We can, and we should learn - A unique context for school education
After months of being closed, schools are now being gradually opened and schools are exploring different approaches to bringing students back to classrooms. While parental consent is mandated for students to return to school, this begs the question of what meaningful choices parents may really have.
A lot of discussion has been on the sanitising of the premises, whether children should come full days, or all days and the use of masks, logistics of student arrangements, as well as the scope of the syllabus. However, the question that needs be asked now, that is more relevant than ever, is how can we rebuild the relationship that the children have with learning, and with school? While this question is relevant for all children - for all ages and across different strata of society - it assumes an urgency in the case of children who have had no access to any form of structured learning experience.
Many children who go to government and government aided schools have been out of school and deprived of any structured learning experiences for over 10 months now. The issue is not only the learning loss - with reference to what they are supposed to have learnt in schools - as it is of the deprivation at multiple levels that these children have had to face - deficiency in nutrition, loss of a safe space and the loss of an opportunity to have some semblance of normalcy in their childhood. While the more fortunate among the children have made the seamless movement into a new normal, the children from the more marginalized and vulnerable groups of society have mostly received the short end of the stick. The Vidyagama that started and stopped due to public health concerns has now been revived, and it is important to design a program for enabling these students to succeed.
Program at GHS 9th block
The GHS at 9th block Jaya Nagar is bringing class 8 students to school starting from the week of Jan 18, 2021, following the latest guidelines. The school has decided to conduct an immersive learning camp for these students, to ease their return to school as well as to show them the potential and possibilities for learning. IT for Change, along with the school, is conducting an immersive camp for 4 days during January 2021. This camp is modelled on the principles of Vidyagama, allowing learning in multiple ways in open spaces, and not focusing immediately on the traditional classroom learning of the regular syllabus.
Objectives of the program
- To help students get reoriented to a structured learning environment
- To help students appreciate the relevance of the school, to their everyday lives
- To create a safe space for students for them to explore and learn
- To prepare students to meet the academic demands of high school
An outline of the camp curriculum
The camp will combine elements of numeracy, literacy and basic life skills, with the overarching goal of getting students to become comfortable in the context of being in the school, with the various associated new routines, in terms of COVID preparedness. Addressing the questions and even anxieties children may have, especially in view id disruptions in their life out of school, will be an integral part of this camp. The theme stringing together all the activities will be one of enjoyable, relevant and meaningful learning, with activities designed for building successful learning experiences.
A tentative, day-wise agenda for the camp is described below:
|Day 1||An awareness of where we are and what is going on around us - preparation for COVID and more
Communicative competencies and basics of language (Kannada)
Puzzling their way to mathematics
A baseline assessment (Mathematics)
Developing board games (traditional games)
|Day 2||Communicative competencies and English as a second language - story telling and vocabulary
Playing with numbers
Basics of Geometry
Fun with science with Newton's color wheel
A baseline assessment (Kannada)
|Day 3||Story telling in Kannada
Working with Geometry
Puzzles and reading corners
Developing board games (traditional games)
|Day 4||Communicative competencies and English as a second language - story telling and vocabulary
Playing with numbers
The activities in the camp have been designed to give the students an exposure to different learning paths and experiences, cutting across mathematics, science and languages. A very brief introduction to different activities is given below.
Using the current COVID-19 pandemic as the point of focus, the objective will be to work with the children to have a conversation around their current life situations, address any questions and concerns they may have as well as provide accurate preventive health information. Students will be encouraged to draw pictures/ cartoons illustrating what they would like to know about COVID. This will be followed by a discussion by the facilitators.
The students returning to school have been out of school for several months and the majority of these months have been spent without any opportunities for formal learning or enrichment. Helping students rebuild basic communicative competencies as well as regain working fluency in the first language and/ or medium of instruction is important. Students will be introduced to the basic competencies of LSRW, through story-telling and conversational activities. Students' participation and their work portfolios (which will be text-based as well as audio-visual and graphical) will be used to assess their language competencies as well.
Spatial reasoning and visualization are important skills to be developed; these are also essential when geometry is introduced formally. The focus of this activity is to build these skills through different kinds of visualization and patterning exercises. Tangram is a powerful way for allowing students to visualize shapes and orientations for figures. Students can be given pre-cut Tangram shapes or they can be encouraged to make the shapes themselves.
English in India has become an aspirational issue in education determining opening or closing of schools, enrolment of government versus private schools and so on. Learning in mother tongue and the associated impact on learning skills and attainments in different fields is still being debated among educationists, it is also true that English proficiency still determines mobility and employment opportunities in many ways, for a combination of reasons.
Language learning is now widely recognised as having two objectives – one of communicative competencies and using language for learning. English is no different and the Position Paper on Teaching of English recommends a similar approach for the teaching of English. In the context of a country like India where there are multiple languages, English is not to be seen stand alone but in the context of multiple languages.
Yet another context in which the learning of English is being explored here is in the increasing use of digital technologies - also referred to as Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). ICT provide methods of creating and communicating in multiple formats and present new opportunities for building language competencies. Digital platforms also now make it possible to create multiple educational resources which can be offered to learners using multiple methods – combining physical and virtual means. This presents new possibilities and pathways for designing curricular materials and instructional design for learning English.
It is against this backdrop that this course on English learning has been developed. The course has been developed as a series of course modules focusing on building language competencies in English as well as using English for learning. These modules can be attempted in sequence or independently (assuming competencies required prior to that module have been reasonably attained).