Assam | MyQuest 21st Century Educator Awards
In a first of its kind for us, this award recognizes innovative pedagogical approaches by Employability Skills (ES) trainers part of the Industrial Training Institute ecosystem who have played a key role in preparing young people for the future of work.
The MyQuest 21st Century Educator Awards is presented in collaboration with the Departments of Employability and Training (DET) for Assam, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu respectively, with support from Cisco India.
The 10 trainers awarded in Assam are Jiten Kumar, ITI Jorhat; Nirmali Deka Rajbongshi, ITI Guwahati; Bindia Bordoloi, ITI Morigaon; Hitesh Deka, ITI Nalbari; Babita Moni Das, ITI Morigaon; Nabanita Devi, ITI Titabor; Mintu Dey, ITI Bhergaon; Anjan Sharma, ITI Majuli; Minakshi Gogoi, ITI Tinsukia; and Horen Aima, ITI(W) Mazbat.
Meet these trainers:
Horen Aima, ITI(w) Mazbat
“Soon after I joined the ITI, the COVID pandemic began and everything suddenly became digital and we started conducting classes online. I think the training from Quest helped me a lot personally as well as professionally. I learnt a lot of things and it helped me improve my skills as well. There was another training but I couldn’t attend due to personal reasons. I really wish to attend another training session soon. It was an enriched learning experience from such a vast number of experts in such a short period of time,” says Horen Aima.
36-year-old Horen Aima made his foray into teaching in 2019. He said that he got into the teaching profession because he believes that he could learn a lot of new things as well as teach new things to students.
“There were challenges when it came to translating the theoretical aspects of the training into more practical scenarios in the classroom for the students. Teaching digitally was a huge barrier as very few had the proper infrastructure to learn digitally. Therefore, it became difficult to conduct online classes,” confides Aima.
He continues, “Another major challenge that I found during this phase is building a bond with the students. Students find it difficult to give me feedback. I have tried to be open with them but it hasn’t helped so far. It is a little demotivating but one has to learn to navigate through it. I tried my best to help the students through the WhatsApp groups. Many students come from remote areas with financial difficulties and do not have access to smartphones. With the keypad mobiles that they have, it’s a little difficult to access these online classes as well,” he adds.
Aima customized the curriculum a little to teach the students. He wishes that he could learn about the challenges faced by the students but it remains an obstacle with the communication gap. It’s difficult to apprehend if they have really understood the subjects or not. It is only when the lockdown ended and classes reopened that he could teach them a few things before their exams.
Minakshi Gogoi, ITI Tinsukia
36-year-old Minakshi Gogoi began her teaching career in 2013. She stays with her mother who is a working woman. Her dedication and passion for teaching are second to none. “Teaching is the only profession where you can give knowledge as well as gain knowledge,” she says.
When she started her career, she was teaching in a private ITI and later joined the government ITI at Tinsukia as an Employability Skills trainer. “The early days were a bit difficult for me. It was a challenge in interacting with students, making them understand concepts, letting them participate in activities, and engaging them in learning activities,” she says.
Gogoi realized that in order to tackle this she needed to build a rapport with the students for her to be able to motivate them. “The students did not know much about the ES curriculum. Furthermore, they were ignorant too and wondered if the ES curriculum would be beneficial to them. Students were hesitant to speak up in class,” she says. However with time, she saw a massive improvement in her class’s performance.
Owing to the pandemic and the lockdown, Gogoi had to transition to online classes merely three months into her new job as a trainer. She also realized most of the students couldn’t be part of the online classes because of poor connectivity, lack of smartphones, and shortage of time as many had to start part-time jobs in order to support their families. In order to tackle this, she would make chapter-wise notes on PowerPoint for the class and uploaded these notes onto the WhatsApp groups that she had created with each batch. She claims that while this didn’t ensure a holistic learning, it did provide trainees a ready reference for learning on their own.
Sharing her journey so far Gogoi adds, “Since the day I started teaching, there have been many challenges that I faced. I am teaching and will continue to teach so that I continue my passion and impart knowledge to the students. I have no idea how I can calculate my success rate but somehow I feel that when I look in the eyes of the students they should see me as a capable and remarkable teacher so that I continue to impart more knowledge to the students.”
