Anandshala | Shiksha Ratn Puraskar
Exam scores aren’t the only measure of success in today’s schools. As a part of the Anandshala program, the Shiksha Ratn Puraskar is awarded to students, teachers and education functionaries who work exceptionally to drive change in their schools and enable quality education.
Their successes and failures, big and small, offer food for thought for everybody who has a stake in the education system.
Here's our series of stories about learning, change and pride shared at the Anandshala Gosthi. The Gosthi (Hindi for 'forum') brings together students, teachers and education functionaries to talk about effective methods for improving student engagement and tech supported learning.
STUDENTS' RETENTION AND ENGAGEMENT
Nawada Middle School, Samastipur
“Earlier, we had to lock the main gate of the school; now the children love to stay till the last class”,
says Kumari Neetu, the school teacher, while explaining what practice they adopted to further the mission of reducing Bihar's dropout rate by meeting the needs of students in at-risk situations. This is the journey of Nawada Government Upgraded Middle School of Samastipur who became the change they wanted to see.
The story begins when students used to bunk classes after the mid day meal, to play in open spaces outside school premises. It doesn’t sound too serious until you learn that for every 10 children who are enrolled at the school only 5 attend full school hours. The average attendance rate of the school on any given day was 40-50%, and the dropout tendency proportionate to this.
The students found playing outside school more fascinating than studies and hence would make excuses to skip classes after lunch. Their interest to attend classes reduced over time, hampering their term scores. The teacher-student struggle got worse with each passing week. Gaps in their attendance accentuated gaps in their learning. Subjects seemed tougher, making students avoid them and eventually drop out.
Teachers realized that they are missing something that’s making students feel detached from school. Multiple discussions among teachers, headmasters to improve classroom instruction, offered little in way of solution so teachers sought ideas from students. Students were fairly articulate about their disinterest in reading books and sitting in the classroom for most of the day.
To step up to this issue, teachers and the headmaster focused on the last class of the day. The last class is a free class generally allocated for remedial teaching or revision. The Nawada Middle School teachers decided to use this last class for drama and cultural activities with students. These activities were linked to topics and concepts in their subjects. Drama, role play and songs excited students. Teachers were equally excited about these. “Sometime I used to dress, act like an animal or an object and the children used to laugh a lot”, says Vikas Gupta, a teacher here. He learnt of these interesting methods at an Anandshala block level meeting in 2016, and was glad to have been able to effectively use them in his school. He now speaks of this at other school meetings.
Through different role plays, students got an opportunity to expand their problem solving skills both verbally and non-verbally, making room for a sense of creativity. On the occasion of Children’s Day, an activity room was inaugurated and called it the Punarbalan Kakshya, which translates Reinforcement Room, the word implying positive reinforcement.
The last class enabled students to establish a space where they could explore their ideas, inquire on social issues and work in groups to question, respond, and explain what they think. This paved the way in ice-breaking and developing a line of communication and friendship between teachers and students. Students were split into groups and given topics from their Hindi and English lessons to perform on. Among some of these stories and poems were also experiments from their science books.
Teachers also organized an exposure visit for the students of class VII and VIII at a nearby brick kiln to show the science experiment on temperature and energy. Conversations with the workers and employer at the kiln helped students understand health issues surrounding such work, and why workers wrap cloth around their head, nostrils and mouth to avoid inhaling dust.
Today the average attendance of the school on any given day is 60-70%.
Teachers continue to champion the cause for dropout prevention. They plan to make short videos of the role plays of stories and poems so that these videos can be used as digital resources for forthcoming batches of students. They’ve begun efforts to focus on student-led last class activities and strengthen community participation in the process. Laxmi Devi, who once was the cook of the school is now the newly elected ward representative of the village. She has been a part of the school’s story for a long time and teachers are now looking forward for her support to boost improvement in the school as a member of School Management Committee.
Now, if you visit the school, you are likely to be toured around by students who proudly show you their Punarbalan Kakshya and tell you about their experience there.
We hope to create a cadre of change leaders to cultivate and nurture effective methods for increasing student engagement and tech supported learning. We will share more of their stories here in the next few days.
Abhimanyu Singh, Retd. IAS,Chairperson of Doosara Dashak, at the 2018 Anandshala Gosthi