Jnana : Hyperfocus Education
This is a project that I’ve initiated at my School and I would like to share it with all of you here. I’m embedding the flickr photo library for you to have a look at the pictures and videos. Incase it does not work, you can check the album on flickr here. Below, I’ve put up a formal report for my project. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions!
The definition of underprivilidged : “Not enjoying the same standard of living or rights as the majority of people in a society.” (Ref : Oxford Dictionary). I chose the to help the “underprivileged” children because they will become the forerunners of our civilization.
Our country like the universe, is far away from the goal of equality and symmetry. Children are denied quality education as well as fair treatment in education centers. Although the government has made Primary Education compulsory in the country, the impact has not been significant due to drawbacks in the system at all levels.
The foundations of the entire human civilization rest on the fundamentals, the same that a generation learns during their early part of life. What happens when the system developed to impart knowledge fails miserably when it has to overcome obstacles like wealth and intelligence inequality?
The equilibrium of the world is gradually disturbed. Enter, “Jnana : HyperFocus Education”.
What one frequently sees in all charitable organisations is that they help the child for a day or two, and then move on. This is something that we did not want to do. Our main aim while doing this project was to help the children in a wholesome manner by giving them the personal attention that they so desperately needed but that they evidently lacked at home or school. We wanted them to think of us as family.
This is why, at the beginning of our project, we decided to take on only a few children so that we could give them individual attention and form a bond with them. Our intention was not only to become their teachers but also their mentors, guides and friends because we believe that in today’s busy, hurried world, a few words of guidance, encouragement and a pat on the back go a long, long way.
Chapter 2: DESIGN OF THE STUDY
Quality schools are essential, as they foster a population capable of taking advantage of opportunities created by increased demand. Unfortunately, primary and secondary schools in India are unequipped to do so as they are rife with corruption. The most pervasive and detrimental form of corruption perpetrated on the primary and secondary school system is teacher absenteeism at government-run schools, with about 13 percent of teachers failing to show up for work, yet still being paid.
Indian primary and secondary schools suffer from the additional weaknesses of infrastructure limitations and inefficiency. Inefficient teaching methods which focus on memorization as opposed to critical reasoning are also widespread at the primary and secondary school level. Studies by the Program for International Students Assessment, an OECD initiative, and Wipro, an Indian consulting firm, found that students at the primary and secondary school level have regressed in math, science, and reading literacy in recent years.
The day we decided to begin the project, we visited Mahadevi Podar Prathmik Vidyalay, the school whose students we intended to assist. The condition of teaching in the school was worse than what we had anticipated. The average teacher to student ratio was about one to sixty and some classes had no teacher at all. In the classes where there were teachers, none of the students seemed to be paying attention.
That day, when we began teaching the kids students, we realised the extent of damage that this sort of a school environment had on their minds. We asked some of the children to write essays and after we had corrected their grammar (which was worse than we had expected), we asked a few of them to read it out loud. They refused to do so because they were too embarrassed and ashamed of their work. There were many such problems that we faced with the children.
The student’s fear of asking questions was also a major problem that we had to overcome. The kids were ashamed of saying and asking things. The only probable reason for this was that they were punished for asking questions or expressing opinions.
Hence a system needs to be created which can expand the student’s horizon enabling him to analyse a situation and harnessing an effective solution with the resources available to him.
When asked for an English Story, our student wrote –
“ DO BHAI THE EK THORA MAD THA AUR EK THIK THA EK DIN DO NO KAM KI TALASH ME BHAHAR NICLA USE EK OPHIC DIKHAEE DIYA DO JAN UNDAR GAE USE EK MAN MILA USNE DONO BHAI KO KAM PAR RAKH LIY EK BHAI JO MAD THA BHABARA PATU THA EK DI JAB KANA KANE BAITHA TO DAS BARAH JAN KA KHAN EK SATH KALIYA US KE MALIK PRESANHO GAAE AUR BOLE KI JIT BARAPLAIT KAL SE TUM LAOGE UTNAI KHANA TUME MILEGA DUSRE DIN BHA EK BANANA KA LIVIS LE AAYA AUR PURE JAN KA KHAN KHA LI YA US KE MALIK NEKHAHA KI KAL SE TUM MERE SATH MERE OPISH CLNA AUR RASTE ME JO CHIJ GIRE USE UTHA LENA JAB DUS RE DIN DONNO JAN OPHISGANE LGETO US KE MALIK HOURSPAR BAITH GAAE AUR BHA HOURS KE PICHE CHLNE LAGA AUR THORI DER BAD HORSE NE TOILETKIYA BHA USE UTHA KARBAG ME RAKH LIYA JAB UUKE MALIK NE USSE BAG MAGA TO USNE GAB BHA BAG DIYATO SARE FILI BHIGE HUAE THE USNE MALIK SE KAHA ”
The objective of my project is to bridge the gap created between students due to an inefficient education system. Jnana aims to create a unique support system that integrates a ‘hyper focus’ mentorship with practical exercises to nurture the child’s thinking capability. It seeks to motivate students in the age group of 12-14 years to overcome their weaknesses in basic subjects like Mathematics and English. Through our initiative we persevere to make the students aware of the various technological advancements that surround them and enable them to adapt to such facilities. This would optimise the student’s ability to utilise available resources.
