Adarsha Vidya Samsthe is a rural school in Addagal village, Srinivasapur Taluk, Kolar District. The school, promoted by philanthropists, has its first batch of SSLC readying for the examination starting on 2nd April 2012. The 5 boys and 3 girls of the class have been living in the school 6 days a week since 2nd November. They come to the school on Monday morning and go home on Sunday morning after a few hours of classes. They follow a rigorous routine of studies interspersed with mild physical activities. The boys get free meals at Government High School hostel. Parents of the girls bring their breakfast and lunch. The girls cook their dinner in the school. One or two teachers, by rotation, stay with the children in the school, helping them in studies. This will continue till the examination commences, 4 months from now.
The teachers are glad to be of help to the students though they do not get any extra money for the task. Students are cheerful and are benefiting from the arrangement. Instead of watching TV, they run through the video courses from Prema Vidya . The children are full of confidence to face the examination in April 2012.
It is not an isolated case at Adarsha Vidya Samsthe. Other schools in the Taluk did the same last year and benefited. A quiet revolution in education seems to be unfolding in Kolar District. SSLC students of last year propelled the district from 30th to 8th place in the state. A news report on 13 May 2011 states:
The district has taken the eighth place in the overall performance in the State with a 81.46% pass. The district came 30th last year and the success rate was 57.81%. It used to secure places between 25 and 30 in the last many years causing concern among the people. However, owing to the steps taken by authorities concerned led by the office of Deputy Director of Public Instructions (DDPI) the pass percentage this year is 81.46, a jump of 23 per cent over last year’s performance.
As many as 40 schools in the district have registered 100% passes. Last year only 16 schools achieved this feat.
Srinivaspur taluk topped Kolar District in the SSLC exams, with 88.27% pass.
Yesterday I met Mr. Mohammed Khalil, the BEO of Srinivasapur Taluk at Rayalpad High School. Starting last year, he has directed that all the children of class 10 live in the schools starting 15 December till the SSLC examination starts. A teacher will stay in school over-night by rotation and help the students in studies. The teachers are also expected to teach over weekends.
Some teachers are complaining about this, but have no choice. But, Mohammed Khalil does not take ‘NO’ for answer and his motive is noble. He holds a meeting of all headmasters of the Taluk in his office once a fortnight to monitor the progress of education in schools. He also arranges workshops on various subjects for teachers, helping them to be more effective in classrooms. From now till the final examination, the students would have appeared in 13 tests on each subject. Tests would be open book followed by regular close-book examinations. This will give the children much needed practice and confidence.
Are the children learning concepts? They are far behind the ideal situation. For now, they want to pass the examination. This itself is a good goal, a good step forward. When leading educationists are against rote learning and excess burdening of students, Kolar (especially Srinivaspur Taluk) model has shown pragmatism. The dropouts would reduce and the students passing this examination would be pumped with some confidence to face the world. Even the rote learning would have left some knowledge in them. We can move towards ideal situation in baby steps.
Children in rural and urban poor schools are underserved. Rural students are worse hit with ill-equipped schools, little support from parents and unprepared teachers. Giving the schools a clear framework and placing non-negotiable demands would help the children and the society.
Hard work in a good framework is necessary part of education. Eternal soft-pedalling and great pampering the children may not result in good education.
In the US, “KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of free, open-enrolment, college-preparatory public schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life. There are currently 109 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving more than 32,000 students.”
KIPP students know that hard work is their ticket to academic success. Students are in school for nearly ten hours a day and also attend Saturday and summer sessions. Our schools have only 5 teaching hours per day, which include some physical training and extra-curricular activities. We engage students for only about 50% of what the KIPP does.
KIPP children deemed the least likely to succeed generally score significantly higher on standardized tests compared with their peers.
Some principles and practice of KIPP are worth emulating
1. High Expectations for academic achievement and conduct that make no excuses based on the background of students. Students, parents, and teachers create and reinforce a culture of achievement.
2. Students, parents and the faculty make a choice to be at the school. Each one devotes the time and effort required to achieve success.
3. There are no shortcuts. A longer school day, a longer school year, and summer school mean more time for students.
4. Focus on Results. Do not make excuses based on the social background of the students.