Research based intervention that is planned and purposeful is the crux of any good educational programme. Vikramshila has strived to document much of its practices both for learning and advocacy purposes. While as a resource organization, almost all our work is practical research, there have been some areas where conscious efforts were made to relook at the volume of work in order to identify some emerging patterns that would be useful for educational practitioners, teachers and policy level decision makers.
A Hundred New Beginnings
This document was an outcome of Vikramshila’s engagement with 100 high school graduate women from Bengali medium government aided schools of Kolkata, to offer them a life skills and career enhancement opportunity. This was devised in the form of a 21 day rigorous camp, to take them through a 105 hour intensive module that focused on Communicative English, digital literacy, career readiness and direction setting, soft skills and workplace skills development. The girls went through a huge learning leap over the 21 days, blossoming into articulate and confident young women who at the end of the camp, demonstrated all their learning through talks, panels and gallery walks to their teachers, parents, visitors and others. It led us to think about what went right, what worked and eventually led us to document our work in this report along with a sort video of the camp process.
The Wonder of Books
The wonder of books was a theorization of Vikramshila’s efforts in setting up classroom libraries in our learning centers, to help children from print deprived communities access high quality children’s literature. The pilot over two years helped children create a great bonding with books, and also attempted to take libraries beyond it’s usual ambit, to act as active language development spaces not just for children who could read but also for emergent readers. A parallel early grade reading program was launched alongside to reading an active reading program for early readers. Our efforts, learnings, experiences are shared in this document.
Through the Looking Glass -An Analysis of Vikramshila’s experiences in Remedial Education
Vikramshila’s work in classrooms has often been in the area of offering remediation for students that are aimed at strengthening their educational foundations and help them surmount obstacles in learning.
This publication discusses the idea of remedial tutoring strategies that were used by Vikramshila across its various projects, to help children overcome their learning difficulties based in the principle that “effective intervention begins with a deep analysis of learning’.
The study also explores the idea of tuitions that is large and burgeoning in our society and compares it to the idea of remediation.
Footprints in Time -A Longitudinal Study
This publication tracks Vikramshila’s Naba Disha programme over the last 14 years through a narrative based in the first person account through the lens of 16 youth alumni. The study is an evidential representation of the ideologies Vikramshila’s educational practices, which focuses both on academic achievements and developing of individuals into conscious and socially sensitive individuals. The narration gives a ‘longitudinal perspective on the process of unfolding of these children into proud and confident youth’.
Amar Boi – A decoding of the state’s class 1 textbook through a pedagogical lens
The new state government textbooks have reached the classrooms and are being used by the teachers for everyday classroom teaching learning. The books have followed an integrated model of learning, where single and thematic units incorporate different subject areas of language, mathematics and EVS. However ,while the approach is new and in keeping with the current research supported practices of subject integration, often teachers in the classroom need a decoding of the text, to understand the various layers and themes and what each of it contains , in order to be able to deliver it effectively to the students. In other words – ‘what is the content?’ and ‘how to teach it?’ It was at this juncture that Vikramshila’s teachers practicing in the Naba Disha centres came across the needs felt both within the centres and in the schools. An attempt was taken to analyse the textbooks, chapter-wise, theme-wise, page by page and then clubbing common teaching areas together that appeared across the book- to designate the content areas. This was followed by incorporating in each of this, the idea of ‘how to teach’ these content areas – using appropriate teaching methods and teaching learning materials.
The research took about 6 months to complete and put into book form by a section of our practicing teacher and experts.
Training video on English teaching
As a part of teacher training programmes, Vikramshila regularly provides training on subject pedagogy. We are often told by teachers that our child friendly and participatory teaching learning methods sound very nice, but in reality it is very difficult to implement because the school infrastructure, student background and the current syllabus do not allow such teaching to happen on a regular basis. At Vikramshila we had often discussed how to make the teachers believe that such methods would in fact make the teacher’s work easier and that students would also learn faster. The opportunity came to us this year in our work with government madrasas when we decided to make a training video of an actual class in progress in a regular school. The idea was to film a lesson from the English textbook as it was taught in the classroom using communicative ELT methods. A training video titled “Teaching English the Communicative Way” was developed this year for this purpose. The video illustrates how activities, group work and interactive teaching can be used on a regular basis to teach more effectively.