Jnana attempts to build the self confidence of students and helps them express their opinions effectively. Through this interactive mode of teaching, we hope to eradicate the inequality in the quality of teaching across schools and create analytical minds equipped to solve problems.
We had to make an impact on the minds of our students and make them receptive to a new approach towards education.
From our analysis, we inferred that Math and English are the most vital subjects to a student. According to a survey by College Board, students who performed well in those two subjects would excel at other subjects too. We designed our module around these subjects and chose computer as the medium for completing the courses.
We began looking around for children who had not been as fortunate as I had. As we spoke to our “Moushi’s” and “Bai’s” at my school we learnt that they sent their children to our neighbour schools where the fees was almost waived. Our research on the other neighbour schools shocked us and we set on a mission to make a change.
Fortunate children have the means to access quality education in mediums even outside of school, while the students we found had access to neither. It is our hyperfocused approach of selecting students as well as treating them, which makes the program unique.
Every student in the class enjoyed the sessions as much as the we, the teachers.
One hilarious moment I recall occurred when we were having the English – Writing class. All of the students had been given 5 minutes and 100 word limit on their computer to type out any topic. One of the students chose to write about olympics. His post was purely informative. One of my team members and I overheard a conversation happening between that student and his neighbour.
“Abbey, Aei story hai, moral toh likhna padega!” to which the author replies “Olympics hai, iska kya moral likhu?”.
Another moment that I clearly remember is the one when my team and I tried to make the “Silent Girl” of the class read out her story. She felt so afraid that she aggressively took the mouse and started deleting what she had written. After 6 attempts from me and my team members, she finally agreed to read it in front of the class.
When we were teaching maths, we raised a few questions. What is “21,22,23, …” When I asked what was “20”, all I got was a stare. Tall buildings on weak foundations were not going last long. Our team was assured that we were on the right track and it inspired us to do whatever we could, to repair the damage done by a faulty system.
Chapter 3: DETAILS AND ANALYSIS
Activities and Visits
My team and I undertook various activities such as reviewing schools and the analysing the faults in their teaching system. For this we visited our neighbouring government unaided schools i.e., Mahadevi Podar Prathmik Vidhyalaya and Podar School SSC. Through these visits we concluded that these schools were lacking in a wholesome system of education where the child’s need for attention is catered to.
We also visited Bapsai village, 70 kms from Mumbai, to help the village panchayat in the upkeep of their primary school and aanganwadis. We volunteered to paint their school, provide the students with stationery required for their term and also interacted with the students of the primary school.
My team and I also educated the children about the technology that is available to them. We demonstrated the basic utilities of a computer and the internet. This was done to create a level of awareness in the students’ mind and expose them to resources present in the world around them.
After these experiences my team and I chalked out a regular schedule for teaching the students. We invited the students to my school for a period of approximately 5 weeks.
We requested the schools to send us 18 children (7th Grade) from the English medium and 11 (9th Grade) from Hindi medium school and that they sent us students who performed poorly in academics.
During the vacations ie, till the 15th of November, we conducted 2 classes a week each for the batch of students from the English medium and the Hindi medium school. These 2 hour sessions included activities planned for two subjects along with a doubt session for their school curriculum. Posts the 15th of November, the frequency of classes were reduced to 1 class per batch per week.
- The topics that the students found difficult were covered. The fundamental concepts of these topics including problems from their curriculum were explained.
- Many conceptual ideas beyond their scope of syllabus were introduced to them and explained giving examples in daily life.
- Tips and tricks were taught to the students to make problem solving easier and efficient.
- Problems of a variety was solved and corrected in class and sheets for homework were given to each child.
- Review of their school tests and exams along with solving their doubts in those tests were taken up.
- At the end of each session two problems involving all the concepts learnt were given to the children, who solved and corrected the problems themselves.
- The students were given grammar exercises and sheets to enhance their writing abilities. They were taught basic principles and rules of English to help them frame grammatically correct sentences.
- Sessions were conducted to teach them the effective and contextual use of words. Spelling sessions were conducted to point out the common errors made and help them overcome it.
