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Kishor Sir's School: A bright spot in Maharashtra

Two members of Pratham's ASER Centre team visit a school where the teachers put in their own resources to make sure no child gets left behind.
BY Savitri Bobde & Ketan Verma |   12-12-2013
Photo Credit: Savitri Bobde & Ketan Verma
This was the third village we were rechecking in Chandrapur district in Maharashtra in two days. The feeling of routine had set in. Jumping over puddles, much like school children ourselves we reached the Z.P. Primary School at about 9:30 am.

To our surprise, not only was the school open, the playground was dotted by lots of small girls and boys playing on the seesaws and the slide, welcoming us with beaming smiles. Kishor sir and Madhuri madam greeted us and took us to the office.

It had begun to drizzle and we had a long day ahead. We quickly explained that we were there to ascertain the quality of the ASER survey of the previous week and asked him the regular recheck questions.

He confirmed that two surveyors had come and recorded the correct information from the school. Then we asked if the children were tested in school, since according to the correct ASER process, they should only be tested in households. They had not, but both Kishor sir and Madhuri madam seemed interested in the testing tool that was used and the results of their students who were tested.

Photo Credit: Savitri Bobde & Ketan Verma

We showed him the testing tool and gave him the names of children from that school. Their response left us speechless. For every child we named, they correctly predicted their performance on the ASER test, both Language and Math. “Oh, Ankita must not have read much, Rakesh must have solved division easily” and so on…

Looking at the surprise on our faces, Kishor sir told us he maintained sheets with the learning levels of every child he taught. Much like the ASER tool’s recording sheet, his sheet too was simple and self-explanatory. At a glance, anyone could understand what was expected for children in each grade, and could see which children were doing better than that, which were not quite there, and which were at grade level. Many children in his class were way above the grade level.

He gave us a demo of how he taught multiplication tables through songs he had composed, which helped children remember the tables. He also told us about a few more innovative teaching methods through songs and actions that helped children retain information better.

By this time a few more teachers had also come and sat with us. We started asking questions about the school. They told us how everything about the playground was planned, paid for and executed by them.

Pratham: Every Child in School and Learning Well...

One teacher had paid for the slide, the other had conceptualized the drinking water tap area, and another had planted different plants in different areas of the school. The plants near the entrance of the school were there because they apparently ensured that the bad vibes from outside didn’t come inside. The drinking water drainpipes were connected to a line of plants, so water was not wasted.

There were rudimentary loud speakers installed around the school. The teachers had installed these loudspeakers in the school and played balgeets (songs for children), some of them composed and sung by the teachers themselves in the lunch breaks and after school.

He explained that all this had to be done with their money since the funds that they received from Shava Shiksa Abiyan, India’s flagship programme for achieving universal elementary education, are earmarked for specific things, thereby often preventing them from being used for what the teachers wanted.

Most teachers in the school had been there for at least 3-4 years. They tried their best to ensure that teachers didn’t get transferred often so as to guarantee that plans are made and executed for a longer term with all teachers involved. In fact, Kishor sir had not only taught there for 6 years but had also studied in this school.

Photo Credit: Savitri Bobde & Ketan Verma

In less than an hour that we spent in that school, many of the ingredients needed for a fairly successful school were evident: a motivating leader, cooperation, mutual respect, and innovation in teaching learning practices. Just as we were leaving the school, feeling high with the enthusiasm and warmth shown to us by the teachers, Kishor sir stopped us and almost apologetically asked if what we were doing in ASER was enough.

He agreed that it is very important to know the learning levels of children, but he also argued that this year again the top news would be that children are not learning in Maharashtra. Schools like his would never be publicized and highlighted like they should be.

We explained the objective of ASER to him, but his point stuck with us. It is true that numbers tell us a lot, but there are some things that numbers can’t do justice to. One such thing is Kishor sir and his school.

Savitri Bobde and Ketan Verma are members of the Assessment Unit at the ASER Centre in New Delhi. They develop assessment tools for various programmes and evaluations. Savitri has completed a Masters in Development Studies from the University of Sussex. Ketan has completed a Masters in International Business from the University of Lancaster.  



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