Over the course of the last years India reformed its educational system with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Right to Education Act, realizing the importance of education for the nation’s prosperity. However, access and quality of education remain controversial issues as they remain out of reach for deprived sections of society. The poor conditions of primary and elementary education systems in urban slums and resettlement colonies in of India are well known. Although government schools often attract the best teaching talents there is no guarantee that quality education is reaching every child. Even after 5 years of school some children are still illiterate and lack the basic foundation to enter secondary school. Dropout rates are therefore a shocking statistic. Keeping in mind that conditions vary in different states, approximately 2% of children who join primary classes make it to college, while 55% of children drop out by class five.
Especially in Delhi education for disadvantaged groups is lagging behind. It is in the resettlement colonies where disadvantaged groups are at risk, because of the high level of poverty. In these areas, the main obstacles come from learning gaps of school children, large class size and teachers who lack the capacity to deal with large and diverse classes and are highly engaged in administrative work instead of teaching. Schools are often marked by poor infrastructure, bad teaching-learning atmosphere and low camaraderie between the community and school. If all of these problems were not enough, children face physical, sexual and emotional abuse at school. While abuse of children is banned under Indian Law media reports suggest that it is increasing.
Our goal at SARD in the area of education is to close the access gaps to quality education for young children – especially for girls and vulnerable groups – and to increase student enrolment, retention and completion. We want to demonstrate and practice child centred pedagogy in the classroom process and ensure a child friendly environment, which is conducive to their holistic development. And finally we strive to increase the involvement of children and communities in school management activities including issues like quality education, gender and healthcare. For this purpose SARD developed many different models, of which the four most important ones are Enhancing Children’s Learning Levels, Safer Schools, Capacitation of Teachers and Integrating ICT in Education.
1) Enhancing Children’s Learning Level
In this model SARD is directly intervening at the schools. First of all a Child Resource Centre is established on the school premises, which grant students and teachers regular access to high quality education. The centre is the source of innovative Teaching-Learning Material (TLM), activity-based learning and co-curricular activities. Furthermore, remedial education for children in need of academic support (CNAS) is taking place here in order to prevent them from dropping out and ensuring their school completion.
Fundamental parts of this model are regular baseline, midline and endline assessments of students from the intervention schools. These assessments do not only identify CNAS but also verify the learning level enhancement due to SARD’s intervention at the target schools. Furthermore, the assessments identify the strong and weak skills, as well as the common error of the students. The results of the assessments are communicated to school staff and officials so they can adapt the curriculum accordingly and concentrate on identified areas.
In this context SARD is often contributing to the development of context specific curriculum for remedial education. With its long history, pedagogical expertise and connection to important technical agencies SARD is particularly suited for developing not only curriculum but also tools, worksheets and assessment methods.
2) Safer Schools
This model focuses particularly on child rights and safety at school. SARD focuses on positive discipline of both the students and the teachers and fights against any use of corporal punishment as disciplinary measure. Particularly unfavourable teachers’ attitudes are tackled in this model, because SARD believes backed by scientific evidence that learning is much more effective without fear. A joyful and fearless environment is also beneficial for a health personal development of children.
In order to further foster a child friendly environment the targets schools are equipped with Building as Learning Aid (BaLA). BaLA is an innovative concept towards child-friendly and fun based school environment that integrates the school infrastructure in the learning process. First free spaces in classrooms, corridors, stairs, windows, etc. are identified and mathematical and scientific concepts are added in a child friendly way. The example pictures show how creative the BaLa concepts can be applied. Part of the friendly atmosphere is also ensuring clean toilets and proper hygiene at schools. This includes the installation of water filters and rainwater harvesting systems that supply the school with clean water all over the day. Unhygienic conditions and deficient toilets are reasons for dropouts of children that are tackled under this model.
Finally, the school community link is targeted because the community has the power to use its influence for the good of the children and ensure that the measures undertaken remain sustainable even after SARD leaves the target schools. On this account School personnel and communities are sensitized and capacitated with regard to the need to have a School Management Committee (SMC) that constitutes elected representatives of the local authority, parents and other stakeholders connected to children admitted in schools. The responsibilities of SMCs are to monitor the procedures of the school, prepare a School Development Plan and monitor the utilization of grants received from government/local authority or any other source. Furthermore Child Protection Committees and children groups are established with the goal to monitor and protect the rights of children and ensure that children have a channel to articulate whatever issues they have.
3) Capacitation of Teachers
This model focuses on the development of teachers depending on the current needs of the schools. SARD’s approach to do capacitate teachers involves setting up a band of Master Trainers. Master Trainers are regular teachers that receive training from SARD on a variety of topics like handling large class sizes, teaching multi-grade and multi-level classes, child-centred pedagogy, innovative teaching methods and best practice class room processes. These Master Trainers then have the duty to give their knowledge to other colleagues, which amplifies the impact of the intervention in a very efficient way. Capacity building measures are also conducted for block resource persons and other officials.
4) Integrating ICT in Education
The role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), especially the Internet in the education sector plays an important role, especially in the process of empowering the technology into the educational activities. As part of continuous efforts to establish quality education in schools as per RTE norms, introduction of ICT helps to increasing interest among the students, thereby reducing the dropout rate, ensuring quality completion and encouraging students to use technology. It is important to understand that ICT in education is not only learning about technology but also using technology to learn. Today more and more institutions are exploring the use of ICT tools in enhancing the capacity and capability of the learners. In most of the advanced countries the use of ICT has been initiated more than a decade ago while it is at an initial stage in developing countries.
Therefore SARD is setting up model ICT centres at schools, which qualify due to good infrastructure and governance. At the same time a band of master trainers is established who are equipped with the necessary knowledge to use and instruct others on the ICT equipment provided. Subsequently, SARD is promoting the use of multimedia tools for the curriculum, periodical assessments, etc. Together with the setting up of the ICT lab SARD is holding interface meetings with governmental agencies and other institutions with the goal to popularize ICT in the school system.