PAST EXPERIENCE WITH GOVT SCHOOLS

Projects for School Enrichment with New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC)
1. School Appraisal System: Avlokan
Ritinjali, in collaboration with NDMC, put in place ‘Avlokan’ , a school appraisal system, to provide quality education through a holistic learning environment. The aim was to identify the strengths of NDMC schools, and share the best practices identified in all schools to rejuvenate the quality of education in these schools.

Avlokan was based on two premises. First, that appreciation and acknowledgement of individuals of a school would lead to higher self-worth and initiative amongst them, thereby providing a motivation for change. Second, the purpose of Avlokan was to bring out the dynamic potential latent in all individuals. When this potential is tapped and honed, the individuals concerned can utilise their innate abilities to the fullest extent.

In the first phase of Avlokan, in 2005, an appraisal of 49 NDMC Nursery and Primary Schools was conducted. The second phase, in 2007, involved 65 Nursery and Primary Schools. The appraisals began by conducting an intensive week-long workshop on best practices in the early years of learning for 30 NDMC Nursery and Primary School Heads in each case. The workshop provided the School Heads with an overview of quality teaching and learning environment in Primary and Nursery schools — the objective being to raise the existing standard of NDMC schools to that of the best schools in the country. The workshop focussed on strengthening the perspectives of the Heads, and provided them an orientation to the essential areas in the early years of learning; while highlighting story-telling, art and self-expression, theatre, value-based education, yoga, and different learning and teaching strategies for more effective classroom facilitation.

An important component of the workshop was also to evolve a comprehensive checklist based on the best practices that could serve as a guide to the appraisal process of the 114 Nursery and Primary NDMC Schools. The schools were not given any prior notice of the appraisal date, and the team conducted ‘spot check’ visits, in order to gauge the conditions on a typical school day. The various parameters covered ranged from school infrastructure, classroom environment, academics, and pupil care; to parent’s involvement, leadership, and management, to name a few. The checklist set out what must be evaluated and reported in the Nursery and Primary Schools, and helped capture all necessary data to come up with a holistic view of the best practices of these institutions.

Through Avlokan, Ritinjali helped identify the issues, and created a model for monthly school appraisal with a hope to encourage the Heads and teachers of the Schools to improve the existing conditions of learning. The programme was able to bring about considerable improvement in the Schools, particularly in areas of hygiene, pupil care, academics, leadership, and management and performance of the teaching staff. Furthermore, it not only provided an unbiased, independent, and reliable view of the Schools, but also promoted accountability and transparency while identifying the innovative practices. Clearly, Avlokan made a significant contribution in bringing about a paradigm shift in the educational system of these NDMC Schools.
A handbook on the best practices in NDMC Nursery and Primary Schools was also officially released, and distributed among all the schools and stakeholders.

2. Creating a Model School: NDMC–Ritinjali Bhagidari

A partnership was forged between NDMC and Ritinjali in 2005, with the objective of providing a teaching and learning environment to the students of NDMC schools that is comparable to that in the best schools of Delhi. Essentially, the focus of this ‘bhagidari’ was to bring about qualitative improvement in the NDMC schooling system by providing a holistic learning environment.

Darbhanga House: Ritinjali took over the running of the Navyug Primary School at Darbhanga House, New Delhi in August 2005 to demonstrate the impact of good teaching and learning practices — creating a model school, in the process. One of the goals was to run the School using the infrastructure and finances given to all other NDMC schools, and to show how quality education can be imparted using the same given resources.

When the School was adopted by Ritinjali, it had 70 students across a section each in Nursery and Class I. Ritinjali brought in a Principal with 30 years of experience in the field of education, who was ably supported by a team of four full-time and two part-time teachers. All the teachers underwent an intensive two-month-long teacher-training programme. Several infrastructural improvements were made to the school, which included structural repairs and painting, renovating the toilets, installing water coolers, and fitting grills on all the windows of the school building.

One of the main teaching patterns adopted by the teachers, who were trained by us, was to combine the academic curriculum with a host of extra-curricular activities to make learning enjoyable for the children. These included teaching aids, art and craft, role-play, and music. The teachers were asked to prepare weekly lesson plans, as well as formulate a daily assessment system, as opposed to conducting examinations. New report cards were also designed for the students.

Ritinjali has always sought to include the parents concerned in the functioning of a school. This stems from the belief that the parents of the students would determine the continuity of the programme; and that the outcomes of the parent-teacher meetings would be the actual indicator of success.

Ritinjali, through this model school, has been able to demonstrate improved standards of education, the impact of quality teaching and learning practices, and an efficient administration within a given time frame. After successfully creating and running the Navyug Primary School for two academic sessions (2005–07), Ritinjali was able to bring about a positive change in the lives of the children at Darbhanga House. We hope that this model will be replicated, and will continue to benefit not only these children, but many others as well.

