Context and Vision
Experience has demonstrated that there are no short cuts to addressing the issue of quality education. Improving quality requires a multi-pronged strategy involving improvements in school as well as educational system. This includes supporting interventions like enhancements to the curricular package, the teaching-learning environment and fostering positive school-community linkages. Successful quality initiatives require local, area based planning and management that require specific skills such as strategic and participatory planning, mobilisation, utilisation of available resources and willingness to be held accountable.
It is with this thought in mind that Azim Premji Foundation and UNICEF entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2002 to jointly provide assistance to the Government of Karnataka to achieve voluntary participation and involvement of parents in their child’s schooling as well as to develop and improve learning levels of children.
Child Friendly school as a concept fosters democratisation of education. It seeks to provide a healthy, hygienic, safe and happy environment for children to learn. It promotes classroom activities and behaviour that is gender sensitive and results in effective learning. It positively incorporates the involvement of children, families and communities in their children’s schooling.
Through its Child Friendly Schools (CFS) initiative, Azim Premji Foundation attempts to demonstrate comprehensive and sustainable quality of education in identified schools, in partnership with schools, community and the education functionaries.
CFS deals with issues both within the classroom and school, as well as the community. In-school intervention provides support to curriculum implementation, the teacher, teaching learning process and improvement of the school and classroom environment. The programme also supports positive school-community interface to ensure effective involvement and participation of the community.
At present, CFS is being implemented in Shorapur block of Gulbarga district in Karnataka covering 336 schools, which means 1500 teachers and 63,000 children.
The key elements of the process are:
- The transformation begins with the entire school community taking a deep look at its present situation through a process called “taking stock”. The entire school community then forges a shared vision of what it wants the school to be. By comparing the vision to its present situation, the school community identifies priority challenge areas and addresses them.
- The school requires training and support services of both an external coach and internal facilitators to assist the school to follow the model of transformation. Under this initiative, training is provided to the Educational Supervisors and Head Teachers in the block. Required academic support for teachers to transform the school and classroom culture of teaching learning as well as teacher training for multi-grade classrooms is also provided.
- A baseline assessment is undertaken to assess the learning achievements of children studying in class 2 to 5 for their class 1 and 4 level competencies. The assessment papers, prepared by Azim Premji Foundation, test students' competencies in mathematics, language and environmental sciences.
- A school improvement plan is developed jointly by all stakeholders to understand where the school stands as of now and to decide upon strategies and actions to reach the parameters identified for a child friendly school. The school improvement plans are formulated in the early phases of the project, through workshops at village level, to identify the indicators already achieved by the school and prepare action plans for the subsequent phases.
- This initiative also attempts to create a school development plan covering 5 major areas namely, community participation, school environment, classroom environment, teaching learning process and capacity building of teachers.
- There is a rigorous system of monitoring of fulfillment of commitments by the stakeholders on 214 indicators, which cover 5 domains, namely: Community Participation, School Environment, Classroom Environment, Teaching-Learning Process and Teacher Development. Monitoring is done on a fortnightly basis and there is a comprehensive review conducted thrice a year.
Periodic evaluation of learning level is conducted and continuous hands-on leadership is provided to the project by a team based in Shorapur. However ensuring continuous participation of the community is a big challenge, and we still need to enhance local participation in volunteer activities such as bio-intensive gardens which are an important intervention in the largely drought-prone area.
Based on our observations, and discussion with the stakeholders, broadly, the outcomes can be described as follows:
- Teachers are more punctual
In the focus group discussion with the parents and SDMC members they have seen a marked difference in the punctuality of the teachers. The head teachers and the teachers come on time to schools. This sets a whole atmosphere of seriousness and helps in children being engaged right from the morning. Most of them have expressed satisfaction and happiness about this.
- Children are learning in lower classes
Parents have said that they see higher interest in their child for learning. They say that the children go to school eagerly and they do see their children getting engaged in learning activities at home. Some of the community members have said that the children of class 2 have started reading independently.
- Class room environment is more attractive
The nali kali classes are very attractive to the children, with the learning Pandal in the nali kali classes in place. The Pandal has many Teaching Learning Materials and materials prepared by the children.
- A culture of academic discussion among the teachers is evolving
In the 110 nali kali schools, teachers have started discussing academic issues. This has been institutionalized by monthly teacher interaction meet where the experience is shared, work is reviewed and new inputs are given.
- Bio-gardens are yielding result
Bio garden is functional in 35 schools. This provides vegetables for the midday meals and a green cover to the school. All the stake holders, the students, teachers and the community members have an opportunity to work together in bio garden.