300,000 - 400,000 low-cost private schools in India, and a very large market in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, where we conducted our primary research.

Here are the top ten facts you should know about APS:

1. APS enrollment in India has been steadily increasing over the years. One study in Andhra Pradesh found that APS enrollment of seven and eight-year-olds nearly doubled from 24% in 2002 to 44% in 2009.

2. Some schools charge as little as Rs. 120 per month fees; however, the upward bounds of what is generally considered an APS is Rs. 1,500 per month. A typical APS earns revenue of Rs. 6,000 per student yearly, while spending Rs. 4,500 per student yearly.

3. One universal problem for APS is timely and full fees payments. Given the low-income nature of the population and the fact that school owners are typically part of the local community, APS are generally lenient with school fees payments. This can cause a number of monthly and annual financial sustainability problems for the school. 18% of APS enrollments in 2012 were offered at free or discounted rates.

4. Most APS are plagued by India’s energy infrastructure deficiencies. APS in Hyderabad tend to experience power outages between 1 and 4 hours per day, which means that lights, ceiling fans, smart classes, and computers are unavailable during those times.

5. Contrary to popular belief that affordable schools in India aren’t accessible to girls, they make up on average 48% of APS enrollments.

6. While teachers in India’s APS are generally less trained and receive a lower salary compared to government schools, they have higher teacher attendance rates and better student-teacher ratios. Only 38% of APS teachers have formal teacher trainingqualifications.The average APS teacher salary in Hyderabad is Rs. 4,500 per month, while government teacher salaries range between Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 21,000 per month. The average student-teacher ratio in APS is 27:1, lower than India’s national average of 32:1.

7. The typical APS in Hyderabad teaches the following courses: English, Telugu, Hindi, Science (includes Biology, Physics, and Chemistry), Social Studies, and Maths. APS with large Muslim populations may also have Islamic Studies, Prayer, and Urdu language classes.

8. Parent’s are attracted to APS because of the sheer number of private schools often present in every community, the perception that private schools provide a better quality education than government schools, and the English-medium curriculum at APS compared to regional language-medium classes in government schools. Because parent’s are paying customers of the school, they often influence the school owner to constantly innovate by adding more service providers or ed-tech interventions.

9. There is a relatively high penetration of technology in APS. More than 60% have computer labs and 58% have smart classes. However, these statistics can be deceiving, because while an APS may own the technology, it does not mean that they use it regularly or effectively.

10. In 2009, the Indian government passed the 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act, which will impact the APS sector. Under the law, elementary education for children aged 6-13 years, is now mandatory. RTE also requires that 25% of enrolments in government and private schools must be offered for free to poor children. In addition, Section 19 of the Act requires all private schools, but not government schools, to meet a number of standards in infrastructure, teacher-student ratio and salaries. Schools not meeting requirements upon three years of inspection will be closed. While this new law could greatly impact the status of affordable private education in India, the accountability systems in India’s government are not yet in place for full implementation and regulation.

While there is generally much positive press about affordable private schools, it’s important to note that private schooling does not equate better quality education. Extensive research has yet to find that affordable private education improves learning outcomes and long-term success more than government schools in developing countries. Despite focusing our research on ed-tech in the affordable private school setting, we do not take a formal stance on the APS vs. government school debate. Rather, we chose to focus on APS because they provide a unique opportunity to observe ed-tech interventions in privately run low-income schools, where such innovations are more likely to occur.

Please visit Ed-Tech India for more information on APS. You can also visit Pearson Education’s affordable-learning.com oritselementary.in, which raise awareness about affordable schooling.
________________________________________
Sources:
• Field research by authors of APS in Hyderabad
• ‘Even poorer families in India increasingly opt for private schools’, University of Oxford
• Affordable Private Schools (APS) Sector Analysis - 2012 by Gray Matters Capital (GMC)
• Pearson’s affordable-learning.com

Here is the link to original post: https://edtechindia.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/ten-facts-about-affordable-private-schools/


Monday, 15 February 2016


Can a School be an Innovation Factory?
(Documenting a meeting with the ‘Zuckerberg of Beawar’)


Shadab Ahmed & Shubhendu Chakravorty
(Shadab and Shubhendu work in the Central Team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

Is school a place to harbour innovation? Can the spirit of innovation and the mindset required for building a Factory co-exist? Should skill building start at school, or these are jobs best left to colleges and polytechnics? These were a few questions in mind during my visit to what looked like just another private school in the sleepy little town of Beawar in Rajasthan.

