6 Schools with 700 pupils. The schools are in the Himalaya foothills and in the slums of large urban areas. They exist to provide education to those children who would not have access to state schools. Some children walk three hours to attend school, and then they walk home, in the cold air of the mountainous evenings. They are all fee paying schools but a blind eye is turned if the poor cannot pay. Their education is secure.
All schools teach using rote.
They have little or no books for reading either in the school or in homes. Educational resources are virtually non existent.
RATA first visited in 2009 with a team of 4 RATA teachers and ran a two day retreat to train and equip our Indian colleagues.
There are six teachers and one helper at the bi-lingual school. The text books are in English and the teachers explain the work in English and in Hindi. The level of English fluency of the children is very basic, it’s not a total immersion English school. English is a second language learning, which is not supported at home. There is no library and no books other than the textbooks. The younger classes fill out work books and the older classes fill out the answers in exercise books.
An Indian teacher’s reflection on RATA’s training:
I learnt to be not very harsh with children but would encourage them to do their homework. I also learnt to understand and recognize numbers from two kinds of dice, spots and numerals.
What does the classroom look like?
One large classroom with one blackboard at each end and the children are divided into two groups looking at one blackboard each, sitting at benches in rows. The floor and walls are concrete and there is a mat available for sitting on. Two other very small classrooms (approx 2.5 m x 5m ) with a dirt floor and mats, a blackboard, a teacher’s chair and small teacher’s table. One doubles as a staff room. There is nothing on the walls.
The school is an old derelict damaged building which had no power until two years ago. There are often monsoons and landslides. Children travel 15-20 kms to school. Education involves parent and family needs. There’s a significant girl/boy imbalance in the school. Parents don’t let girls go to school and the principal’s focus is to try get the girls to come to school. Female literacy in the area is half the male literacy. It is an English medium school with 65 students.
We teach all subjects by getting children to copy, answer questions orally and write answers to questions from the blackboard.
The children listen well to the teachers and do homework well. The school would like help with developing new programmes and teaching methods. They would like training in using reading books in the classroom. The children have difficulty paying attention, they would like help in finding techniques to help with this. Another issue is that the children are bringing a lot of emotional baggage from the home environment and this is a barrier to learning. They want the children to learn better and become more engaged in the learning that they do.
Things we learn from the training
- Educating children through games
- Teaching mathematics through games
- Easy ways of teaching maths
- Teaching while playing and having fun
- Recognizing letters using dices
- Using games to teach numbers
- Right pronunciation of words
- Methods of teaching
- Ways of teaching poems
- To catch them when they are good!!