Sunday, October 05, 2008

TN Gives Reason to Cheer and Cause for Hope

The Government of India launched the Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan (Education for All) program in 2003. I remember the launch as it came soon after I had concluded a research project at the behest of the Center for International Development at Harvard U, which was essentially a pilot study on the state of primary education in the vastly different districts of Madurai and Villupuram in Tamil Nadu. While there were some surprise findings in the study, much was as expected - a dismal state of education suffering from chronic issues like high drop-out rates, poor quality of teachers and teaching, and lack of adequate infrastructure.

Much hope has been reposed in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) since its launch. It is Government of India's mammoth, flagship programme "for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right.

SSA is being implemented in partnership with State Governments to cover the entire country and address the needs of 192 million children in 1.1 million habitations"

SSA's ambitions notwithstanding, most of us in India are painfully aware that the country, unfortunately, has a very long way to go still before it can boast universal education for all, and those chronic issues mentioned above still continue to plague the system. The pedagogy too, sadly, is still largely textbook-driven rote learning that rewards rote memorization and does not nurture understanding or questioning.

It was therefore a very pleasant surprise to come across a couple of videos - on YouTube, no less, that describe in detail an innovative pedagogy called Active Learning Methodology (ALM). ALM, which was designed as part of the outreach activities of the Krishnamurti Foundation School in Chennai, is based on research on brain-based learning and is being implemented as part of the SSA scheme in schools across Tamil Nadu. The videos are well made and provide some very good, concrete ideas to any teacher who wishes to employ an "active learning" pedagogy in a largely textbook-driven classroom environment (as is the case in much of India). The visuals are heart-warming - focusing as they do on female students - a demographic that is often deprived of an education in many parts of India.

There are other pointers too that Tamil Nadu seems to be doing well with their implementation of the SSA. TN certainly gives cause for cheer and hope - and a lesson for other states in the country.

Here are the 2 videos on the "Active Learning Methology" being employed by SSA teachers in TN...