The year was 1836 when a certain Col. Charles Dixon established a major British army cantonment in this area. Legend has it that his men posted a sign saying ‘be aware’ on the gates of the cantonment as a warning to the British caravans and officers coming or leaving the premises since the area was fertile ground for guerrilla attacks by local Rajput units. Slowly with time local people came to think of it as the name of the cantonment and so the place began to be called Beawar. The Englishmen left but the name stuck! Before arriving, I thought the above anecdote to be the only curious take away from the visit.

This was until one meets Anil Kumar Sharma the manager (owner) of Captain Public School. LOTB was piloting after-school classes for students using the technology being provided by the programme. Anil's school was a natural choice since he was already operating a similar platform for a few years now.

Anil explaining a concept in class
His vision seems clear; enhance the profile of the school by creating long term goodwill in the community. ‘I believe in providing skills to students which are useful in daily lives and learning to confidently speak in English is one of them. It will help students when they go out of this town’, said an assertive Anil. Manoj, the RPA (Regional Programme Associate) supporting this school finds him a hard taskmaster not leaving the programme to the teachers and being totally involved to the extent of attending trainings. But this school is unique not because of what happens during school hours, but for the activities after it.

The after school classes operate on the first floor and are managed mostly by Anil alone. With around 50-70 participants daily, he has a host of activities ready to engage them. The floor is divided in three to four zones - each meant for a different activity. If visiting, you are expected to carefully navigate through the earmarked spaces not disturbing the students busy in their engagements.

About = अब आउट

The unique learning book
A large group of around 25 students could quietly be seen completing their homework. A closer look will reveal that they are actually studying meanings of English words and practicing them from a book written by Anil himself. It starts with simple three letter words, providing the meaning and the pronunciation written in Hindi. This seemed the perfect local way of studying phonetics. Academics call it Folk Pedagogy ; for Anil it is the obvious way of teaching. Excited to find us peeping into his book, Anil tells us that the students are fast picking up English words through this method and retention too is better. He has also been distributing this book to the neighbouring schools as well for a few years now. This trait of sharing knowledge is rare among low income private school owners due to the cut-throat competition.

Hindi to English

A makeshift lab in action
Moving on to the second zone, one can find a group of 10-12 students sitting in a classroom attentively listening to two girls talking. The first one speaks a sentence in Hindi and the second one translates it in English. After a while, it seems like a performance set up for the visitors. But the girl talking in English does not only speak the sentence, but can also explain it. Seeing our confused expressions, Anil intervenes and conducts a quick assessment by rattling off a few sentences in Hindi and seeking translations in English from students. All students respond in English and most answer correctly. Did these students better understand English words and their meanings in a sentence if the whole sentence was said in Hindi simultaneously? So it seemed.

Introducing Computers through PowerPoint?

Anil supervising a computer class
After a while, I was guided to a section where two students about 8-10 year olds were creating a presentation. One of them seemed proficient while the other was learning. Peer learning was at display. My question to Anil was:  Why should an 8 year old child be taught how to create presentations? What is the immediate relevance of this skill? Does this child know basic parts of the computer? Why a presentation and not anything else? Anil keenly explained his logic: A child is fascinated by technology and converting that fascination into desire for learning is essential. If the child is provided a technological platform which can produce output then it is likely that the medium will sustain a child's interest. That was the reason learning computers here started with creating PPTs - writing in colourful texts and placing fancy images. He also showed us many thematic presentations students had done on colours, animals, nature etc. You could also see another child playing a game on another very old looking box-monitor computer. This seemed some kind of an online quiz where a sentence comes up on the screen with blanks to be typed in to complete the sentence. Anil proudly displays the game as something he has developed with assistance from a local boy.