Books on creative writing by our Bigha school children
Creative writing classes are regularly conducted in our school. These classes not only help to improve language skills of children, but also help to boost their creativity. Children think very differently from adults. They have their own way of looking at and understanding social issues. This year we decided to publish a compilation of the writings of class III and IV children on two topics - “Amader utsab” and “amar gram, amar poribesh”. The essays are accompanied by relevant drawings made by the children that show how the children think about their environment and their festivals.
Education to Employability Project – A Baseline Study for West Bengal (FICCI Report)
This baseline was an attempt to gauge the status of the current level of awareness and abilities of students who have completed school in the last 5 years along with their views on employability and making right career choices after finishing school. A database of 504 students and 110 parents was developed across 13 schools in Kolkata, 24 Parganas and Burdwan.
Based on the findings there has been felt a need to introduce career-counseling sessions in schools and to develop career related employability skills, i.e., introducing focused Communicative English and IT classes. Eventually integrating ‘Employability Skills Training’ in the curriculum could enable the students to make a smooth transition from being educated to being employable.
Module on Building Career Awareness
Career Guidance is now being increasingly considered as an integral part of education system that can help the students to select their career according to their ability and interest. It has been found through various research studies that lack of information about career choices poses a major challenge among both the parents and students. The studies indicate an ‘aspiration -capability’ gap. Focusing on the above needs under the Education to Employability project, initiated by Paschim Banga Rashtriya Madhyamik Sikhsha Abhiyan (PBRMSA), Vikramshila has developed the 20- hours ‘Career Counselling Module’. The module has been vetted by Department of Applied Psychology, Calcutta University.
Employability Orientation Module: Communicative English and Soft Skills
Communicative English in today’s world is a key ingredient in empowering learners to express themselves in spoken and written forms of the language to secure jobs in various fields of employment as well. Soft skills are inseparable from one’s entity and should be honed in the early hours of life along with the hard skills at school to enable students climb the ladder to success. To enable the learners develop proficiency in the communicative skills and the soft skills or job-readiness skills, a 34-hour module has been developed by Vikramshila under the Education to Employability project initiated by Paschim Banga Rashtriya Madhyamik Sikhsha Abhiyan (PBRMSA). A Senior English Language Fellow, from American Centre of US has given his inputs for enriching the module.
IT Skills Development Module - Facilitators’ Manual and Students’ Workbook
With the need of IT skills to find work increasing, the acquisition of basic IT skills and familiarity with the computer and its applications may open a wide range of employment opportunities and increase marketability of the youth in the job market. Based on the IT requirements at school level, Vikramshila has developed an IT module which has been vetted by Webel. Apart from MS office skills and applications, the module include few career related activities, for example, looking for career related information using the internet, writing resumes’ preparing presentations on their future plans and so on, The lessons of the module are carried out in camp mode or classroom mode whichever is convenient for the school.
Contours of the “Madrasa Market” in West Bengal- The idea of Quality and Impact of the RtE Act 2009
Vikramshila has been working with Khariji (private unaided) Madrasas in West Bengal for the last 7 years. In this duration several milestones affecting the context of Madrasas have been crossed, namely, the Sachar Committee Report (2005), the National Curriculum Framework 2005, the RTE Act 2009, the Supreme Court Judgement on Private Unaided Minority Institutions (2012) and the change of government in West Bengal in 2011.
Based on qualitative research conducted in 14 Madrasas in Hooghly district, over the last two years, a study was undertaken which attempts to analyze the idea of quality in terms of child centeredness, institutional management, infrastructure and functioning. The paper also delves into the issues of demography; access and the socio-economic distribution of children in each type of madrasa.
‘Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom’ – by Prof Poonam Batra, University of Delhi and Late, Ms. Sushmita Banerjee, Sambhav Shiksha Evam Janonnan Samiti, (Jaipur, Rajasthan)
was a study undertaken to document processes of the educational programme of Naba Disha. It was an evaluative study of the programme after 10 years of its operation to study the strategies adopted by Naba Disha to reach out to the children of marginalized and vulnerable communities of Kolkata slums and squatter colonies. The study has gained deep insights into the unique pedagogy and classroom processes developed by Vikramshila to meet the challenge of making education meaningful and relevant to children.