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Rural children learn to read young

© UNICEF
Renuka of Class III reads from her chart

By Sangeetha Rajeesh

Corporation School, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

The success of the Activity Based Learning among rural children in a Corporation run primary school at Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai needs applauding.  

The time was 9.20am and around 250 little children in the age group of five to ten years had gathered for their morning assembly at the ABL Corporation School at Thiruvanmiyur. Teachers led the students to their classes, which began almost instantaneously.

It was a surprise to see the students seated on the mats take out their charts and start working without supervision. Each one engrossed in their own activity, some of them reading English newspapers, some reading Tamil stories and some working out arithmetic problems.

“I am in Class III,” quips eight-year-old Renuka proudly, “and have just completed the 12th milestone.” She pulls out her chart from the ‘Elephant’ tray and begins to read the contents fluently.

“The child knows where he or she stands, that’s how the ABL system works,” highlights Stella, Headmistress, Thiruvanmiyur Kuppam School.

The material was put into small incremental units and completed serially, she tells us and such an organised way of study material into ladders provided structure to the curriculum. “Every child can proceed at a self-selected pace without any embarrassment or aversion to education,” she says.   

Satish, just nine years old, can read both Tamil and English fluently with an almost flawless pronunciation. “Earlier, students could only write and found it very difficult to read even when they reached Class VIII,” Stella recalls, “but now even a Class II student reads with ease.”
 
“Give a math problems ma’m,” Prakash asks, “let me show you how it can be solved with these beads,” he says pointing to the blocks and beads.

The eagerness to learn and to exhibit their learning was evident from every student at the Thiruvanmiyur Kuppam School.

© UNICEF
Prakash, a Class IV student works out a math problem

“The learning ladder process encourages the students to move forward at his pace and does not need supervision since the process is broken down into small steps,” the Headmistress insists, “This makes them confident and at the same time the students are less teacher-dependent.”

The ABL method and materials have five lenses such as clarity of lessons, classroom environment, the child’s involvement in the process, teacher’s role and the scope for creativity, according to Dr Anandalakshmy.

The ABL kit in Tamil Nadu covers the Tamil language and English with illustrated cards and short words, Mathematics using the attractive Montessori materials, designed systematically, Science and Social cards that are largely based on the textbook with a variety of activities attached, and finally puppetry, story telling, paper craft, drawing and group games played outdoors.

“The very act of moving the blackboard from the teacher’s eye level to the child’s has shown that the entire system allows for diversity and differential rates of progress through the Achievement Chart shows the positions of the children, allowing the teacher to monitor every learner’s progress,” enlightens Stella.

The vertical grouping recreates a family model, where the older child guides the younger one and there is a break down of hierarchy that encourages an interchange of personnel, materials and methods, she adds.

7,000 teachers were trained on the methodology and a Teachers’ Guide called ‘Karpathu Karkandey’ was published.

Later, with the assistance of UNICEF, ‘Katralil Inimai,’ a compendium of songs, stories and games, was brought out.

All the schools in the Corporation of Chennai are functioning on the ABL since 2003 when Mr. M.P. Vijay Kumar became the Commissioner of the Chennai Corporation. 

 

 

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