In Retrospect

Changing face of state education

A noticeable change had occurred in the education system of the Capital from 2015 onwards, with the introduction of smart classrooms and new teaching methods in government schools, writes Sayantan Ghosh and Anup Verma.

The Capital has always stood out from the rest of the states across the India for its culture, heritage, and politics. But the education system of the city was not different from the other metro cities. The city has more than 2,000 private schools run under the influence of politicians or industrial groups. These schools are meant for children hailing from well-to-do and upper-middle-class families. Families which cannot afford the high fees of these schools are left with no option but to send their children to government and civic body-run schools. With the change in the politics of the city, Delhi witnessed a change in the education system from 2015 onwards.

Delhi government's fight for education:
After coming to power in Delhi in 2015, the Aam Admi Party led government focused on two fundamental fields – education and health. From the very first day, they aimed to change the education system at the government schools. Like many other states in the country, the government-run schools in Delhi were suffering from negligence, poor infrastructure, and a shortage of staff. The government first decided to spend more than half of its budget in the development of the government schools.
An early picture of the schools:
"The stink of the bathroom was all over the school building. The classrooms, desks, and benches were all broken. Such was the picture when we first started our work," said Atishi Marlena, the education advisor to the Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the portfolio of the Education Department. After analysing the conditions of the schools the government took the decision of making new classrooms for the schools. The department realised that to improve the education system in these schools the environment of the schools should be changed first.
Making of new classrooms:
Under the direction of Dy CM Sisodia, the first initiative was to add 8,000 new classrooms. The officials informed the target of the department was to finish the work of these 8,000 classrooms in two years and it was done. In the second round the government-sanctioned 10,000 new classrooms, which are in the making now. A senior official of the education department said, "Now the schools have enough capacity to take new students and to provide them with comfortable seating." The government also planned that every school building should be whitewashed once in every year and the officials would monitor the progress of the work. Earlier, the principals of the schools were responsible for both academics and the development of infrastructure. The government has introduced a new post in these schools – estate manager. The key role of the person holding this post is to look after the maintenance of the schools.
Work on sanitation:
The government found that a radical change in terms of sanitation would be essential for these schools. The officials said that in every school, four sanitation workers are appointed to keep the schools clean. These workers are selected by the estate manager and they report directly to him. The officials explained that the key focus of the government is to decrease the pressure of the principal so that he or she can only focus on the academics. The officials also informed that the government has ensured separate toilets for boys and girls in every government-run co-education schools.
Importance of classroom culture:
The AAP led government's other prime focus in education is to change the classroom environment in the schools. "We want to make the classrooms more interactive and interesting," said Atishi Marlena. She elaborated that, there were various infrastructural problems in these schools which the government has dealt with now, but they also want to focus on the teaching methods, teachers' training and changing the classroom environment.
Most of the children studying at the government schools are first-generation learners. They do not get a proper educational environment in their homes, and also keep themselves busy in various other works for their families. The parents of these children are far from the reality of education, thereafter a good classroom environment can give the students not only proper education but also the urge to learn.
Mega Parents Teacher Meetings (PTM)
To bridge the gap between the teachers and parents of the children, the government took the decision of organising mega PTMs in all the government schools. PTM is a very common concept in private schools but in the government schools, the parents generally do not get involved with the teachers. Education minister Manish Sisodia took the decision of holding PTMs and he urged to everyone personally to attend them. On the day of the PTM, the schools reported a very successful response from the parents. "Most of the parents came this year and we had very good discussions with them," said the principal of one of the government school.
Model schools
The Directorate of Education (DoE) aimed to create 54 such model schools in the city, with basic facilities such as furniture, projectors, RO drinking water, and clean toilets. The effort is a part of the ambitious project 'Chunauti 2018,' aiming to improve infrastructure in government schools. Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Rouse Avenue, registered itself as the first among the 54 model schools that the government plans to set up. The school has audio-visual teaching aids, projectors in classrooms, and a new building. In addition to this, it also has a gym for students.
Teachers' Training
As a part of its main initiative to improve the quality of education in government schools in Delhi, the department of education would focus on the training of teachers in four to six different ways. Earlier, the training sessions were helpd only once in a year.
When the AAP-led government decided to prioritise education after winning the polls, the department led by the Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia appointed one teacher at every government school as the Teacher Development Coordinator. The concerned teacher's main duty is to train the other teachers about new teaching techniques and also address the day to day issues. These people are solely responsible for dealing with daily concerns of teachers regarding teaching. The officials of the department asserted that in every two months there is also a zonal level training programme for the teachers. In this programme, teachers of individual subjects meet and discuss the issues. They also get trained in subject-specific learnings. A section of teachers and principals are also getting trained abroad.
Schools run by SDMC
In a move to transform children's lives in its schools through quality education, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has taken up the initiative of introducing smart classrooms. The schools have been equipped with smart boards, projectors, interactive pads, podiums, UPS, speakers and other hardware and software to make studying interesting. The Corporation believes that innovative way of teaching will reduce the dropout ratio and improve knowledge retention through e-learning. SDMC has completed the work in 24 wards while the work to equip further 104 wards is in progress. The remaining schools will also be provided with similar facilities.
SDMC Mayor said, "Our aim is to double the number of schools with such facilities. Besides, we are also taking steps to improve the skills of students by organising extracurricular and relevant activities. Our aim is to make the students smart in every aspect. Other unique methods of teachings are also being considered to make them able to compete in such a competitive environment"
"This technology-based platform will probably be much easier and interactive for all the children compared to the existing traditional teaching methods; and will leave a stronger impact on the minds and help them learn better," said Meeta Singh, Additional Commissioner (education). She also said that the move will help students to learn things in a very interesting way. "The classroom lessons will be available in digital format to make it interesting to the students. The concept enables us to make sure every child makes progress," she said.
However, an official of the Ark Foundation, an NGO that has implemented the initiative in the Corporation's schools, said, "We started our first school in Lajpat Nagar III, in July 2015 in partnership with SDMC which runs 589 primary schools; many of which are struggling with declining pupil rolls, and low quality of education. When Ark started supporting the school there were only nine pupils enrolled in grade I out of which only five were attending classes, but it has significantly and gradually increased to 120, and now is close to 380."
"We reached out to the most underserved communities to increase enrollment. We undertook a series of a door to door surveys, information events and admission stalls to convince parents who had lost faith in the government system," he said. He further highlights that low attendance in Corporation primary schools has been a matter of concern. "We are proud to announce that the average attendance rates have been registered to be 83 per cent after taking such moves to reform the education.
"Pre-educational robotics kits and activities help children develop a stronger understanding of mathematical concepts such as number, size, and shape. Robotic manipulative also allow children to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination while also engaging in collaboration and teamwork," he said.
Earlier this year, SDMC had already set up a first-of-its kind robotic lab in the South Extension to provide smart class education, to help students attain a holistic approach to learning, which is beyond the routine curriculum. "We are in the process and soon all our schools will be equipped with such facilities," the official added.

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