From the classroom to verandas and slate to zoom: change is real

Skill In Village things are slowly adjusting to a new normal

From the classroom to verandas and slate to zoom: change is real

Recap: In the previous edition, we discussed the numerous challenges faced by the education system, particularly rural primary education, during COVID-19 and throughout the consequential lockdown across the country. The Skill in Village program has been actively working on blended solutions to tackle these bottlenecks. In this edition, we discuss one of those pilots and their outcomes.

Even as we learn more about the novel coronavirus every day, the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to change the face of normalcy in unprecedented ways. As the coronavirus cases in India continue to increase and as the restrictions are taken off in phases, the time has come to (accept this normalcy) and take appropriate precautions to live with the changing situations.

Even for Skill in Village, things are slowly adjusting to a new normal. As there is no guarantee that normalcy will resume soon, at least in the near future, aligning the learning methods with the guidelines has become very important. The pandemic is not only leaving an immense impact globally, but it is also changing the very fibre of our daily lives.

The lack of adequate resources has become the reason behind the growing digital divide, which is obstructing the path of online education. Not every student has the resources for distant learning despite a genuine willingness to pursue it.

A recent NCERT survey also revealed startling facts:
1. According to the survey, 27 percent of students in India do not have smartphones and laptops.
2. 28 percent of students are not able to study properly due to frequent power outages.
3. 33 percent of students admitted that they are not able to focus on studies during online classes.
4. Online classes are not able to bridge the gap and hence it has become difficult to execute, particularly for STEM subjects.

To overcome the issues arising from the lack of resources on the ground, the teachers of Skill in Village have started engaging students by reaching their doorsteps. Most of the Skill in Village teachers are back in the ground helping the Government teachers in implementing the Vidyagama program(a concept aimed at taking Schools to the doorsteps of children at villages in the absence of physical classes), simultaneously engaging the students with #learnfromhome language-specific content. The temples, verandas of many houses are serving as classrooms for students.

Keeping the safety of students as a priority, all the children are asked to wear face masks, undergo thermal screening, and maintain physical distancing among them. Teachers and students assemble at the informed time, at the pre-decided spot, and engage in academic activities. During the interaction, the teachers are required to clear any doubts of the students. Along with the offline/face to face classes, the teachers are also engaging the students via Zoom application, by sending WhatsApp voice recordings, by calling students, where they are teaching the students basic vocabulary, basic expressions, etc.

Ensuing (or following) the omission of the regular academic year, a severe increase in the dropout rate is expected in the upcoming year, particularly in the rural areas. These interventions are ensuring the continuity of education in rural places of Karnataka and Telangana. These efforts to engage the students are appreciated by the community in general and parents (mothers) in particular. The community’s reception of these learning engagements have improved over a period of time and has helped its acceleration, thereby reaching more students with better resources.

With no signs yet of schools re-opening, the Government has launched this unique concept to continuously engage the students in academic activities at this critical time and not leave any regrettable gaps in the learning of students. The scheme is also aimed at making the students learn as much as possible until the school re-opens and keep them occupied in learning as this is crucial in their academic pursuit.

Aligning the values of SIV and NEP

Every year the Cabinet approves various policies. Some of the policies stay long in the news for debate and bring hope for a better future. One such draft policy is NEP 2020. As our young nation strides towards development, it becomes imperative to take skills and values together to transform the existing status quo with a modern and futuristic approach. The recently approved New Education Policy is a much-needed guiding light to nurture our present demographic potential.

NEP 2020 is an ambitious and futuristic policy that ensures opportunities for children to groom their talents by fixing the lacunae in the education system. Recognizing the urgency of foundational learning, the shift from the 10+2 system to the 5+3+3+4 — with foundation, preparatory, middle, and secondary stages will focus on the more holistic development of children. The emphasis on skills like critical thinking and analysis, creativity, focus on core and relevant concepts, and co-curricular and vocational subjects will diversify their learning.

The philosophy and approach of the Skill in Village program is aimed at equipping the rural students with English communication skills via life skills, to begin with. Later the content is expanded to the other 5 Cs mentioned in the global P21 framework – Critical thinking, Creativity, Curiosity, Collaboration, and Culture, in addition. Covering 200 hrs of content per level per year, Skill in Village is already working for the improvement of the basic life skills of rural students. Most of the much-discussed values of NEP are already inscribed in the program.

The curriculum of Skill in Village emphasizes on
1.Joyful learning
2.Student-centered classrooms
3.Age-appropriate content
4.Interactive teaching
5.Relevance and utility for daily life scenarios.
6.Special attention paid to the cultural and geo-ethnic contexts
7.Focus on critical thinking, creative thinking, discovery, discussion, analysis based TLM
8.Every activity aims at improving 2-3 lifeskills
9.Thematic and outcome-based learning

Many NGOs, educational institutes, and organizations are working to strengthen the foundation of the present education system. As the Government has clearly laid the goal for the future of education, especially for early childhood and primary education, grassroot implementing organizations such as ours can positively contribute in this regard.

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