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, which raise awareness about affordable schooling.
• 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

Here is the link to original post:

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!