Gogoi is a huge believer in self-learning and always encourages students to understand concepts of employability skills on their own whenever they can. She hopes to continue to inculcate self-learning amongst students and inspire them to develop key 21st-century skills through her new pedagogical approaches.
Hitesh Deka, ITI Nalbari
56 year old Hitesh Deka works as a Junior Instructor at Nalbari ITI. He lives with his wife and son in Nalbari Town. Deka joined the ITI in 1987 as a junior instructor. With four years left to retire, he continues to work in the same position. Promotion has been slow here but he is hopeful. In 1993, he was transferred to Udalguri ITI. In 1999, he was transferred back to Nalbari ITI where he has been working ever since.
Deka always had an interest in entrepreneurship and skill development. He says, “I believe that if the new generation can build their entrepreneurial skills, it would benefit them immensely. Most young people here pursue BA, B.Sc, MA and M.Com and think that this education would be better for them. But building their entrepreneurial skills can also be quite beneficial.”
Deka heard about Quest Alliance from a colleague at the ITI. It was when he attended a training back in 2020 that he became fully aware of the work that the organization was doing. He recalls the training as enjoyable.
Reminiscing his journey, Deka says “When I started out initially in my career, the pay was very low. I used to struggle to meet my expenses. It has definitely improved now. At the present, there is a scarcity of resources such as tools and equipment at the institution. Students also have knowledge gaps when they graduate from schools. There are bright students as well.”
“We collectively try to keep the campus clean and environmentally friendly. It builds a lot of team building spirit in the students as well. I make my students converse in pairs in both English and Hindi to build their confidence and communication skills. I also engage them in outdoor activities that I research from youtube videos to keep their interests. I take the classroom outdoors and engage my students in interesting games like dominos. I often provide the students with success stories of entrepreneurs in the region and in the country. This motivates them to study well. The Quest training has really helped me in this regard. Students weren’t much interested in the old methods of learning. Now I see a significant improvement in their confidence and scientific knowledge,” states Deka.
Not every student has knowledge about IT and computers. Students coming from remote areas lack electricity, network connectivity and smartphones. Students still use the laptops received during their matriculation from the government. There are very limited computers in the lab and due to time constraints, it’s not always possible to teach students about digital skills as one would like them to. Students also struggle to keep up with the English medium. But amidst these challenges, there are inspiring stories as well.
Recalling one such story, Deka says “I recall a girl who used to live 20 kms away from the ITI. Using the digital skills that she learnt during her classes, she started offering services to fill PAN, Adhaar details online for customers using her personal laptop. This helped her to earn some income.”
The pandemic brought its own challenges. Deka confides, “Though we had a class strength of more than 200 students, almost half of them couldn’t join online classes owing to various constraints. Some students didn’t understand the importance of the classes that were being taught. Being away from the classrooms for so long had an impact on the teachers as well. We had to re-learn a lot of our teachings. Even students resorted to downloading digital books from websites and apps provided by the government due to unavailability of books offline and that is how they completed their studies for their exams. Quest Alliance has really helped in making the curriculum more engaging during this tough period.”
Anjan Sharma, ITI Majuli
Starting out as a subject teacher at Bali Pothar, Karbi Anglong in 1995, 58-year-old Anjan Sharma always thought of teaching as one of the noble professions. He wanted to serve society by becoming a teacher.
“I love the profession of teaching. In my family, only one member is in the medical profession. Everyone else is in the teaching line. My eldest brother is a professor in a college. Another brother is a school teacher. Of the four siblings, I also got into this profession. Even my wife is a teacher. I love interacting with students. I enjoy conducting classes with them,” he says.
Starting out at Guwahati ITI, Sharma transferred a couple of times over the years before he finally settled down at Guwahati ITI again.
He further says, “I learned about Quest Alliance through a training that was conducted about 3 months ago. I really enjoyed the training workshop. The training that was provided was very advanced. I certainly learned a lot of things from there. I would definitely love to get another training.
Hailing from a commerce background, Sharma always enjoyed teaching the subject of entrepreneurship. “It is easier as well for the non-technical department as we facilitate only two classes per day. It provides me with a good work-life balance,” he adds. He further adds, “Besides entrepreneurship, I personally like the subjects of environmental science and English Literature.” With changing times, Sharma had to learn new topics himself before he could teach the students. Sometimes he would also make notes which he would share with his students if he thought it might help them in their exams.
