Quality Improvement of the Teaching
Focus in the Academic Year 2009/2010
The Shanti Ananda English Medium School is a private school for poor children only– their parents have to prove their poverty. In Anantapur district nearly everyone is poor; but in our last organisational meeting (one time monthly all the teachers counsel concerning the development of the school) before the summer holidays we fixed very clear and strict criteria. Headmaster Chandra Mohan has the duty to represent these criteria towards the parents; many parents – not always poor – want to send their children to our school. In the last year 120 children visited the school; now in spite of a complete new class we have only 112 students. The reason is that some parents cannot fulfil the strict criteria concerning their poverty (any more) – they took their children from the school. On 12th June – the application day – within one and a half hour the Lower Kinder garden class was completed with 20 children – showing that our school is favoured very much. People in Mudigubba consider us to lead a model school because we introduced some novelties in the last years.
Of course the English language is the medium at an English Medium School; all the subjects – except the languages Hindi und Telugu – have to be taught in English language only. All the books are written in English language – except the Hindi – and the Telugu books. The ability to speak English is very essential in India at this time as a condition for a good career. The government schools teach English starting in the 5th class – since one year only. Because English is taught from the very beginning our school is most important for the poor children whose parents cannot afford the high fees for expansive private schools. Thanks to the English coaching during the last two years our teachers meanwhile are able to teach in English language mostly. But still three times weekly after the colleagues take part in an English Conversation Class for improving their language skills.
Book page with texts in English, Hindi and Telugu
It is an outstanding performance - also for the Indian children good at languages - to learn three languages at the same time because all have different letters. Both the Telugu (Telugu is the language of the state Andhra Pradesh) and the Hindi Alphabet (Hindi is spoken in whole India) have 46 letters (our Alphabet has 26 letters only). The children start in the kinder garden classes to learn Telugu and English; in the first class they are able to read and write these two languages. In the third class Hindi joins as the third language.
Beside these subjects Mathematics and Environmental Studies are taught; they consist of Social Studies and General Science. In the higher classes physics and chemistry are part of General Science; Social Studies consist of history, economy, civic studies and geography.
Books of the fourth class
This basic framework is enriched by creativity blocks of one and a half hour in the afternoon. Library usage, drama, stories, handworks, painting, yoga and games are components. In the planned Nature School some more practical offers will join like agriculture and gardening.
Furthermore we teach traditional Indian disciplines like meditation (every morning before the start of the lessons), yoga (three times weekly starting from the third class) and singing Bhajans (every Friday morning one hour; Bhajans are songs for the praise of God aged thousands of years) and last not least Education in Human Values (EHV) – which might be very meaningful also in other countries. The well known spiritual teacher Sathya Sai Baba presented Educare - a new teaching system: External Education consists of a collection of facts, knowledge and skills of the external world. It is required to help one to earn one’s livelihood and to cope up with life in this world. Internal Education = Educare is for the refinement of the inner being of man. Educare comes from the Latin word “Educare” meaning ‘to draw out from within’. The Atma is our innermost reality; Educare means to bring out the Atma, the Divine Love and Human Values latent in the Human heart.
The school day starts at 8.45 a. m. with the cleaning of the school area followed by the gathering of all students in front of the school – this is usual at each and every school in whole India. The Indian National Anthem is sung; and a pledge is recited: „India is my country; all Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country, and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it. I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy. To my country and my people I pledge my devotion. In their well-being and prosperity alone lies my happiness.” After this ceremony every class practises meditation in the class room for 10 minutes. Four periods in the morning and two periods in the afternoon as well as a creativity block of one and a half hour will follow. At 4 p. m. the school day is completed.
We offer to the poor children a free and comprehensive education characterised through an integration of the normal subjects, a creativity programme and traditional Indian cultural techniques as well as Education in Human Values. We call this mixture “education for head, heart and hands”. The development towards a Nature School is the next step – in the next newsletter I will report about this topic.