Typing Practice

The unique computer class
Close enough, one can see rows of desks and seats neatly arranged with keyboards on top without any monitors and a group of teenagers typing away on the keyboards. The question was, what are they typing and where is it being displayed? According to Anil, it is essential that the teenagers are familiar, comfortable and then confident in using computers. The number of teenagers is far more than computers available for them to practice. To solve this problem he has procured the keyboards and initially teaches students the skills of typing using two hands, keyboard handling and shortcuts etc. Then they graduate to using the complete computer and use the screen for hand-eye coordination. Anil concluded that this was a far easier, quicker and sustainable way for someone to learn using a computer. We could validate that the typing speed of this group on the keyboard was as good as any regular user. This was an extraordinarily intuitive way of learning uses of computers.

By the way, in addition to this Anil also uses the ‘usual’ interactive methods of teaching. His school has a mini-science lab, a library and a decent collection of educational CDs & DVDs. This is one of our best schools in the area with high teacher participation. He has been running the school since 1998 i.e. for eighteen years. He is a deeply religious man and used to donate large sums for local religious events but since the last few years he has been using that money for development of the school. Some in the community do not appreciate this shift of resources, but you can guess knowing the man till now, he cares little of what others think.

Visiting Anil for a few hours one can gauge that he is implementing incredibly radical ideas within an institution defined for its static characteristics and bringing standardization in society. It is hard to imagine a space oozing innovation in this factory style mass production. Will his ideas ever scale up? Will they and more such innovations change the whole perspective of Education or will they become a blip of brilliance in the otherwise straight jacketed world of education? We don't know.

But, ask the man where does he see himself in the future, he lists out his plans - most of them more radical than anything he is doing today, but that's a topic for some other day!

On our way back, we realized that we had just finished an unscheduled appointment with the ‘Zuckerberg of Beawar’!

*Folk Pedagogy can be described as teaching methodologies developed by teachers themselves in course of their experience in a classroom. These pedagogies may not follow the common standards proposed by mainstream pedagogies but offer efficient methods in an environment with scarce and limited resource.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016


प्रियंका शर्मा
(प्रियंका अजमेर, राजस्थान में 10 विद्यालयों के साथ कार्य करती है)

LOTB कार्यक्रम के अंतर्गत हम शिक्षकों को नये एवं आधुनिक तरीकों के द्वारा पठन-पाठन की प्रक्रिया को बेहतर करने हेतु प्रोत्साहित करतें है| इसी प्रक्रिया के दौरान, हम कुछ कक्षाओं की झलकियों को सभी के साथ साझा कर रहें हैं|

विद्यालय का नाम - गाँधी बाल निकेतन मिडिल विद्यालय
अध्यापिका का नाम - रीना कुमावत


रीना कुमावत
पिछले सप्ताह मैं अपने रोजाना के कार्यानुसार जब गाँधी बाल निकेतन मिडिल विद्यालय गयी, इस दौरान मुझे एक कक्षा को देखने का अवसर मिला| यह कक्षा गणित की थी, जिसमे अध्यापिका रीना कुमावत जी IDTM (Interactive and Diverse Teaching Methodologies) के माध्यम से कक्षा का सञ्चालन कर रही थी|
कक्षा में गणित के अध्याय भिन्न (Fraction) को पढ़ाया जाना था| इस कक्षा का उद्देश्य भिन्न (Fraction) में सम भिन्न (Proper Fraction), विषम भिन्न     (Improper Fraction) एवं मिश्रित भिन्न (Mixed Fraction) की अवधारणा से बच्चों को अवगत कराना था| रीना कुमावत जी ने इस कक्षा को मजेदार एवं बच्चों को आधुनिक तरीकों से पढ़ाने हेतु एक अदभुत गतिवधि का उपयोग किया| उन्होंने बच्चों को गतिविधि हेतु कक्षा से पूर्व तीन मटकियां (दो छोटी एवं एक बड़ी) लाने को कहा था|

गतिविधि का विश्लेषण:

कक्षा में दर्शायी गतिविधि
कक्षा का सञ्चालन आरम्भ हुआ, उन्होंने बच्चों को सर्वप्रथम भिन्न की अवधारणा को दो मटकियों के माध्यम से बताना शुरु किया|