Speaking about the challenges he faced during the pandemic induced lockdown, he says that students are more concerned with getting the certificate and ready made notes. They are more exam-oriented rather than being knowledge-oriented. Though it’s different when it comes to trade, students usually just attend the skills classes for exams. To develop an interest for the subjects is a challenge for him but one that he takes up happily.
“Students have said how the skills that they learned in the ES skills curriculum helped them during job interviews and at work as well. I felt very proud,” he says.
“We carried on classes normally for a while at the beginning of the first wave of the pandemic. During the lockdown, the students opened WhatsApp groups to carry on with their classes. Thankfully, we completed all our courses on time. Though I admit that students had to study a little more this time. There was a huge limitation in digital classes. I couldn’t teach students as I would have in normal classes,” he says.
Sharma is a huge believer in self-learning and encourages students to approach him with doubts. On occasions when he isn’t available, he encourages them to use the internet to try and explore concepts of employability skills on their own.
Babita Moni Das, ITI Morigaon
Twenty seven year old Babita Moni Das never planned to build a career in the teaching profession. However, when she heard about an opening for a teaching position at an ITI, she decided to give it a try. Babita joined Morigaon ITI in November 2019. “This profession provides me with a lot of satisfaction as I can impart my knowledge to my students and help them move forward,” she says.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Das, though. Just a couple of months into her new job, the pandemic hit and a nation-wide lockdown was imposed. As the world went digital to carry on with their lives, Das started conducting classes on Zoom and Google Meet. She made specially prepared videos and notes to share them with her students on WhatsApp for their convenience of studying. She would then ask them to explain it back to her in their own words to gauge their understanding.
“Network connectivity was a major challenge during this period for myself as well as my students. Even though I personally enjoy teaching the course of employability skills, I also had to take up extra subjects due to staff shortage during this period,” she confides.
Das tries to be innovative in the classroom to keep her students engaged. Using blended learning methods, she also conducts project based activities. She organizes various competitions like extempore, debate, etc to improve her students’ communication skills. She encourages them to make creative charts on case stories and prepare wall magazines from their classroom learning.
“I never expected to be a teacher but I consider this a blessing in disguise. It has been a very fulfilling experience so far,” says Das gratefully.
Nabanita Devi, ITI Titabor
36-year-old Nabanita Devi always strived to transform the lives of young people. A college graduate, Devi completed Stenography training from ITI Tezpur. “Now, I have also appeared in the final exam of MA sociology,” she says.
Recalling her early days, Devi says that she made her foray in teaching while she was in standard ten. She says. “While I was in Class 10, I started taking tuition classes for the junior students. Teaching them gave me a sense of satisfaction as well as earned me pocket money. I was happy and decided to devote myself to teaching full- time. After completing the ITI training, I got a chance to work as a stenographer in ITI, Tezpur.
Devi currently works as a generic instructor in ITI Titabor and is also deputed at Jorhat ITI. Luckily for Devi, an opportunity arose in 2019 and she joined as an employability skills (ES) instructor in the very same ITI. “After completing the interview and completing the training, I got a chance to work as a Employability Skills Trainer in ITI Tezpur. I got a lot of hands-on experience with Quest Alliance which helped me to get the next job as a generic instructor in a government ITI,” she says.
However, sometimes she faced challenges in engaging innovatively with her learners. Students join the ITI with various motives. While some wish to secure a job after they pass out, others simply attend the classes on being forced by their parents. She realized soon enough that her teaching approach had to be drastically adapted for ITI students. This is when her ES training helped her immensely.
So to garner her student’s interests, Devi conducts many innovative ideas i.e. use of technology, energizers and guest lectures to create a more creative and open environment which enables the students to connect with each other and show their creativity.
Devi says positively, “I think challenges are very important as it provides experience and new learnings. It changes one’s mindset. Therefore, I try my level best to overcome these challenges with self-confidence.” Speaking about the change that she observed in the class, Devi adds, “Thanks to the ES curriculum the students are more proactive and self-confident in the class.”
During the Covid-19 lockdown, Devi tried to engage her learners online through WhatsApp group, the institute’s YouTube channel and Facebook group.
