Teachers: Grassroot warriors of SIV
Education is the most important tool to change one’s life. Education certainly determines the quality of an individual. It improves one’s knowledge, skills and develops the personality and attitude. The government and many educational institutes are trying to provide affordable and accessible education to the masses. Despite the efforts, the students fail to receive quality education in rural parts of India. With the lack of infrastructure and vacant teacher posts, quality education is still a faraway goal. The teacher vacancies are as high as 40% in Bihar and Jharkhand, 29% in Uttar Pradesh, 22% in Chhattisgarh, 19% in MP and over 10% in other big states like Karnataka, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi.
Non-governmental organisations play a key role in trying to bridge this gap at the grassroots level, to help the underprivileged children access quality education. With a huge demographic and geographic divide, educating rural students is a crucial function right now. Skill in Village(SIV) plays a significant role in ensuring that the rural students receive an opportunity to build a better future so that they can thrive in life. SIV enables rural communities to become innovative changemakers by making them competent with 21st century skills – both language and life skills.
The program started with only one teacher and now has an enthusiastic young group of 42 teachers. The teachers reside in the village and work around the clock for teaching the students, engaging in community building activities and creating awareness in the villages about education. We believe that outside of their homes, the student’s main influencers are their teachers and SIV soon realised that the key to empowering students is unlocking the teacher’s potential. For Skill in Village, teachers working at the grassroots level are the pillars of the program.
We select teachers based on their communication and negotiation skills and their ability to blend in with the community. Education qualification and teaching experience is only considered as a preliminary check. However, a more valuable indicator of the candidate’s suitability is their willingness to learn. The constantly evolving nature of the education sector, especially with the influx of technology in the space, demands for a constant willingness to learn.
Once the teachers are selected, they are trained for an initial 20 days for language competency, classroom management and pedagogical tools. This is followed by training for content delivery every month. We ensure that our teachers are trained over 150+ hours and develop the right skills to run the classroom effectively. The training is supported by a teacher handbook(teacher manual) – a resource for activity based content delivery.
Additionally, master trainers and cluster heads also handhold the teachers in the classrooms to ensure that the training lessons translate into classroom practices in the right manner. This process is facilitated by weekly monitoring visits, co-teaching and co-planning, observation and feedback discussion by the cluster heads and master trainers.
The Covid crisis has continued to inflict negative implications on the education sector, challenging the traditional mode of teaching. The negative ramification of the covid crisis was in fact used by the teachers as an opportunity to repurpose the engagement during the lockdown period. They participated in Cambridge Assessment webinars and attended learning sessions with the program team where they were assessed based on the CPD framework. Some of them also pursued other relevant courses and webinars for brushing their digital skills, communication skills and classroom management skills. In addition, they took the British Council test and were certified based on their CEFR levels. As per the results, 70% of the SIV teachers are at an A2 level on the CEFR scale, 19% in B1, 8% in B2 and the rest in A1.
The existing ecosystem for teachers in India lacks structured systems of training, monitoring and professional development. Teacher training is imperative for improving learning outcomes in Indian classrooms, as acknowledged by the Three Years Action Agenda of the government think-tank NITI Aayog, as well as in the 2018 budget speech that emphasised on the need for professionally qualified teachers for school education reform. The use, integration and adoption of technology in the teaching sector has been very limited. Deshpande Foundation has been working to bridge this gap by its teachers training program ‘Akansha’.
No education system in the world has excelled without making a significant investment in building a cadre of quality teachers. It’s high time that we recognise the true value of teachers and appreciate them for their work at the grassroots level.
Best practices across SIV centres
The children of today are the future of tomorrow. And to tackle the environmental, social, and economic issues that our societies will face in the future, we need empowered leaders who are dedicated to pursuing creative solutions.
Children are inspired by many personalities starting from their childhood to youth. A teacher is one of them and plays an enormous role in a student’s life. They mentor and nurture student minds while being their role model, even listening to their problems and looking for any signs of trouble in their learning as well as personal lives.
They not only set the classroom’s tone but also add warmth to the learning environment.
SIV teachers have widely used their creativity to enrich their classrooms. Some of the best practices from the last academic year are listed below:
Many of the Skill in Village teachers created energizer activities to improve the concentration, problem-solving and creative thinking abilities of the students. They have conducted speech,drawing competitions and quiz as well.
- Apart from the SIV content curriculum, Nagesh from Hiremankatti conducted motivational classes to encourage students. He shared stories of Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa, Janhavi Pawar etc. He also conducted presentation competition on the current topics such as global warming, measures to control pollution, women empowerment, discrimination etc.
- Devamma from Abbigeri arranged guest lecture sessions from local resource persons for students. She has also conducted a session on hygiene practices for girl students.
- Ashok from Konankeri centre included a newspaper reading session during school prayer time to make students aware of the current events and to inculcate reading habit among the students. He also took the students for an excursion to BADA village which is the birthplace of Kanaka Dasa.
- P.Annapoorna from Velmal numbered repetitive instruction in her classroom. If she says the number 1, that means sit properly. The number 2 implies ‘don’t make noise’. Number 3 is for ‘don’t speak with others’. Number 4 means ‘listen properly’. She also has an A to Z chart of names of freedom fighters.
- Santhosh Jangam from Chandoor found a new way to engage parents in the program. He has conducted weekly presentations and monthly exhibitions by the students and invited parents for these events.
Achievement motivation energizes and directs behaviour toward achievement and therefore is known to be an important determinant of academic success. SIV teachers understand the importance of keeping the students motivated throughout the learning process and they try to make the learning joyful for the students with all these practices in their respective centres. As a program and a team, we are committed to incorporating such best practices.