Our most important focus in this academic year – beside the preparation of the Nature School – is the quality improvement of the teachings. The teacher trainings in India often are not highly qualified; furthermore many teachers did not enjoy a special training. In the last years some workshops for our teachers took part in the school concerning this quality improvement; but regular and continuous striving is necessary for raising the level long time regarded. So I am very happy that we successfully invited the highly qualified teacher trainer Mohan Babu (he is government teacher and owner of three master degrees; as well he was co-author of some school books in Andhra Pradesh) to conduct a workshop for our teachers regularly every month with the topics quality improvement of the teachings (lesson plans, connection between theory and practise, aims and goals etc.) and as well the improvement of the language skills.
Mohan Babu introduces his qualification workshop
The new measure that every teacher is released from his obligation to teach one afternoon weekly also has the meaning to improve the quality of the teaching. The teachers have to take benefit of this time to take some preparations; for example they can use the library and be busy with the teaching materials in a deeper mode. Furthermore every teacher has to visit the parents of every child in his class two times yearly to improve the contact with the parents and to receive some impressions of the sphere where the students live. This measure as well is meant to improve the quality of teaching as the teachers can understand the children better and give help and support in a more effective way when they know the parents and the surroundings of the students.
The Indian educational system is very over-intellectual; the main focus lies on memorising. The Examinations – performed every three months - are compulsory for every class with all the questions fixed by the government. The questions ask for innumerable facts; holistic and problem oriented techniques of learning are nearly completely neglected. These alignments are criticized by more and more people. Students of a 10th class some weeks before gave a complaint in a newspaper article about the big amount of stress caused by the memorizing of unbearably many facts and details. More and more people active in the education sector understand that a better education cannot take place without a revision of the State syllabus. The education landscape will change deeply within the next few years – we think with our Shanti Ananda School we can give some inspiration…
Newspaper article concerning new student oriented ways of teaching
Some days ago the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill was decided by the Lok Sabha, the Indian Central Parliament, concerning the right and the duty of all the children to go to school. According to the Constitution of India every child has the right to go to school; but this new law intends to improve the practise. 16 years ago the High Court gave advice to the Parliament to pass a law like this. Every child aged between 6 and 14 years has to visit a school – independent from the social status. The Minister of Human Resources Development said: „We, as a nation, cannot afford to not let our children go to school. This nation cannot afford to say “No” to children where going to school is concerned because there is no money.” He stressed the Bill as a “historic opportunity” for providing a better future to the children of the country as there was never such landmark legislation in the 62 years since Independence.
Article about the bill in the Deccan Chronicle
This new Bill is very useful as still a huge percentage of children don’t go to school – the estimations about the exact percentage range between 20 and 50%. But of course the realization of this ambitious Bill will take huge strives by the Indian society and cost crores of Rupees. Who is able to give trainings for the outcome of highly qualified teachers who should give excellent teachings to the children? Materials have to be obtained and buildings to be required.
Cartoon illustrating the problem of realization
Nevertheless this measure should be understood as the first important step towards the realization of a universal elementary education for every child in India – independent of social differences. But up to the practical realization of this Bill projects like the Shanti Ananda School are necessary; the school gives a real chance to the disadvantaged children in the small town of Mudigubba. I want to say thank you to all the donors for the valuable support given by them to conduct this school for the children of the poorest people. The school is their glimmer of hope to achieve a good education for their lives. Nevertheless our need is still big; and I want to request you to continue with your donations. We need more teaching materials, our students need new school uniforms, and we want to pay appropriate salaries to our teachers as well.
Game in the afternoon: “Little finger, little finger, where are you?”
With sincere greetings from South India,
Helga Shanti Fründt
Foreigners should give their donation to this FCRA account
Shanti Ananda Education Society
Andhra Bank, Mudigubba Branch
Account No: 185410100007532
Indian persons should give their donation to the
Shanti Ananda Education Society
Geetha Nagar, Mudigubba 515511
Andhra Pragathi Grameena Bank
Account No. 19073080607