सम भिन्न (Proper Fraction)
अध्यापिका ने बच्चों से छोटी मटकी ऊपर एवं बड़ी मटकी को नीचे रखने को कहा, और बताया की जब अंश (Numerator) छोटा एवं हर (Denominator) बड़ा हो तो संख्या सम भिन्न (Proper Fraction) कहलाती है|

विषम भिन्न (Improper Fraction)
अध्यापिका ने बच्चों से बड़ी मटकी ऊपर एवं छोटी मटकी को नीचे रखने को कहा, और बताया की जब हर (Denominator) छोटा एवं अंश (Numerator) बड़ा हो तो संख्या विषम भिन्न (Improper Fraction) कहलाती है|
कक्षा में दर्शायी गतिविधि

मिश्रित भिन्न (Mixed Fraction)
अध्यापिका ने बच्चों से एक छोटी मटकी ऊपर एवं बड़ी मटकी को नीचे रखने को कहा और एक छोटी मटकी को इन दोनों के पास रखने को कहा, और बताया की जब एक पूर्ण संख्या (Whole Number) एवं अंश (Numerator) छोटा एवं हर (Denominator) बड़ा हो तो संख्या मिश्रित भिन्न (Mixed Fraction) कहलाती है|
इस गतिविधि के द्वारा अध्यापिका ने बच्चों को भिन्न (Fraction) समझाया एवं बच्चो को स्वयं से करने हेतु कुछ प्रश्न दिए जिससे उनको भिन्न (Fraction) लम्बे समय तक याद रहे|


LOTB कार्यक्रम इस प्रकार की अनेक गतिविधियों को अध्यापकों तक पहुँचाने का नियमित प्रयास करता है और कक्षाओं को मज़ेदार अर्थात अलग सोच से सञ्चालित करने हेतु प्रोत्षाहित करता है|

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Changing role of technology for teachers inside classrooms?
--Anurag Shukla
(Anurag manages the Learn, Out of the Box programme in Jharkhand)

Recently I had an opportunity to visit a school run by one of my friend’s mother in Delhi. The plan was to observe few classrooms and then share the possible outcomes of my visit to all teachers at the end of the day. I had the least idea of what I was going to encounter. The moment I walked into a classroom, it appeared to me that I had entered into a time warp. There was a smart board, instead of a traditional blackboard. Most strikingly, students’ desks were folded aside to make the room for the activities being performed by the students. There was a projector to showcase short-films, activities or project works to the students. The teacher was supporting students in their task, without unnecessary interrupting their pace of learning. School had even provided the teacher with a tablet to help herself in her own capacity building. This experience transformed the way I always looked at the technology in the classroom.

Technology is changing our classroom practices faster than we had envisioned. It has added many dimensions to teaching, learning, monitoring, and performance evaluation inside a school. The teacher, who used to be a ‘sage on the stage’ was soon becoming a ‘guide by the side’. It is the first time that technology is being talked about in terms of ‘process’ framework, rather than ‘equipment-driven’ model. This change in perspective to the technology has been possible only after the introduction of digital technologies, where students also get the chance to explore and experiment with different learning tools. Before we get into the implication of the digital technologies onto the instructional design matters inside the classroom, it would be worthwhile to look at the nature of technology usage in educational context in India.
The initial impetus to technology in education and classrooms came in form of government sponsored schemes such as the Educational Technology (ET) Scheme and the Computer Literacy and Studies in Schools (CLASS). This included the supply of radio-cum-cassette players, color televisions, micro-computers, present-day computer labs, and even satellite-receiving terminals.

