Maharashtra adopts child-centered learning
By Vidya Kulkarni
Take a peep into Class I in Kavha village school in Latur district and you see children, sitting in groups, engrossed in looking at picture cards in their hands and sharing with each other what they see in those cards.
Similar activity engages the children in Class II. Here children, again among themselves, are arranging wooden blocks in shapes and numbers to match the picture cards given to each of them. In both the classrooms, the class teachers stand in a corner observing student activity, and later after the children complete their own explorations, facilitate their learning by demonstrating and concluding the essence of each exercise.
This committed teacher improvised several such teaching/learning tools in his career spanning 32 years. Presently, Kavha village school, with 262 children form class I to VII, forms his laboratory to develop and test child-centered learning activities.
Elaborating on the rationale of the self-teaching and group method Sadakale says, “The group work fosters interaction among the students and allows peer tutoring. Similarly it allows space for learning by doing and co-relating. These are essential ingredients to ensure quality learning.”
The self-teaching methods were evolved by an innovative teacher in Kavha school, Eknath Sadakale, who believes that a teachers’ role is not so much to ‘teach’ as to build on the child’s innate desire to ‘learn’.
Now these innovations in primary education will no longer remain confined to Kavha School alone and all primary school goers will benefit from them. As a result of UNICEF’s continuous groundwork and advocacy to promote Quality Education, the Government of Maharashtra has decided to integrate activity based learning in all public schools.
Sadakale recollects the experience of his very first posting in Kharosa village in Latur district. “The condition of the school was very poor with only three rooms and four teachers to run a total of nine divisions. One teacher managed three classes simultaneously. Here I tried out the method of group activity, which allowed the teachers to keep all students engaged and to provide personal attention to each class by turns. Later I systematically studied similar experiments being done elsewhere.”
This need-based technique is the primary version of Multi Grade, Multi Level or MGML teaching method evolved by UNICEF’s Quality Education Package.
Sadakale whole-heartedly appreciates UNICEF’s initiative to mainstream innovative educational methods evolved by his schools as well as other like minded schools in the state. “We have been practicing these educational tools since 1997. However their use was quite restricted. When we came in touch with UNICEF, we got a forum to share our learning and to get acquainted with similar efforts that were going on in other schools as well as in the Primary Education Enhancement Programme carried out by UNICEF.”
The Multi-Grade Multi Level teaching method addresses the problem of scarcity of teachers, where one teacher has to handle more than one class at a time or scarcity of teaching aids to keep students engaged.
Mr. Sadakale presented his experiences and insights at various state level consultations with educational entities. The CEO of Latur district visited Kavha School and interacted with the students to understand the quality implications of activity based teaching. Such visits and dialogues, organised by UNICEF, furthered the advocacy process for integration of best pedagogical methods in mainstream education.
Talking about UNICEF’s role in this crucial up scaling by the state government, Begur Ramchandra Rao, Project Officer, Education, UNICEF said, “We came across impressive innovations in a number of schools in the state. UNICEF brought together all these people doing good work to improve the quality of education. Sharing of techniques and experiences led to the evolution of a comprehensive model, which was apt for up scaling. In March 2007, the state government agreed to up scale activity based pedagogical methods.”
As of now, self-learning cards are developed for all subjects for Class I to Class IV. These have been introduced in all government run schools benefiting thousands of primary school students.