- Real life conversations were simulated to elaborate the effecient usage of English. The students were asked to identify the mistakes made by the speakers and correct them to gain a better understanding of the subject.
- The students were assigned 5 minutes to write 100 words on a topic of their choice every session and then read it out to the group. A mentor would help them correct the mistakes and teach them ways to express themselves better while writing.
- Tips about public speaking which included body language, voice modulation and eye contact were given to the students. The students were asked to speak about a topic in front of the group to overcome their lack of self confidence.
- The students were made to read lessons from their school books as well as articles collected by us to enhance their reading skills and encourage them to read more often.
- The students were taught fundamentals of the computer such as searching for a file, changing the screensaver,etc.
- The students were taught to use Microsoft word and Power point Presentation.
- They were introduced to the internet and made aware of the various benefits of the web.
- Sessions teaching the students how to search for text and images on Google for their projects were conducted. The students were also shown videos on various science topics on the internet.
- They were shown videos on astronomy, a subject that were not familiar with.
- The students were also taught how to use paint on the computer.
- Since students came from Hindi medium, sessions to familiarize them with the Technical English terms were organised.
- Addresses the educational and social needs of the students through the one to one mentorship program.
- Makes it easier to track the progress of the student and identify the weakness, strength and potential of each student.
- Communication gap between the teacher and student is overcome as the teacher is also a student.
- Implementation of this project in other schools is quicker as not many resources are required to set up such centres. The project can mobilise mass action and expand to many schools quickly.
- Unifies a large number of individuals (students) to teach the lesser fortunate children and impart holistic education to them.
- It is a supplementary course to the school curriculum, hence it enhances the child’s understanding capability.
- It is a self sustaining structure as the alumni of this project would join and help other students as well.
- It is a challenge is to maintain the quality of education imparted to children while working on the overall development of the child’s personality.
- A lot of time is spent in making the child receptive to our style of teaching. Hence time which could have been utilised to correct the fundamentals of the child and teach him is lost.
- The child is often ignorant about the things beyond the syllabus and a lot of time is spent on making the child aware of the various options around him.
- A fear of asking questions and getting doubts cleared often hold back a child who could learn more.
- This project is capable of expanding to schools with a low teacher to student ratio where our one to one mentorship could attend to the needs of children.
- The project can be extended to rural areas where due to lack of teachers students remain ignorant about various subjects.
- The principle of our project can be introduced in any school to develop hands on experience in teaching as well as learning. Interaction of students would help break inhibitions and make the students comfortable to get their questions answered.
- This project could also benefit students who receive no schooling at all. Regular classes could be conducted by students to teach them the basics of subjects they would require in life.
- This project could be extended to teaching adults who were unable to receive quality education in their lifetime.
- If this project is unable to inspire other students to teach, the idea of expanding to schools could be threatened. If the project does not gain popularity mobilising mass action would be difficult.
- Sustaining quality education after expansion would be problematic to monitor. Also, due to space and resource constraint the success of this project could be hampered.
- Schools unwilling to participate in this project coupled with narrow minded parents who question the teaching capability of students could dampen the project.
- The willingness of volunteers to teach students is of the essence in my project. Unwillingness and lack of determination in volunteers could affect the growth rate of my project.
- The teacher-student barrier was broken in the first class itself. The students started feeling comfortable because their “teachers” seemed reachable.
- After a few classes, students opened up and started gaining the courage to question. For the first 3 lectures, doubt sessions were darkened with silence. As we progressed, we had enough doubts to organize extra classes.
- After 5 weeks of classes, the student marks in Mathematics and English rose by 10% (Source : Maintained records and respective teachers)
- The students began exploring outside their syllabi and returned with questions about their surroundings and their workings.
Chapter 4: Conclusion
- At my school, An alumni body of 20 members has been constituted to carry out the workings of the project. The project continues to be done and will be passed over to newer students of our school.
- Over the next year, we envision to roll out our plan state-wide and invite various schools from Mumbai and other cities to participate in the program and constitute their own bodies under the common name, “Jnana”.
- As we accept more student-volunteers, we will increase the size of the batches and frequency.
- A website is also under-construction to make it easier for students-volunteers to collaborate and plan lectures and schedule topics to be taught.
This project has been an eye opener for everyone who participated. Things we did not know, could not imagine, have happened and occur everyday. It was our curiousity, the opportunity and good wishes that enabled us to explore the situation and accept the challenge, bold-face.
We have and will continue our struggle against the ineffecient education system and eradicate the suppression of our fellow friends who have not been as lucky as us.
- Biddle, B.J. (1979). Role theory: Expectations, identities and behaviors.