When the first time technology was introduced in the education, it implicitly relied on widely accepted sender-receiver construct. But as the awareness about the integration of the technology into the classroom grew, various aspects such as behavior of learners, educational objectives, content analysis, evaluation etc. made their entry into the core of the educational technology domain. However, the large scale impact studies done on the government supported educational technology showed the serious under-utilization of the programme. No link between the broadcaster and the teacher in the classroom could be established and learning from the programme could not be sustained beyond the sphere of immediate class. These audio-visual programmes also did not show any definite pattern supporting the classroom transaction or supplementing them in any constructive way. Since these equipments were costly, their supply was limited to only few elite schools in the metropolitan cities. These schemes were largely supply-driven, equipment-centered, and disseminative in design. Scant attention was paid to the development of the entire support system that would establish ET as a reliable, relevant, and timely intervention.
The audio-visual and computer literacy led support models did not impact the teacher’s control over the class. He remained the interpreter and disseminator of the knowledge, which he was supposedly acquiring from the radio and TV waves (programmes run by All India Radio and Doordarshan for supporting teachers in their classrooms).

The next phase of technology support came in form of providing computers to the schools, with emphasis on making teachers and students’ computer literate. These computers were rarely used and the creation of the post of computer teacher further created the division between the curriculum teachers and the teacher appointed for computer operations. The technology was never integrated to the classroom. Acknowledging the fact that there is not much data available on the efficacy of computer distribution programs on the learning levels of the students, it would be safe to say that it provided the much needed access to students at these schools. It also led to the growing realization that the usage of computer should go beyond the computer literacy.


Through the hyper-innovations in the information technologies in the first decade of the millennium the classrooms have been transformed. The technologies are being increasingly integrated into the school systems. Now it is common to see projectors, television screens if not expensive technologies such as smart-boards in the classrooms. The teachers have become facilitators whose role is now to support the learners’ specific needs. They have to now make sure that their students are learning new age skills. The technology has made it almost impossible for a teacher to remain physically unmoved while transacting a class. He now has the responsibility of supervising each and every student in their process of learning. The folk pedagogies, which are somehow incoherent to the technology led education, are now being replaced by more engaged pedagogies.
Every day, new emerging technologies are making their ways into the classrooms, only making the situation more tense and chaotic, for all; teachers, students, regulator etc. This rapid change in technology has met with extreme reactions from teachers. At one end, the enthusiastic teachers have welcomed it wholeheartedly, with belief that it would make their jobs easier and enjoyable; one other hand, there are teachers who take on the technologies by rejecting them in totality. Their argument is that the technology has very limited usage in schools and it would never change the basic administration of schooling systems.

Technology is fast entering our everyday spaces in ways one could never imagine even a few years back. Governments and those in power are also taking note of this tool which is giving its citizens a voice. While technology penetrates classrooms in the years to come, its long term impact is yet to be tested. However, it can safely be said that a new element has entered the classroom after a long time which is challenging the existing ideas of a teaching & learning. Only time will tell if this new tool changes the way we conceive and learn or become a blip of bright spot in the otherwise glorious history of human innovation!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Meet Uttam Teron!
An Out of the Box Educator from Pamohi, Assam


[LOTB comes across exemplary educators working under trying circumstances, lack of infrastructure and around intense cynicism and de-motivation. Yet, they become shining bright stars of their schools and communities and bring about a positive change. ‘Out of the Box Educator’ is a series to document the silent successes of such educators]

--Bikash Bhandary Chetry
(Bikash works in the Central Team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

Colin Powell (the first African American to be appointed as the Secretary of State in United States of America) rightly said, ‘A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work’

Uttam with his school children
Uttam is a young college graduate who is transforming lives of hundreds of children in a small tribal village of Pamohi in Assam. While working as a master trainer with Learn, Out of the Box in Assam, I had an opportunity to support Parijat Academy,a school for underprivileged children which currently serves more than 500 children from 9 tribal villages.
It was winter of 2013, I first met Uttam, the founder-principal of Parijat Academy. That day, he was busy with his usual academic schedule. Prior to meeting him, I had heard of him from my colleagues at Pratham. Additionally, I had read about him and his school on the Internet. After initial introduction, Uttam told the story of Parijat Academy.

Curious minds in groups at work
Thirteen years back, Uttam started teaching with four children. An empty cow shed and a pair of desk and bench was the only infrastructure he had then.It’s been more than a decade since the school started and Uttam has grown from being just a college graduate to an expert Educator and a change agent. An Educator who understands the pedagogy for his children and a change agent who understands the need of the community; shares a concern of his society and works for it.

