23 December 2019

Notes from a successful, educative collaboration

Sudhish at his desk - Assitant Director (Pedagogy), Department of Education, Chhattisgarh.
By M. Sudhish Kumar

In 2013, Chhattisgarh was at the bottom of the National Achievement Survey for learning outcomes among children in schools. Six in 10 children in Chhattisgarh could not read simple text and solve grade-level problems in Math. It was apparent to us that the foundation skills of children needed more focus. 

It worried the state government, and to remedy the situation it initiated Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Shiksha Gunavatta Abhiyan, a four-year program aimed at improving the quality of education in its schools. Under this program, we did social audits of schools at the beginning of the session to identify the weak schools and work on them. We also involved Gram Sabhas for evaluation and monitoring. 

We worked with all the stakeholders to come up with a list of factors that have adversely affected the learning curve of the students. One of the most important and crucial factors, we identified, was a general disinterest among teachers. 

We realised that we had recruited para teachers to fill up the vacant posts in government schools. These teachers were drawing a lesser salary as compared to the regular teachers but working equally hard. It caused resentment among them, affecting their performance in the classroom.  

We realised that we had recruited para teachers to fill up the vacant posts in government schools. These teachers were drawing a lesser salary as compared to the regular teachers but working equally hard. It caused resentment among them, affecting their performance in the classroom.  

We felt that there was an urgent need to enthuse and energise teachers, the backbone of our education system. So, the government decided to improve incentives for them, while simultaneously coming up with a programme to train and equip them with necessary skills, tools and technologies so that they start enjoying teaching in the classrooms.  

Around that time, we received a proposal from Sampark Foundation. The foundation wanted to roll out their Smart Shala program across the entire state—in all the government primary schools. They were confident that their program can help us improve learning outcomes among children and they wanted to do it by enthusing, empowering and enabling teachers—exactly what the state was planning to do.  

After a rigorous process of evaluation and weighing their proposal on various accounts—feasibility, approach, a utility for the state, cost, among others—we decided to collaborate with them. 

I believe that any collaboration yields result only when both the partners are passionate about the cause. Sampark has a brigade of passionate field representatives- they call them Sparks- who relentlessly work to bring about the change at the grassroots. Their innovations are cost-effective and yet effective. 

The program has not only helped the government in identifying the problem faced by teachers and children in classrooms but has also contributed greatly towards improving learning outcomes among children. 

Today, through continuous monitoring and interaction with teachers we have successfully managed to create a community of teachers on WhatsApp with whom we interact regularly. Teachers, too, have found a platform to share their ideas and problems. 

What I like most about Sampark’s program is the fact that they keep upgrading it at a regular interval based on feedback received from the teachers and government. 

We have successfully improved the learning outcome for our children in primary schools. 

As an educationist, my aim is to make the environment in our schools conducive to learning and I welcome every move in that direction.

(The writer is Assitant Director (Pedagogy), Department of Education, Chhattisgarh. Views are personal)