Ashvini Ranjan is the Managing Trustee of Pratham Mysore. Besides overseeing general administration and everyday issues, he is into strategic planning, analysis, and expansion of all programmes since inception. He heads the Pratham Team of programmes. A postgraduate from the University of Mysore, Ashvini Ranjan began his career as a teacher at the University before venturing into business. He is currently the Managing Director of A. J. Polymers Private Limited, Mysore.
Never before have we been so concerned about children’s education as we are today. The lockdown and the consequent closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, has caught us all unawares and unprepared to address the situation. Though many are predicting a return to normalcy in a short span of time, there are others who think otherwise. Be that as it may, educationists across the board are in a damage control mode to develop ways to contain loss of learning and keep the children engaged in novel ways of acquiring knowledge. Any disruption to a rhythm in learning, particularly of school children takes a long time to return to normalcy.
Many permutations and combinations are being worked out both by the government and private sector pundits to engage children. The government is dedicating TV, radio, and other social media channels to impart lessons.
The private schools are using technology to offer online lessons combined with reduced school visits. But the equity, suitability, and outcomes of both the methods are yet to be assessed and tested.
While some experts are all praise for online learning, there are others expressing increasing concern about the kind of education students may be getting.
Will it be just transferring of information as before or will the lessons ignite the critical thinking ability of students and inculcate the desire to ask questions? Even before the pandemic, there was concern expressed about our rote learning method driven with a singular goal of scoring high marks.
In addition to the kind of education imparted through E-learning, there is even a larger issue of equity. While the use of electronic media and technology may address the needs of most urban school-going children, the needs of rural children who constitute nearly sixty per cent of the child population are different. In the absence of uninterrupted power supply, internet connectivity in the remote villages and the resources to pay for the mobile phone services, it calls for an entirely different approach to ensure that the needs of the rural children are properly addressed.
An out of the box idea that is being discussed and developed by Pratham Mysore NGO deserves to be taken note of. A model that neither interferes nor disrupts any of the existing formal methodologies or systems of learning that exists in schools and yet enriches the child’s knowledge is being discussed. A knowledge that is relevant to the child’s day to day life and the environment that he or she lives in. The method being developed contemplates on tapping into the indigenous knowledge that already exists in the people around including the parents of the child. The knowledge that is vital to their existence and wellbeing and which now remains dormant.
To illustrate with an example, a parent in a village has a natural knowledge of essential components based on which life in the village exists and functions. Knowledge about the crops that are grown locally, understanding soil composition, awareness about the duration of each crop and what fertilizers to administer, monsoon patterns, schemes that are offered by the government to help the farming community, information about crop loans, banking, the importance of livestock, functions of a village panchayat and many more; such knowledge is naturally acquired by the people including the parent over a period of time though not in a conscious manner.
However important and essential this information is to the child’s life; such knowledge does not figure in the lessons the child learns in the classroom. The purpose of this initiative is to make the parent a teacher to the child and help the transfer this indigenous information in a structured manner.
The question that is likely to follow is what happens if the parent is not literate or the information, he has is erroneous?
Whether or not the parent is willing to partake in the initiative. While they are valid fears, the following measures are contemplated to overcome these possible hurdles.
For the purpose of a trial, fifty topics have been shortlisted that are already familiar to most parents or have practical knowledge of it. Content for the said fifty topics are prepared in an easy to understand language and distributed free of cost to either to supplement or validate the information that the parent already has. Field trials will also provide an opportunity to refine, alter or add to the content.
To encourage more participation, a village-level competition will be organized to recognize and award families that perform best. The event will be given wide publicity to draw the attention of other villages. Since the family as a whole is required to participate, all members of the family will make an effort in the preparatory learning process.
Besides a certificate that will be issued in public in the village, it provides an opportunity for the parents to enhance their image that will prove attractive. It is this pride in the rural people that will encourage more parents and more villages to participate. However ambitious this initiative of the parent as a teacher may appear, it is very feasible and could be easily implemented with minimal investment and in a shortest possible time.
About Pratham Mysore
Pratham Mysore is an NGO established 2002 with a stated objective to ensure that ‘every child is in school and learning well’. It collaborates with the government, local communities, teachers, volunteers trained by Pratham and civil society members to improve the quality of learning of children studying in government primary and secondary schools. Pratham Mysore has its headquarters in Mysore and its education initiatives are in six Districts in Karnataka including Bangalore North, Mandya, Nanjungud, Chamarajanagar, Mysore rural, extending up to Ron in Dharwad District. From two schools in the slums of Mysore during 2002, Pratham has expanded its operations to over 24860 government schools primarily in rural locations in Karnataka.