Lastly Devi adds, “I think, if we continue to practice these ideas, we will be able to fill up the gap between our manpower and the skills requirements in present industries.”
Mintu Dey, ITI Bhergaon
Inspiration plays an important role in helping many of us choose a profession. Inspired by many teachers since his childhood, 37-year-old Mintu Dey decided to choose teaching as his profession. Speaking about his journey, he says “I have been in the teaching profession for the last 10 years. I think teachers are the real heroes in the lives of the students. They are the ones who help us grow as people are responsible for imparting some of life's most important lessons. I feel really happy and proud that I have joined this profession. The sense of satisfaction I receive in this profession can not be described in words. I started as a teacher in a private school. After that, I joined ITI Bhergaon as an Employability Skills Trainer.”
He believes that it is very important for any teacher to be aware of the best skills to engage with students in the classrooms. The more engaging the classes are the more interested the students become to learn new things. “After I joined as an ES trainer, I realized how important it is for a teacher to be well aware of these particular topics that are present in the employability skills subject. The topics really help students prepare themselves for the practical world, which I feel is very important. Because we teach students only the bookish knowledge, but here students face real-life problems and they learn to know the ways to tackle these. Some of the topics I like most are communication skills, entrepreneurship skills, IT literacy, and maintaining efficiency at the workplace,” he says.
Dey added that motivating the students was a challenge. “In order to motivate them, I always used real-life examples. All these helped them relate. The other key challenges were that students were hesitant to speak up in the class. In order to tackle these, I always encouraged them to speak no matter the errors as it could be rectified later by practice,” he adds. He goes on to say that it really takes time and patience in pushing and motivating students on a daily basis. Because students really need daily motivation and a push to succeed.
“Due to the COVID-induced lockdown many educational institutions, offices, etc. were shut. It was a hard time for all of us. Suddenly, everything came to a standstill. We did not know what to do. It was then that the training of Quest Alliance came to the rescue. I always keep in mind the situation of the students and ensure their safety along with their family. I started taking the classes on Zoom, Quest App and also used WhatsApp groups to share notes,” he adds.
With the ES curriculum, Dey continues to support rural youth to build confidence and find jobs. He has over the years built processes in his classroom to ensure that employability skills are imparted effectively.
Jiten Kumar, ITI Jorhat
Having struggled to get a proper education himself, retired teacher Jiten Kumar always thought of educating as many students as possible. For this sole purpose, Kumar became a teacher.
“My parents were farmers. They struggled to send me to school and always wanted to do something in the future. I realized the importance of education very early in life. The ordeal that I went through as a student, I did not want others to face the same. I believe that teachers can bring real change in their students and he wanted to be part of that journey. As a result, I decided to become a teacher. I have dedicated 36 years to this profession and retired only recently from ITI Jorhat,” he says.
When Kumar chanced upon an opportunity to become an ES trainer, he took it up without giving it a second thought. He now considers it one of the best decisions of his life. “The Employability Skills (ES) training provided by Quest Alliance is very good. It has helped me in imparting ES training to the students which in turn will make them industry ready. The blended learning, communication skills, IT literacy are some of the things which I really loved about the program,” he says.
Initially, the students were a bit hesitant to learn about the program. However, looking at the future prospects and the skills that were on offer they started gaining interest in the courses. “I believe that everyone has their own skills. I always focused on uplifting the skills of the students and making them learn 21st century skills. These skills are as important as other subjects that are being taught in the ITIs,” he adds.
Speaking about the journey as an ES trainer Kumar says, “It was full of challenges. The students were initially distracted in class. So, we had to come up with different ways to engage with them. This is where the blended learning module came into play. Using these new techniques, the students focused better and were also able to retain more information that was taught in the class.”
Kumar often gave relatable real-life examples to his students to help them solve their issues. For students who struggled with the English language, he recommended them to read English newspapers and come prepared with a new word in the class. This eventually became a habit and students were able to converse more freely in English.
The nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 was a very difficult phase. Students had a difficult time learning due to lack of infrastructure. “It was then that I decided to share the lessons through ppt on WhatsApp and also asked them to connect with me over phone if they faced any difficulty. We also started using Zoom for virtual classes,” Kumar says. Kumar admits that there are still huge gaps as students from underprivileged families didn’t have access to any infrastructure. He tried his best to help these students when classes finally reopened before their exams.
