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How AAP is Transforming Education in Public Schools

The differentiating factor between capitalism and crony capitalism is always the presence of a robust public education system. In India, unfortunately, successive Governments have failed to improve the quality of education in Government schools – perpetuating the inequality of opportunity that pervades this country.

To be fair to our politicians, however, we must also concede that education at the school level is unimaginably difficult to transform – what happens in each classroom on a daily basis must change and it is impossible to stem a rot so deep without roping an army of ground-level officials to facilitate the process.

What the Delhi Government has done through the Mentor Teacher Program is precisely this – set aside, after careful screening, an army of 400 experienced Mentor Teachers to help transform Delhi’s schooling.

As a volunteer with the Government, I was able to document a 15-day workshop where groups of Mentor Teachers were sent to different schools across Delhi and made to teach there. I will begin by acknowledging that the Education Department has done commendably in selecting the Mentor Teachers. I can confidently state that the Mentor Teachers were putting a far greater effort to facilitate learning – conducting activities, facilitating class participation, encouraging academically weak students to involve themselves in class, making effective use of the blackboard and so on.

One teacher encouraged the students to put up skits based on the chapters in their textbook, one taught them how to build a miniature windvane, some held quizzes and some role-plays. They actually took learning beyond the dreary world of textbooks and the impact it has had on the student’s willingness to learn is the real take away from this exercise.

The feedback on the impact the Program has had on regular schoolteachers however, is mixed. The Mentor Teachers had urged schoolteachers to begin teaching basic Mathematics and Hindi to students in the substitution periods – this has been done in certain schools (I personally witnessed an art teacher teach students addition in her free period). Some teachers observed the classes of the Mentor Teachers and began to emulate their teaching strategies. One teacher also remarked that since the Mentor Teachers were observing their classes, he had been forced to begin attending class on time (for the first time in his career)!

I will, however, concede that there were difficulties faced – a majority of the schoolteachers, seem to have misunderstood the Pragati curriculum introduced to complement the program. Instead of imparting the students the skill to solve the exercises in the textbook, they solved them on the board and made the students copy it down. We also faced resistance from the Principals who were unwilling to allow ‘outsiders’ to take such an active part in school affairs. Training sessions are being conducted with both to rectify these problems.

What this Program has also achieved is to recognize the teachers who have delivered over the years. One teacher I met, who went to Columbia University for a teaching program, had never been recognized by her Principal, until the Government did the same.

One final anecdote that I feel compelled to share before concluding - it is a tale of a teacher who tasked the students with imagining themselves to be Health Ministers and drafting an action plan to solve the public health situation in India. The result was frightening - the overwhelming majority agreed that the best solution was to nationalize private hospitals and end the disparity between healthcare facilities accessible to the rich and to the poor. It set off the warning bells in my mind – if eighth graders are so beginning to think along these lines, it is indicative of some deep-rooted angst in society.

I leave you now with a compilation of the results of the baseline and endline test conducted before and after the 15-day workshop. I think we have some reason to celebrate.


Hindi
Mathematics

Beginner
Letter
Words
Paragraphs
Story
Beginner
Number Recognition (1-9)
Number Recognition (10-99)
Subtraction
Division
Baseline Test
94
141
172
386
585
29
115
447
419
374
Endline Test
38
116
122
290
949
11
57
277
485
678
Swing
-56
-25
-50
-96
+364
-18
-58
-170
+66
+304



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