The Pragat Shaikshanik Maharashtra (PSM) programme was re-named ‘Jalad (Fast) Pragat Shaikshanik Maharashtra’ (JPSM) on 9 January, 2017. This was followed by a workshop at Pune’s Balewadi Stadium, aimed at fostering a better understanding of this programme to bring education to all, among the district CEOs, DIET Principals and other officials from the Maharashtra State Education Department to better understand.
Addressing the gathering, Nand Kumar, Principal Secretary, School Education and Sports, said, “Though the respective CEOs are responsible for all important decisions and works undertaken within their districts, I would strongly urge them to give priority to the improvement of the quality of education in district schools. Education is the cornerstone for the overall progress and development of an individual.”
Almost all district CEOs, and Education Officers from the Primary and Secondary departments, attended the workshop. The aim of the ‘Pragat Shaikshanik Maharashtra’ (PSM) resolution (22 June, 2015) passed by the Maharashtra Government was to ensure that all children within the school system received a good quality education. It stated that each student must be able to read, write, have number knowledge, and be able to do simple, age-appropriate mathematical operations. With such specified goals, the programme aimed to transform 50% of the primary schools, 25% of the upper primary schools and 20 % of the secondary schools under the state government. The plan was to get schools to meet the criteria set out in the government resolution (GR) that brought PSM into being (see Digital Library on this website for the text). Once they achieved these objectives, the schools would be declared “pragat” or “developed” schools.
Nand Kumar added that the programme, at the behest of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, was to be put on the fast track. At a review meeting, it had been found that only 15,000 primary schools could be classified as “pragat” as per the PSM criteria. This number fell far short of the target of 33,000 schools in the elapsed time period. Thus the decision to rename the programme ‘Jalad (Fast) Pragat Shaikshanik Maharashtra’ (JPSM). The Chief Minister was aiming at Maharashtra being among the first three states in the country to report educational progress. Keeping that in mind, JPSM aims to get every child of school age into school, use innovative methods of teaching in order to retain these students, turn all government school classrooms into digital classrooms at minimal cost, and enable all teachers to become tech-savvy in the process.
Dheeraj Kumar, State Education Commissioner, said, “We are working to improve the quality of education and to make it more relevant. But we need to speed up this process. The CEOs and Education Officers need to make sure that all schools within their district are declared ‘pragat’ and that not a single child of school-going age is left out of the school system. Try to identify the areas where our efforts may be falling short. You may seek the help of available surveys and figures. There are many factors in education that can be easily overlooked in normal circumstances, but may become obvious when we study the figures.”
“Access the figures from the Census, the ‘SARAL’ survey of the Education Department and the U-DISE system. Often, these figures suggest that the majority of out-of-school children are from the marginalised sections of society. All efforts must be made to bring these children into the mainstream through education. Try and analyse the figures brought to you. Try to classify the information on the basis of tehsils to see which areas are the most under-developed, which subjects are found to be most difficult by learners. Children belonging to marginalised communities are most vulnerable to slipping out of the system and lagging behind the rest. Base your efforts on such information.”
Nand Kumar added, “It is expected that 7.25 lakh teachers will be computer-literate by March 2017. We want to make all classrooms digital, and for that to happen, teachers must shed their notion that they cannot learn to use computers.” He went on to say that though smaller and less expensive, the smartphone today is almost as efficient as a desktop computer. Many teachers already use smartphones with ease. The technology in these phones is more sophisticated than that of the powerful computers used to land a man on the moon in 1969. The officers need to build confidence among teachers so that the latter learn to use computers to teach. The 50,000 teachers in Maharashtra who are already computer-literate could help other teachers in the state in this regard.”
“Since all classrooms are expected to turn digital, the work to create on-line curricula has also begun. Vidya Pradhikaran of Pune is developing an app with the help of MITRA (Maharashtra In Service Teacher Resource App) which will provide online games, songs and other resources mapped to each chapter of every standard. Research has proved that children grasp things more easily if they can see them, rather than relying on reading and rote-learning.” There was a demonstration of this app at the workshop, and participants learned that it would soon be available on Google Play Store.
Teachers interested in bringing technology into education also made presentations at the workshop. Sandip Gund of the well known Pashtepada Digital Primary School in Thane district spoke about the efforts currently under way to digitise all government schools in the state. Somnath Valke from Beed and Balaji Jadhav from Satara made a short presentation on taking schools to the digital stage on restricted budgets.
Another teacher, Ranjitsingh Dislay from Solapur district, made a presentation on the virtual tours that his students have been going on. He explained how students from the small village of Paritewadi in Madha tehsil have used the internet and Skype to go on virtual tours of schools, some 15 in all, in India and abroad. Such adventures have ignited the curiosity of his students, made them more confident, and helped them improve their English language skills. He also shared the news that the Q-R code developed by him, which gives access to additional material to support the content of the Balbharati textbooks, is about to be adopted in Thailand and Malaysia.
Pratibha Bharade, the Extension Officer of Kumthe Beat in Satara who almost single-handedly laid the foundation for the adoption of the constructivist approach in teaching in Maharashtra, also made a presentation. Constructivism is based on the premise that a child learns by herself, and that the teacher should play the role of a facilitator, letting the child learn at her own pace. All 40 schools in Kumthe Beat have been declared “pragat”. This means they have been able to achieve the required quality of learning, measured by objective criteria.
Even on a national level, it is extremely rare to find all schools within a single area being judged as providing consistently high quality education. While implementing the new constructivist philosophy, the teachers from Kumthe Beat strictly follow the principle of “no corporal punishment”. They also encourage the child in every way in her pursuit of knowledge. They keep children engaged with games and learning aids made out of simple everyday objects like beads, ice cream sticks, bottle tops etc. The most significant achievment of the Kumthe Beat experiment is that it has become a model for teachers and for schools across the state.
During the course of his speech, Nand Kumar had said, “If the teacher is teaching wholeheartedly and the school is good, then the chances of a student leaving the school mid-way are reduced considerably. Similarly, fewer out-of-school children are found in areas that have such good schools.”
His statement was borne out in a presentation by teacher Bharat Kale from Varvandi Tanda of Aurangabad district. Varvandi Tanda has barely 27 households and a population of 150 who are mainly labourers on sugarcane farms. Often the school would empty out after Diwali as most families would migrate to other districts for the seasonal cane-cutting work. The children would accompany their parents and some of would start working and never return to school.
Bharat Kale used innovative methods inspired by constructivism and also set up e-learning in the school. The school raised Rs 3,00,000 from the community and Rs 5,00,000 from the local MP for the purpose. Kale also convinced parents that education was the only way forward for their children, and that they must ensure the children attended school regularly. Now all these children are found in school during term time.
The participants learned that Dhule district stands on the verge of becoming the first district where all primary schools have turned digital, while Bhandara district has managed to get every single child into school.Many more experiences of innovation for enhanced quality were shared. The workshop underlined the need for teachers and administrators to work together so that all schools in Maharashtra are declared “pragat” speedily.
Blog: Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar
Translation and editing: samata.shiksha team