Nirmali Deka Rajbongshi, ITI Guwahati
Since childhood, 46-year-old Nirmali Deka always dreamt of becoming a teacher. Her career spans almost two decades now. “I always dreamt of becoming a teacher. I was motivated by a friend of mine who also worked as a teacher. Initially, I started my career as an English teacher at an English Medium School. After completing my Masters, I joined ITI Guwahati. I believe that teaching is the only profession where you get to teach as well as learn,” she says.
Right from the beginning, Deka always believed that it is important to build rapport with the students in order to make them learn as well as make the classes interesting. “More often than not, students wouldn’t pay much attention in class. The students didn’t have previous experience of Employability skills training and therefore avoided it. They thought that only trade-related skills are important. However, once I introduced them to the Employability Skills curriculum of Quest Alliance, they finally understood its importance,” she adds.
New activities like the blended learning approach helped Deka change the way her students interacted with her and each other. She actively asked questions in her classroom to ensure that students voiced their opinions. “In an ITI, it is very important to give students an opportunity to express themselves. Most of the students only remember being ignored in school. Therefore a safe space where their voice is heard gives them confidence,” she adds. She further goes on to add that in order to make them understand a topic she would always inform them before the class and would make them come prepared for the given topic. It helped them get the basics right and the class would always get involved in healthier discussions. She would also make them practice by giving them assignments on the same topic.
The COVID-induced nationwide lockdown also helped Deka understand the challenges that are associated with online learning especially in India where digital access still eludes a large majority of people. “During the lockdown, the Quest app was very useful. I used to instruct them on how to use it and gave them homework. So, it really helped me a lot to make the students engaged in something productive,” she says.
Deka hopes to continue to support her students to have access to learning and build the key skills required to be ready for the job market.
Bindia Bordoloi, ITI Morigaon
For 29-year-old Bindia Bordoloi, teaching is her passion. She has been in the teaching profession since 2019. Her father, a retired army official and strict disciplinarian, always encouraged her to study and excel in life. Early in life, Bordoloi understood that teachers can bring real change in their students and she wanted to be a part of that journey.
Bordoloi learnt about the Employability Skills curriculum by chance. So when she got an opportunity to be an ES trainer, she grabbed it with both her hands. She considers it as one of the best decisions of her life. “It was a very insightful journey for me. Since I always wanted to become a teacher, I was very excited about that. I gained a lot of knowledge and skills throughout the journey and also faced many challenges. But I never gave up and did my best as I could,” she says.
Bordoloi realized very early on that the mindset of students in an ITI was vastly different. She realized that she could only be a good teacher if she could grab the attention of her students through innovative teaching methods. Most of her students came from a non-English medium, and didn’t know English, so teaching communicative English needed more than just focusing on speaking fluency. Bordoloi encouraged her students to go beyond their limits and made the learning fun as well. “No matter how small efforts the students put in, I always encouraged it. Slowly and steadily, I saw the students improving gradually. I became very happy. I always felt that students should be given a chance that will help them boost their self-confidence,” she adds.
“Students love my classes as they are activity based as well as student centric. I encourage them to practice in the computer lab when the lockdown was lifted as well as before the pandemic. I would ask them to make a resume and cover letter etc. I also explained to them the importance of it and updated it regularly too. There is a lot of improvement in the students after attending the classes,” she says.
During lockdown, with support from Quest Alliance and Quest App, Bordoloi managed to conduct her classes online. However, ensuring continuous participation of students in online classes was one of the major challenges, she adds.
Bordoloi hopes to continue to learn and inspire young people to take control of their lives. “I want every young person to remember that learning is a lifelong process and each of them has the potential to fulfill their dreams,” she adds.
We are proud to have been part of their journeys and to have had the opportunity to support them in whatever ways fit them best.
Smti. Kasturi Bharali, ACSDirector, Directorate of Employment and Craftsmen Training, Govt. of Assam
“Students of ITIs in Assam face unique challenges at the workplace. The Employability Skills (ES) curriculum has helped students acquire key 21st century skills and obtain employment that is both meaningful and enriching. ES trainers have been that force in the background and today’s event is a testament to their efforts. We appreciate the support provided by Cisco and Quest Alliance in transforming our classrooms and giving wings to the dreams of our students.”