Since the beginning he has worked relentlessly. Reminiscing the memory, he said "I was just a fresh college graduate then, and I could see many institution of National importance around me like IIT Guwahati, Assam Agricultural University, Guwahati Medical College, Assam Engineering College, and Guwahati University. I figured out that none my village youths were attending these institutions of higher education. With those thoughts in my mind, I decided to start teaching children, with a hope that one day Pamohi village will have youths who will be graduating out of these institutions"

Learn, Out of the Box class in progress
The first visit was an insightful one. His enthusiasm and zeal to make change is unsurpassable. In fact, he hadclearly demonstrated how to make ‘change’ happen through his initiative.Since the first visit, I visited the school several times. Each visit gave me lot of motivation, inspiration and opportunity to be with Uttam and hear more from him.As I reflect on his practices at the school, I see Uttam as an excellent teacher and a school manager – He is so different that it seemshe has gained mastery over the art of teaching. His way of explaining concepts are fun filled and engaging to students. At the school, Uttam’s engagement with other staff is transformational. Hierarchical system is non-existent and everyone’s working towards one common goal.In one of the visits to the school, he showcased me a book ‘Connect the Dots’ by Rashmi Bansal and said ‘See Bikash, I am doing nothing, but trying to connect the dots’.

For his effort, Uttam was awarded CNN-IBN Real Hero Award in 2011, Silver Phoenix Award in 2012 and Balipara Foundation Award in 2013Parijat Academy is today supported by numerous organizations and individuals.

If every Indian village had one Uttam Teron, that would then transform the landscape and at least attempt to resolutely take on challenging issues like corruption, quality of education, poverty among others. This might sound utopian. But this is the utopian dream I have.

Learn more about Praijat Academy at www.parijatacademy.org
You can write to Uttam Teron at parijatacademy03@yahoo.com

Monday, 11 January 2016

Meet Praveen Sinha!
An Out of the Box Educator from Giridih, Jharkhand


[LOTB comes across exemplary educators working under trying circumstances, lack of infrastructure and around intense cynicism and de-motivation. Yet, they become shining bright stars of their schools and communities and bring about a positive change. ‘Out of the Box Educator’ is a series to document the silent successes of such educators]

--Anurag Shukla
(Anurag manages the Learn, Out of the Box programme in Jharkhand)

A dilapidated construction surrounded by crumbling blocks, depleting student strength and a group of de-motivated teachers greeted Praveen Kumar Singh a few years back when he joined GMS Mahatma Gandhi school in Giridih-Jharkhand.

Praveen immediately called for a meeting of the community members without being daunted by the challenges. He discussed about the possible corrective measures that could be taken and asked them to join hands and contribute. His clear thought, simple demands and exceptional past record prompted many in the community to back him. Praveen brought some key changes to the
school infrastructure with active support of some organizations. Next, he constituted a decision making body within the school and made teachers part of it, thus giving them ownership. Other teachers were assigned other important responsibilities in running the school. In spite of his administrative engagements, Praveen decided to teach daily and organized a capacity building workshop for teachers on efficient utilization of existing resources in school. A student body was also created and students were assigned defined tasks with girls given equal representation.

Within a year, the enrollment of the school tripled and the current strength stands at more than five hundred. As the previous problems were resolved, some others cropped up but the bright spot of the school has been focus on learning by engaging the students, teachers and the community. Every morning the students eagerly await their head master who talks to them about a new topic every day. Students like coming to school and some of them keep coming back even after passing out.

One morning, an odd sight greeted the students as they rushed inside the school: a plastic covered bust was placed in the center of the playground. Praveen asked the students to guess the great man wrapped. The student who guessed correctly would get to inaugurate the statue. This was one of his many ways to make students feel more involved in the school. He has also engaged the school cleaners to attend reading and writing sessions to ensure anyone associated with the school develops further. Praveen conducts various science experiments and motivates the students to have discussions on them. He builds up their analytical skills by sharing puzzles and maze stories and uses the playground to teach using real world examples and asks the students to speak in front of everyone to enhance their confidence in public speaking.

