Schools are the institutions with which some of our most cherished moments are associated. But the deep-seated belief that going to school means learning needs to be critically examined. The misconstrued correlation between schooling and learning has made the situation worse with universal schooling making schooling accessible to all but the quality of learning is severely compromised. The expansion of school system has sent education to every corner of the country. Millions of children have no option but to endure the indifferences of the teacher. Since 2005, ASER Reports have shown that only about half of all students in fifth grade can read a text meant for children in second grade. Simply put, five years of schooling doesn’t even translate to two years’ worth of learning for more than half of the children.
A year and a half back, when I went to a small village in insurgency-hit rural Bihar as a part of my Masters’ dissertation, I was shocked to see the unspeakable state of the primary schooling and the poor learning levels of the children in the village. The excitement and passion for learning seemed a feeling alien to them. Neither the school was equipped to foster a stimulating environment for learning nor the teachers were adequately trained and inspired.
As a Gandhi Fellow and TISS Alumnus, this challenged my base assumption about self and development. Some incidents fill you with a yearning to do something, anything. Engaging with a group of primary-level children of Barhaunian Village (Munger, Bihar) was one such moment which left a profound impact. Having worked closely with children and youth for 5 years, my belief in education as an opportunity to change life chances was questioned. However, this also reinforced my commitment to change life chances of children.
After closely interacting with the community, I realised that engaging with the government at the systemic level is tedious and I haven’t set out to do so with frugal resources and without an established theory of change. Talking to a bright middle-aged man rekindled hope and ignited the idea of supplementing age-appropriate learning deficit through a Learning Centre. We believe that out-of-school “Learning Centre” is a solution to it. We aspire to engage with a group of 20 children through an “out-of-school” program for 1 hour per day to use state of art learning techniques based on the constructivist learning theory. The Facilitator (a locally recruited resource) shall be suitably equipped to trigger learner’s innate curiosity about the world and help them to construct knowledge over reproducing facts. The learning shall be centred on tools such as problem-solving, inquiry-based learning activities and entrepreneurial thinking in a collaborative learning environment. This would not just rekindle the joy of learning but also facilitate age-appropriate learning in a child-centric manner.
What do I plan to do with the funds?
We have a collective work experience of 20+ years and we intend to raise ₹ 150,000 to solve the problem of learning level of children through the centre. The funds shall be used to meet the set-up and operational cost of the Learning Centre for the academic year 2017-18. We would engage with 20 children in the pilot phase and eventually plan to reach out to 100 children in the 5 villages of Barhaunian Gram Panchayat by 2020 through 5 such centres.
Thus, these Learning Centres will not just bridge the academic learning gap by supplementing the school curriculum but also impart state of the art techniques to facilitate curiosity and innate drive for learning which are quintessential for 21-st century. We seek the initial contributions from socially sensitive citizens, who would appreciate and understand the cause we are working for.
Looking forward to your support to make a difference in these young lives!