Does your child rush from one tuition class to another? Is his school bag bigger than him? Why is the development of the child rated primarily on one scale, namely, academic?
The primary goal of each school is supposed to be the enhancement of the overall personality of each child. School management cannot claim that their aim is to train students to perform well at the examinations as it is politically incorrect to do so and yet, that is precisely what they expect from the students.
Schools need to rethink their goals and objectives. If they believe that their primary objective is the overall development of each child, then why is all study exam-oriented? A change in mindsets is definitely the need of the hour. This would mean that the focus of the teachers and educators should move beyond the next examination. They must be ready to explore new ways of teaching the same subject matter. Making subject matter more interesting to students goes a long way in reducing problems of discipline related to boredom.
Once the school acknowledges and resurrects the goal of achieving optimum level of development of each child, the other problems can be tackled one by one. The February, 2003 issue of The Week magazine carried an article on `Innovative Schools` on it's cover. Among the various schools was Raghunadan High School, in Samastipur, Bihar. In a state, which is severely lacking in the basic amenities required for human existence, this school stands out as an amazing exception. The school, which employs innovative teaching for farmers' children, has, since it's inception, posted 100 per cent results and has produced engineers, teachers and government officers. It also brought home the state football trophy last year despite the lack of football kits. Examples like these are few but they go a long way in demonstrating that determination and sincerity on the part of educators can surmount the other obstacles like paucity of space, resources, etc. However, cases like these cannot obliterate the fact that most Indian schools have genuine constraints, which need to be addressed.
In the following paragraphs, I have attempted to analyze some of the common constraints faced by schools like funds, space, large classes, staff and inadequate equipment and have offered some suggestions for the same.
Increase fees and transparency
If parents are ready to shell out large sums of money for private tuitions, then why should they object to giving that same money to the school in exchange for better education? An increase in remuneration can definitely serve as motivation for teachers to teach better. In order to win the trust of skeptical parents, the school needs to be transparent about its policies and procedures. Parents need to know how and where their money is going to be utilized and whether the goals that were set have been achieved at the end of the stipulated period.
Overcoming hurdles - Space, Numbers, Staff, Equipment
1] Utilization of the same space by different classes at different times can help in maximizing its use.
2] Training children to work in small groups right from Kindergarten helps foster a healthy spirit of cooperation and competition from an early age. Teachers too find it easier to maintain discipline.
3] Inter-class interactions for sharing of ideas, resource materials and talent among students and teachers enhance productivity and creativity.
Using the resources of older students for various activities like preparation of teaching aids for junior classes, supervision of younger children and teaching students requiring special attention can reduce the burden on the class teacher. Also, it gives older students a hands-on experience in management and organizational skills. These students could be rewarded with extra merit for their contribution.
4] Teachers need to start using different ways of teaching. Using worksheets, projects, field trips, debates and discussion help establish an atmosphere congenial to optimum learning.
5] It is imperative to expose the teachers to regular in-house training to help them upgrade their academic know-how and teaching skills. Here, a few tips could be taken from the private tuition classes. There are a number of characteristics which make them attractive like
- Shorter and concentrated learning sessions
- Attention to individual students
- Lots or practice using different formats. For e.g. use of worksheets, model question papers etc.
- Evaluation at regular intervals
- A well-trained team of teachers
6] Flexibility in timings and timetables could be given some consideration when attempting to tackle hurdles in the path of productivity. Among other things, it could lessen the constraints on space.
7] Increased involvement of parents as partners in the process of their children's education helps the school gain access to funds, manpower and ideas.
A recent success story of Parent-Teacher cooperation is about their fruitful efforts to secure a stay order on the Std IV Board exam, which intended to subject 9 year olds to a public level exam. It showed that parents are concerned about the increased stress that exams have on young minds.
Tutorials after class hours could be conducted for those students who experience difficulties during class hours. Teachers can be assisted in this work by parents and even senior students. There is a large section of student population, which comes from houses with little or no educational background. These children receive no guidance or academic help from home. Language too is a problem for students who have parents educated in the vernacular medium. Revision classes would come as a welcome boon to all these students.
Create a fund
The school can create a fund for the purpose of supporting the various educational and extra-curricular activities. The money could be utilized for organizing workshops for students, teachers and parents by educationists, child psychologists, vocational counselors, etc. For e.g., children in higher classes could be trained in special skills like time management, writing an exam, etc. Teachers could receive in-house training as regards managing large classes effectively, enhancing creativity in students, etc.
Over and above all these various suggestions for making schools productive, what is urgently required are good, strong-willed and far-sighted Principals. Principals who believe that change is possible and who resolve to fight the malaise in the system. It is only the ideals and ideology at the top that are finally going to percolate to the bottom.