Open School

A learning experiment for a rural village

Why we need to rethink education in rural villages in India

Education in remote villages in India has been the topic of many and more often than not endless discussions. Yet a sufficient solution hasn’t been found, it’s not even within reach. In Janwaar we are struggling as well. Our main problems in short are:

  • the qualification of the teachers
  • the equipment of the schools
  • good teachers don’t want to live in remote areas
  • the curriculum itself

In Janwaar we do have a government school which goes up until 8th grade but the skills and capacities of the teachers are extremely limited and above all they are not really interested in doing more or going an extra mile. The school equipment is far from sufficient – we do not even have tables or chairs and the teacherstudent-relation is a classic top-down approach. Strict obedience. So the lessons are rather boring, neither the kids nor the teachers are engaged and therefore it’s no wonder that the kids – once they finish 8th grade – can hardly read and write. Their Hindi skills are comparable to a second grader at a good school. All they did was “leaning by heart”. They’ve never learned to think, to understand, to work in teams and to find solutions. They never had fun at school.

Kids waiting for their teaches at Janwaar Government School.

Over the past three years we’ve had various workshops in Janwaar. In these workshops – hold by Teach for India fellows, by our learning partner Prakriti School, passionate learners and great volunteers – we’ve seen that the kids do engage, that they have fun and even stay an extra hour. They want to learn. They enjoy learning when it’s set up in an interactive and responsive way. In these workshops the kids are encouraged to disobey, to ask questions and to fail. No one will scold them for a mistake. It’s all about experimenting, exploring, understanding and finding your own passion. The problem with these workshops is that the people who are conducting them won’t stay for a longer period of time in these remote areas. They only come for a short while. When we are lucky for 4-8 weeks and then they are off again. There is nothing what holds them back in the villages. They miss network coverage, basic sanitation, entertainment and culture – in one line: They miss the city. The villages – Janwaar included – aren’t attractive enough for them to stay.

And the last major challenge is that the kids don’t necessarily learn at school what they would need in the villages to make a living. The curriculum in the city is the same as in the remote villages – it doesn’t take the different circumstances and the future perspectives of the kids into account. In the villages where almost 90% live from agriculture, agriculture isn’t even taught in the schools. Kids don’t learn anything about the arts. And even though they are facing so many problems in their natural environment learning doesn’t aim to train the kids to find solutions. It’s not at all practical.

The existing system

  • keeps way too many children out of schools
  • doesn’t stop migration
  • is not focused on the talents of the kids
  • is completely detached from rural needs
  • neither provides knowledge nor learning

Project Design / Research Question

Here is what we want to find out:

Are village children, who are trained over the course of two years in

  • improving their Hindi,
  • learning English,
  • living on their own,
  • project-based and phenomenal-based learning,
  • critical thinking and
  • technology
  • identifying their areas of interests and personal strengths so that they can choose their areas of
    vocational training with ease

capable of setting up a learning environment in a rural village to learn and teach other kids in their village?

This is how we selected the ones who will be part of the project: Based on our experiences over the last four years in Janwaar and with feedback from the local teachers we selected 20 children for an assessment. The assessment was designed by Prakriti School to assess their literacy skills, thinking & comprehension skills and how well they can express themselves given the tools of language.

The results of the assessment, meaning who was performing best, was almost identical with the kids who stood out as “leaders” and “changemakers” in the village over the last years. This way we identified the best FIVE performers and we selected them for the two-year program.

The program will take place in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, in close cooperation with Prakriti School. The kids will stay all together in one apartment close to Prakriti School.

 

Methodology

The project will run under the NIOS board – NIOS is “Open School” to cater to the needs of a heterogeneous group of learners up to pre-degree level. It was started as a project with in-built flexibilities by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in 1979. In 1986, the National Policy on Education suggested strengthening of Open School System for extending open learning facilities in a phased manner at secondary level all over the country as an independent system with its own curriculum and examination leading to certification.

The methods we’ll use is a mix of self-organized, technology-based, phenomena based and mentor-internship based learning – depending on the situation we decide the method.

After three months each week one kid will go back to Janwaar with a clearly defined project and he/she will run this project at our Villa Janwaar with the local kids. When he/she returns to Prakriti he/she has to write a project report in a clearly specified structure. They learn as they do.

 

Aim of project

The aim of the project is to engage these five young teenagers into learning and to enable them to pass on what they’ve learned. The goal should be that they are capable to find solutions for their rural problems on their own while living a decent life and don’t feel the need to migrate into the cities. Migration destroys village and family structures and India’s cities are already at the verge of collapsing … !

 

Timeline and milestones

The project will start in January 2019 and will run for two years.

Defined milestones:

  1. Express themselves clearly in written language, Hindi – 3 months
  2. Start collaborating with young children in art/craft, cooking and board games – 4 months
  3. Build listening, comprehension and reading skills in English – 6 months
  4. Start training other children in reading and writing language Hindi – 6 months
  5. Express themselves in written language, English – 9 months
  6. Start training other children in concrete object based mathematical operations – 9 months
  7. Strengthen their mathematical, analytical and reasoning skills as enablers to certify for Class IX under NIOS Board – 18 months
  8. Get exposure to vocational training in various areas, to be able to decide on one or two areas of
    interest that

Budget

We’ve calculated 25,000 INR per child per month. This sums up to 1.25 lakh/month and 15 lakh per year.
Total: 30 lakh for two years.

The budget includes the following resources:

  • in–house technology such as smart phones, Wifi, laptops
  • daily lessons at Prakriti School (5 hours a day) with a qualified teacher
  • informal learning sessions
  • rent for the apartment
  • electricity / water
  • transportation to/from Janwaar
  • food
  • learning material
  • pocket money
  • miscellaneous