A Year of Interventions

An overview of the various interventions over the last one year to underline an idea of the change

Tanveer Habib
Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 10 2017 10:23PM | Updated Date: Dec 10 2017 10:23PM
A Year of InterventionsFile Photo

Much has been written and spoken about the quality of education or the lack of it in government run schools of the State. Most of these analyses belittle the sector and the efforts that it makes to put in place a system where every child is able to augment his/her skills and knowledge. The various lacunas that are highlighted by these analysts are:

* Underperforming in respect of the competence of the workforce the department has.

* ‘Failing’ to produce results.

* Lack of quality books.

These points can’t be negated or neglected totally. However, we need to see the other perspective as well to form an opinion about the government education sector. Here, an overview of the various interventions that happened over the last one year is given to underline an idea of the change they have effected or are effecting one in the coming times. Let’s discuss them one by one.

* SEF Training: At the fag end of year 2016, some 500 plus teachers were engaged for a 6-day long training programme wherein some modules of classroom management, student investment, differentiation, 5-step lesson plan and Phonics were discussed. The resource persons so trained in the training programme would deliver the same training to teachers in their respective educational zones for the whole winter starting 6th December, 2016 up to 25th March, 2017. It covered almost every teacher teaching classes 3rd to 8th, including the Heads of such schools. In Anantnag district alone, some seven thousand (7000) teachers were trained. As per the feedback received from the teachers, all the modules of the training programme were new to them and had it in them (the modules) to change the scenario at the grass root level as it was implementable. A fair bit of implementation was seen in the follow-up programme- that was given the name of Academic Monitoring which is our second intervention to be discussed.

* Academic Monitoring: For too long a time, monitoring of academics had seemingly taken a backseat. If ever there was a monitoring process, it was focussed on mid-day meals, leave registers and cashbooks. For the first time in its history, the department deployed four teachers per educational zone for monitoring of academics. The so deployed teachers- whose nomenclature was Academic Monitors, as against RPs, would go to schools, conduct a baseline test in English and Mathematics of students of classes 3rd to 8th and report that directly to the Directorate of School Education, Srinagar, through an online portal. In the baseline survey, Minimum Levels of Learning (MLLs) were checked. No glossy figures were the hallmark of such a survey. The academic monitors reported the things without any bias or prejudice to anyone/anything. A sort of competitiveness developed among the schools and every one of them tried to do their best. In Anantnag alone, 1170 schools (having classes 3rd to 8th) were surveyed wherein some 28000 students were assessed and graded. The data thereof were shared with the concerned authorities and the schools too. In the phase-II of the academic monitoring, the schools were checked for the implementation of SEF modules. Also checked under the process was whether schools hold VEC and PTA meetings on a regular basis. Academic support was provided to the schools. This time again a grading list of the schools was done in every zone, and those who had done better in the baseline were awarded with appreciation certificates. Such was the impact of this monitoring that a team of experts from Gujarat, who had come to a select few zones of the district (Anantnag) vowed to start such an initiative in their schools. The Secretary, MHRD, was also happy to note that a training programme was followed up by this initiative.

* Pratham Education Foundation's ABL Training: One of the largest NGOs working in the education sector, Pratham had earlier worked in Bandipora. In 2016, in collaboration with the Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan, it had percolated into the other districts of the valley and trained a multitude of teachers to get the Activity Based Learning programme on course. However, due to the turmoil last year, its implementation was stalled. This year again Pratham trained a handful of teachers at State Institute of Education, Srinagar who then trained resource persons at their concerned District Institute of Education and Trainings so that the same training could be imparted to teachers at the zone level. Only those teachers were to be included in this programme who taught classes 1st to 5th where activity based learning is much required. Again children from classes 3rd to 5th were tested for oral and writing skills in English, Urdu and Mathematics and graded as per the levels formulated by Pratham. Again the data generated were uploaded on an online portal. Better results were found this time than in the previous survey. A midline and endline survey shall commence post winter break.

* New Books: The Academic Division of Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education, Srinagar has always been at the receiving end of producing books that don’t fit the government sector of education. Although it is easy to castigate the agency for it, the truth is that curriculum designing is a very tough job and there are various dimensions to how a book is designed. Besides, when the State is following NCERT in both the curriculum as well as the learning outcomes, nothing much can be done. Still there are efforts on part of JKBOSE to frame books aligning them with the learning outcomes. New books for classes 1st to 5th are being designed. The work has been under process for about a year now with series of workshops being held from time to time. A host of experts from the university (University of Kashmir), colleges and schools have been part of such an endeavour to provide modern and resourceful books to students. For a first, a teachers' manual is being designed- dedicated specifically to the teacher wherein guidance of how to go about teaching a particular book is given. This time, a phonics portion is being thrown in. This is purely in sync with the learning outcomes of NCERT, currently in focus all across India. The Board is trying to make books that aren't urban-centric, as some complain the books to be. A module of assessment for listening and speaking (oral) skills has been included in the new books which may hit the market soon, after the necessary modalities are sorted out. The work is being supervised by Director Academics and the concerned Assistant Director (English). The class 1st book has been designed to keep into consideration the fact that there is no defined curriculum for KG class. The government should define curriculum for the said class since some discrete efforts on part of some agencies to define one wouldn't be pedagogically sound and implemented by all the districts. The NCERT not framing a curriculum for the KG class, showing it's complacency, is replete with faults. The Early English package, under Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat, too has taken long to come to the fore, even though some substantial work has already been done by Vikramshila (NGO) and UNICEF in this regard.

* CM's Super-50, Winter Tutorials and Winter Camps: This is the third year of winter coaching in select government schools of the valley. While CM's Super-50 is meant for those students who want to appear in Common Entrance Test and the like, winter tutorial centres are meant for classes 8th to 12th. Almost every higher secondary school remains open for the winter and so do many high schools. A onetime meagre amount of Rs. 300 is levied from the students for the whole winter. Winter camps, having classes 3rd to 7th, were rarity last year, with only two such centres being functional in an educational zone. However, this time around, the number has been extended to 10 such centres per zone, with flexibility of having few more on demand. Here Rs. 100 is charged for the heating and other facilities from every student. This novel initiative has already been lauded by National Innovation Foundation.

Despite these healthy interventions, certain grey areas are there which need to be indentified and then rectified through proper means and ways. Besides, competence and performance are always different, since we don't perform exactly as per our competence- a basic linguistic premise- because while performing we do commit certain performance errors. It is hoped that the illusion that certain people have of government schools is cleared and a new perspective is given some space too.



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