So I believe I have written a blog about the dismal conditions of government schools: teacher's absenteeism and apathy, rampant beatings, rote memorization, low achievement levels, high dropout rates, etc. Our school have been working on an intervention with 28 government schools in Uttarkhand, providing trainings and materials in hope to significantly change the current educational order. Upon our initial survey of the schools, I must admit I wasn't very hopeful.
But I just got back from a week of surveying participating schools and was shocked to discover that a lot of what we introduced in the training has been applied in these schools. There were about two schools that did absolutely nothing and threw a fistful of excuses at us as to why they couldn't implement the program, which revolved around not being able to introduce anything new into the curriculum because they were already overburdened. This is pretty absurd considering that all the methods we introduced were meant to be complimentary to the existing government curriculum. But the rest of the schools showed dramatic change. At almost all of the schools, the children meditate regularly. These are government schools! This is truly amazing. The teachers were all accolades about meditation, they said that it was useful to calm the children, and by products included heightened concentration and ability to pick up new concepts easier. In many of the schools the teachers meditated with the students, just the symbolic act of a teacher sitting on even ground with her children is an amazing change from the oppressive school atmosphere we noticed before.
Also, it was quite touching to hear the children singing quite beautifully the APV songs in their school. Music is a very important piece to our pedagogy, we have about 35 songs or so and we taught about ten to the school children that came to our training. The children had memorizes many of these songs and sing them daily in school. We visited one school after school hours had concluded. The kids gathered with some of their friends to show off their skills to the APV team and gawk at the whitey. But when they began to sing for us, I was shocked to see that the children's friends, not enrolled at the school, had also memorized APV songs. This demonstrates that the children are sharing with their communities the APV pedagogy and perhaps that our intervention is having a farer reaching effect than we had initially planned.
To further this point, two teachers that participated in the program have become so passionate about it that they have set out on their own initiative to teach our pedagogy to neighboring schools. This is an amazing indicator that teachers would take time out of their schedule to spread our ideas because they feel so strongly for our methods of teaching and how it has brought about changes in their school.
Another important observation is the change in the learning atmosphere. The children and teachers seemed much more at ease with one another. In schools where previously we saw very timid, quiet children in front of their teachers, now were joking, laughing, asking questions with their teachers.
Finally, the substantive concepts that we introduced at the training, the math concepts have been covered in class, those children that attended our training have been teaching other children. For the most part the teachers have found our methods and materials extremely helpful
Hopefully this moment can be sustained. We have the government on our side which is very strange considering the uniqueness of our project. The highest educational government official, Pandey ji, is fully on board and told us that he wanted to make sure that our pedagogy is used to guide the direction that primary education in Uttarakhand. I am also working on a proposal with Plan International to expand our project under their new 'Learn Without Fear' campaign, which would enable us to touch schools all over India. Pretty exciting prospects, perhaps we are seeing the seeds to the children's revolution that my mentor has envisioned for so long.