Praveen often faced a peculiar problem while interacting with parents: they spoke a different language and never understood anything. His simple solution was to learn the languages these parents spoke. Over the course of 10 years in various schools across Jharkhand, Praveen has learnt three tribal languages and now freely talks to the parents.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Is Education Really a Private Enterprise For a Few?


--Shaily Pal &Shubhendu Chakravorty
(Shaily and Shubhendu work in the Central Team of Learn, Out of the Box programme)

Uttar Pradesh is one of the most socially active and politically dynamic states in the country. Today, the position of a school owner within the power structure in the society is unique in many ways. It was during one of our field visits, when we met and interacted with a few owners of low income private schools in Uttar Pradesh. It is important to note that with any definition of private school, boundaries remain blurred. For example, ‘private’ schools may be financially aided and regulated by the state; even those that operate independent of the state still interact with governments – whether to achieve registration, get teaching materials, follow a curriculum or examination system, or just to avoid scrutiny.

It was brought to the table whence some light was thrown on the role of state government in these private schools. To our delight, the discussion wasn’t hovered by mute points instead it kept mushrooming on every front. There were only two women participants amongst the seven members of the group and we felt ecstatic seeing their confidence with every point they posed. Moreover, despite being suppressed at times amidst the bold male voices, they managed to stand by their views and made sure to be heard. Encountering that part of the discussion was like cherry on the cake for us apart from the group’s noteworthy cognizance. They held the discussion supporting and aligning with each other which made their perceptions stronger.

After an extended conversation, the group came up with a draft memorandum that was a blend of agreements, partial dissents and reality checks. Below mentioned are some of the many remarkable points the group came up with:

• Recognizing Private School Teachers
Existing workforce in low income private schools is often untrained, over-worked, underpaid and de-motivated. While regular classes are conducted in private schools, their quality is being increasingly questioned. The government could initiate an institutional mechanism of teacher recognition wherein they will be certified as trained & approved teachers after an experience of about 10-12 years and completion of other pre-determined criteria. This will ensure that the current resource is trained on industry standards and teachers seeing a financially enabled growth path for them.

• Creation of a Professional Chamber for Primary & Middle schools
Chambers or pressure groups are an integral part of a vibrant democracy and history indicates that such groups provide an additional perspective to the discourse. An urgent need of consolidating the Primary & Middle schools in some kind of a union was prevalent. Government’s initiative for forming such a professional chamber for schools and teachers could help create a common platform which is in regular communication with the government. Aspects of self-regulation could also be brought in by such a chamber.

• Checking corruption at all fronts
The participants were critical of themselves and other fellow owners for by-passing the government norms on recognition and affiliations. Corruption and nepotism is rampant in this aspect. While, there exists a policy of automatic de-recognition of the school if any false claim is proven to be made at the time of seeking recognition of affiliation. However, no such policy of defined action exists against erring officials granting recognitions on flimsy grounds. Corruption cases against officials are often lost in lengthy procedures of vigilance enquiries, if any. This creates an imbalance and results in government officials driving a corrupt nexus with the owners in the absence of any punitive action. It was agreed unanimously that it may be difficult to bring about a sea-change in ethic of the school owners in the immediate future but at least institutional corruption can be checked if those taking decisions are strongly penalized in inquiry proven cases.

• Institutionalizing funds for students and school management
The participants were sensitive towards the fact of receiving funds from the government as part of scholarships for rewarding well performing students. They believed as schools become institutionalized, they tend to become more loosely coupled and parts in a loosely coupled system work independently of each other, thus they will be able to incentivize children giving them a push to study hard.

Apart from this, the motivation behind the owners operating private schools is an intangible descriptor that is complicated by the fact that school owners of any description may express their motivations as a combination of competing commitments to philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and business interests.

This unstructured and unplanned discussion indicates the overarching role state governments have in school education, be it private or public. This group was of the view that while interference in private education is not desirable, the state government certainly has the responsibility of a providing an enabling framework to this critical aspect of human development.

With the election year approaching in Uttar Pradesh, they are upbeat of creating an impression on the state government with their ideas.

Mr. Chief Minister, hope you are listening!