Programme with Punjab Government

1. Rejuvenating Government Schools in Mansa

Recognising that teachers represent a potential channel for spreading information and are agents of change, Ritinjali and Learn Today, the education division of the India Today Group, as a consortium designed a Capacity Building Programme for teachers and School Heads. Through the programme, we started a chain effect by which we are sensitising teaching in schools to bring about a positive change in the districts and states we touch.

The Capacity Building Programme in Mansa district of Punjab was designed keeping in mind the evolving requirements of School Heads and teachers in the district in an effort to keep them abreast with new teaching-learning strategies and thus enrich the education system. Additionally, through our specially designed modules, we helped bridge the gap between the leaning levels and curriculum at the primary level. Spread over approximately 18 months, we implemented a continuous enrichment framework for planning, ongoing assessment, and capacity building for teachers and School heads in Mansa.

Our Capacity Building Programme was based on 8 core principles:

• The Programme is participative and inclusive and aims to build ownership for all stakeholders. The key focus is to build capacity from within the system to ultimately empower teachers to be the catalysts for change.
• The Ritinjali philosophy is centred on holistic development of teachers and is effectively captured in four key processes - Think, reflect, innovate and apply. The Programme prepares teachers and Principals to move away from prescriptive content-based teaching models to process based learning models that focus on 21st century skills, competencies and attitudes in the classroom. It provides teachers with the freedom to innovate and shape their own strategies based on the evolving needs of students thus fostering skills that will help students in their lives with a cohesive understanding and application of knowledge.
• The programme enables collaboration among all participants through mentoring and peer teaching models. Built into the system are opportunities for teachers to team teach, mentor and collaborate across disciplines and class levels.
• The Programme aims to be a part of a comprehensive school plan that will provide training in alignment with the curriculum, assessment and learning outcomes and relevant to Punjab’s culture and sensibilities. Our Programme is designed with a view to improve the quality of education towards the development of a knowledge society comprising of responsible citizens – deeply rooted in respect for Punjabi heritage and culture as well as prepared for the global world.
• The Programme also aims to empower School Heads and teachers to work towards mobilisation of the community and sensitising teachers towards student needs.
• The Programme is designed taking into account diversity among students based on gender, socio-economic backgrounds and specific learning needs.
• The programme provides opportunities to teachers and Principals to construct their own professional learning communities for collaborative learning through regular meetings in schools.
• The Programme aims to set-up an in-built monitoring mechanism based on the process of self-reflection to assess teaching and learning in the classroom.

Following an in-depth study of sample schools in Mansa, a programme spanning 12 days was designed for the professional development of teachers and School Heads. The programme covered an array of workshops including pedagogy, communication, classroom management, leadership, change management, team building and motivation for teachers. Through a cascade model, in Mansa we have trained a core of 140 Master Trainers who helped to build capacity of approximately 2,000 teachers in the district. Master Trainers were trained not only to use the curriculum, but also in facilitation techniques and group dynamics and monitoring tools. Opportunities were built in for them to practice new skills within and after the training. Our content for Capacity Building of teachers and School Heads in Punjab, is benefited by constant inputs from Master Trainers, teachers and observations of the Ritinjali and Learn Today teams that facilitate and observe its implementation in classrooms. This constant enrichment process thus lent a dynamic nature to our Capacity Building Programme.

The modules developed for the professional development of teachers are listed below:

1. Change Management, Motivation and Team-Building
2. Purpose of Education
3. Classroom Management
4. Generic Learning Strategies I
5. Getting Ready to Read and Write
6. Multiple Intelligences
7. Generic Learning Strategies II and Differentiation
8. Horizontal Integration and Integration of Arts
9. Strategy Planning and Assessment
10. Assessment for Learning
11. Domain-specific Pedagogy
12. Communication
13. Leadership

Monitoring and evaluation was an integral and in-built component of the Capacity Building Programme which was considered from the outset and will continue through the life of the programme. Our evaluation design included both process evaluation and outcome evaluation. During the course of the implementation, process evaluation monitors the progress and provides feedback so that we can make adjustments or correct our programme where needed. It was hence a continual cycle of professional development, sensitive to the evolving needs of the educators and students.

An important feature of the Monitoring and Evaluation design was that we worked together with the Core Working Group formed from SSA representatives, DIET lecturers, Cluster Resource People, Block Resource People and selected School Heads and teachers to identify problems and gaps in the classroom practices, design intervention activities, conduct trainings and classroom implementation, and made appropriate changes to the content when required. This also helped make the capacity building and evaluation process sustainable in the long run as the needs assessment at each level was done with the help of representatives from within the system. It also helped us achieve our goal of strengthening the system from within so that monitoring and evaluation can continue long after the intervention in the district. These findings will also guide our subsequent intervention activities in other districts in Punjab.