By Spurthi Kolipaka
This Govt school in a village near Pune is attracting hundreds of visitors.
I was interning with Godrej Interio at Shirwal, Satara District, Maharashtra in April 2016.
Godrej has adopted a school here in Shirwal and now wants to adopt best practices from the Kenjal School nearby. The prejudiced mind in me had already pictured a Zilla Parishad school all colorful with mundane pedagogy and open grounds just like any other public school I had seen before… Until I reached the place.
Well, the colorful walls of course attracted me the most, which I later gathered had been painted by the children of the school under the guidance of an artist!
“Let us converse in English, if you don’t mind, as my Hindi and your Marathi are equally bad.” was the opening line of Mr Patil, the headmaster of this school, who has been teaching here for the last 26 years.
The peculiarity about this school include the curriculum and the concept of Bag-less School. This school has also adopted something called ABL – Activity Based Learning for its first four standards. ABL is basically a shift from the traditional methods of rote teaching. “Earlier, syllabus was very limiting to a child. It wouldn’t fulfill the child’s dreams and hunger. And there has been a need for new and different teaching mechanisms.”, continued Mr.Patil. “Imagine there is no burden of examination on this child, even though for every concept the child is being evaluated. There is no burden of learning. And we also have the concept of Bag-less schools.”
“The National Curriculum Framework (2005) suggests that we don’t teach a class, but help the child in the learning process. Teachers should be more of facilitators and helpers. And these facilitators will identify the learning capabilities and give the child his/her own space according to grasping capacity. In 2011, 30 schools out of the 181 schools in the Tehsil were chosen under CBPR scheme (Capacity Building for Poverty Reduction) and thus began the advent of ABL.”
“Kids from 6 to 10 years are very active and have early age influences that last a lifetime. This is the time when they have to mingle, socialize, improve and learn helping each other. There should be no gender bias, no boys rows and girls rows.”
This school in Kenjal village was established in 1914, and 2014 was its centenary year. And on this occasion, on 21st Aug 2014, an energy park was inaugurated with an investment of ₹ 80 Lakh and on 22nd August 2015, this new building was constructed with special labs following our ABL curriculum. Furthermore, this school has also adopted 11 other schools in Nandurba District and sends ABL material and provides teaching. They have recently supplied 3300 library books and 1000 clothes.
Finally Mr Patil concludes, “I want to see this school go digital now… make it a wi-fi area and see that the high school kids operate tabs and learn through them. I might be transferred in a few months. But, that doesn’t make me sad anymore. As I know, wherever I go now, I’ll bring about a change like this.”
“I taught 6 years with the old method and for the last 2 years I have been facilitating ABL. In this method, I’ve seen a growth in learning and individual confidence. It is now interesting for both me and my students, as both of us get different experiences. Earlier, I was a class teacher teaching all subjects, but now I am a subject teacher. By focusing on one subject, I also get to understand the student better.” says Ms Ratnamala who is the facilitator/teacher at the Marathi lab.
“Earlier, the syllabus was only in the teacher’s hands, but now, the students take the initiative. All they have to do is enter the lab, see which level they are at, go to that tray, pick up the ABL material and play along. If they’re done, they come to me and they quickly move to the next module. If they’re stuck, they first ask their friends to help, either senior level or junior, and then come to me. All I have to do is just motivate.” says Ms.Rupali who is the EVS lab facilitator.
She then eagerly pulls out a file filled with students’ dreams and explains the process. A kid’s grandpa was serving at the border when he lost his life, and this kid wants to be a soldier just like his grandpa. And he pulled away his grandpa’s picture and put it in the file. This is a picture of a girl’s childhood and the future she foresees for herself.
“Earlier P.E.T was a separate period. But in ABL, it’s included in the mainstream. Creativity is also focused on from the beginning.” says Ms Pratima, Maths Lab teacher. She continued “It’s time we adopt such innovative methods. Teachers should begin with the change. If we have grown to adopt mobile phones, from Nokia 1100 to smartphone, we can definitely grow better in the education sector. Our memory shouldn’t be wasted on rote learning but rather creativity should be enhanced.”
As I was talking to these wonderful teachers in the assembly hall, the kids had all gone to their respective labs and had already begun with their ABL. Now, that’s something!
The school also includes an Energy park. It has simple models of mechanical energy, solar energy and wind energy applications in our daily life.
Anganwadi (Pre/Play Schools)
Another feature of this school was the Anganwadi, which is like a pre/play school for small kids. The best thing about this Anganwadi was the atmosphere. The teachers here fundraise themselves for the wall paintings of their classrooms. They had raised more than ₹30,000 and have successfully got the painting done for one classroom. And they are now raising money for their other classroom. And they say this with no sense of any extraordinary achievement, while I’m in awe asking them questions about their motivation. They reply by saying “Our village persons are very sweet and they’ve asked us to approach them for anything. And that’s what we do. It’s quite normal we think.”.
About the Author
Spurthi is a confused social worker who’s always involved in a multitude of activities at any given point and believes she’s almost close to enlightenment, except for truck loads of very simple questions!