It is no secret that India’s government schools are up against enormous odds. By the government’s own admission, schools grapple with teacher absenteeism, high dropout rates, especially among girls, and poor teacher training.
The bleak picture is lit up by a handful of government schools across the country that have consistently raised the bar, nurturing talent through innovative teaching, and setting students on course for higher education in reputed institutes. The faculty and management of these exceptional schools have, sometimes with the help of philanthropists and other institutes, redefined education and set a blueprint for others to follow. We present you these six schools one by on each:
Zilla Parishad School, Kenjal, Maharashtra
In 2013, when Govardhan Jaysingh Bathe was enrolled in the Zilla Parishad School in Kenjal, Pune, his family did not expect much. Their son had a mental disability and weak eyesight and wasn’t expected to last long in a mainstream school.
Three years later, Bathe, in Class IV, recites English poems and is running about happily on the slushy playground with his classmates.
“He was taken to school on his father’s shoulder the first day. Now, he gets ready by himself and walks to school alone,” says his proud grandmother Bhimabai.
The tiny village of Kenjal is roughly 35 km from Pune on NH 4. It has some 2,000 inhabitants, but its Zilla Parishad School has been in the limelight, possibly among of the first schools in Maharashtra to successfully implement Activity-Based Learning (ABL) for Classes I to IV. With its renovated building, open-air theatre, spacious cultural hall and bright classrooms, it has drawn the attention of the State’s Education Department. .
Says headmaster Jaygonda Patil, “It started in 2010 when some teachers were taken to Chennai for an introduction to ABL. Later, Pune Zilla Parishad ran a pilot project and our school was part of it.” Special workshops were organised for 20 teachers with an aptitude for ABL in Mumbai’s Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
Students are split into as many groups as available teachers, and not necessarily by age. They do the exercises prescribed on flashcards. Teachers observe progress and if found satisfactory, the student is promoted to the next level. There is no fear of missing a lesson if a student is absent for a day, as she can resume from where she left off,” says Ratnamala Nigde, the Marathi teacher.
According to Patil, ABL has not only resulted in exciting changes in the students but has also brought them closer as a group. “They discuss, question, shake hands. Govardhan’s acceptance among students is a result of that.”
The villagers are delighted. They recently collected Rs. 2 crore to pay for the renovation of the school building. “We can sense the improved confidence in our children. Students from surrounding villages are joining our school, some have even left private schools,” says Ganesh Bhalgare, a gram panchayat member.
The government claims that Kenjal is one of 11,000-odd schools in Maharashtra to use ABL, but teachers differ. “The government is not too keen on ABL because it needs some investment from the government’s side,” says Kishore Darak, Pune-based independent researcher. This could be roughly Rs. 100 per student per year. Darak points out that constructing a school building with people’s money should not become the norm. “It sounds good but also points to the government’s failure.”
Over 15,000 people from across the country, mostly government officers, teachers and enthusiasts, have visited the school since 2011. “We may not produce IIT toppers but that will happen eventually. At first, we want to bring students out of the age-old rote process of learning. We want to ensure students learn by themselves,” says Patil.
The story was covered by Alok Deshpande from Hindu and the article is original posted here