Pragat Shaikshanik Maharashtra is an ambitious programme of the Govt of Maharashtra. One of the aims, as mentioned in its GR of 2015, is the inculcation of age-appropriate reading, writing and mathematical skills. Enabling students to gain in self-confidence and articulation is an implicit aspect of the programme.
The state’s Education Department has listed a total of 25 criteria that a school must fulfill before it can be declared an “progressed” school. Some of these are – in keeping with the standard in which they study, students should be able to: write up to five digit numbers; do simple arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction and multiplication; read at least five sentences from a textbook; form at least five sentences using a given word or words; etc. Apart from these, the use of constructivist principles in teaching and the use of at least 20 types of teaching aids made by teachers, are other criteria that determine whether or not a school has progressed sufficiently to enter the “progressed” category. Schools that fulfill all these criteria are graded as progressed, or as having progressed, and a “beat” or area in which all schools are similarly progressed is declared an “progressed beat”.
The Niphad Beat in Nashik district was declared “progressed” in 2015. In May 2017, the samata.shiksha team visited three schools in this beat. This is an account of that visit.
We began our tour with a visit to the Nagapur ZP school near Chandori. A schoolteacher here had developed some interesting games to enhance basic mathematics and language skills. Students of this tiny primary school play musical chairs with a touch of Maths. Each player holds a number card while running around the chairs. As the music stops, those who manage to grab a chair hold up their number cards, and those who are out of the game read out the numbers, which could be two, three, or four digits long. Depending on their age and standard, the students are then asked to add, subtract or multiply these numbers, which they do quite uncomplainingly as part of the game. Sometimes students from two different standards play the game while the remaining students solve the sums. In this way, the younger students too learn these mathematical operations, along with the older ones.
The schoolteacher, Telore ‘Madam’, has also developed some simple games for language development. She has created a sign language for the entire Marathi alphabet, including vowel sounds! A new person entering the classroom may only whisper her name in Madam’s ears, and using this sign language the teacher tells other students the name. The students have become fairly expert at deciphering this language. According to Telore ‘Madam’, the need to pay attention to the teacher in order to understand the signing has improved students’ concentration. She has also made up a sign language to communicate large numbers, and her students are effortlessly able to identify up to five-digit numbers.
The students learn to form letters and words by sticking coloured beads or grains onto written words, but the teacher has thought of a novel way to help them learn more complicated words. She has made small fish-shaped cardboard cutouts, each of which has a letter of the alphabet with a blunt piece of razor stuck next to it. With the help of a small magnet hanging at the end of a rope, the students pick out the exact letters to form words.
The next school we visited, at Kothure Phata, was an excellent example of community participation with teachers’ efforts. Until 2003, this school had barely four or five students. In 2008, the father of Ramdas Chobhe, one of the teachers here, donated around 5 guntha (1/8th of an acre) of land to the school, which is where it now stands. Aarti Bairagi, who joined the school in 2014, was responsible for such a thorough makeover that it won the school an ISO certification. Today, the school boasts 43 students!
Right from the beginning, both Bairagi ‘Madam’ and Chobhe ‘Sir’ used constructivist methods of teaching. They also enrolled their own children in this school, which helped convince other parents about the improved quality of teaching and persuaded them to send their children here as well. The two teachers managed to collect donations worth Rs. 52,000 from the parents, and roughly Rs 2,00,000 from the village council and other donors. The teachers themselves contributed in their own small ways. They used the moneys to improve school infrastructure, including a water filter to provide safe drinking water for students.
The teachers of this school pay special attention to the students’ language skills. These students are easily able to string together couplets based on rhyming words, like kaavla (crow) with saavla (dark) or baavla (crazy) with aavla (berries)
There was a crow (kaavla) who looked quite dark (saavla)
He was a bit crazy (baavla), and he loved sour berries (aavla)
To help students overcome timidity and be more articulate, they are asked to interview the guests who visit their school. They also play games like constructing Maths tables with beads, and so forth. An indicator of the school’s progress is that last year, 11 students from nearby English medium schools were enrolled in this ZP school.
And then the students of the Sundarpur ZP school in Niphad simply amazed us with their knowledge of Geography, History and English. Santosh Memane, their schoolteacher, has decided to make sure that these subjects have a strong foundation. His efforts have paid off. One example is that Std 4 students can read maps with ease and confidence. Memane ‘Sir’ has made a cardboard cutout of the map of Maharashtra with the outlines of all the state’s districts. He has also made small cutouts of each district, which students can easily place on the map. Additionally, there are slips of paper with the names of rivers, mountains, dams etc. With practice, the students can now place these slips on the appropriate districts. The younger students do this activity with a map of Nashik district.
Memane ‘Sir’ has hung up a large chart naming distinct landmarks and important structures in Nashik, like the Mint, the Eklahare Thermal power station, and so on. He has also made charts of historical kings and their kingdoms, old and modern names of forts, and of states and their capitals. He has developed word games – in one, students make sentences using different verbs related to an object. For example, if the object is a bottle, the students can make sentences like, “I will throw the bottle”, “I will drink water from the bottle”, “I will sell the bottle”. The Std 4 students are adept at making sentences in all tenses. Memane ‘Sir’ has also made a range of word cards with pictures to help students increase their vocabulary.
Though the three schools we visited were each run with a staff of only two teachers, in no way did they fall short in terms of quality of teaching. It is easy to imagine that students from other schools in the area must be as bright, since the entire Niphad Beat has been declared “progressed”. It must be said that Education Officer Pravin Ahire, Extension Officer Neha Shirole and Block Education Officer Saroj Jagtap have worked hard along with the teachers for the progress of the Niphad Beat.
Blog & photos: Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team