In hope of transforming education

Last Updated: Sep 17, 2014, 00:24 AM IST

A worthy idea can change a million lives. Many who echo these sentiments, speak to Gauri Rane about the need to overhaul the education scenario in India

Quality education is a highly debated topic in India. A change in the country’s education system is required to ensure that quality education reaches even its remotest corners. Few people who are motivated to change the norm actually achieve their goal. However, the number of such change agents is slowly but surely increasing as many more edge towards achieving their target.

Ashish Rajpal, founder, XSEED, iDiscoveri Education, for instance, realized the necessity for change as a part-time science teacher for class IV students. “I realized that teachers needed a very specific and practical solution that actually worked in the classroom to teach concepts effectively,” says Rajpal. This being the turning point, Rajpal and his team decided to establish a concept which looks at, “somehow improving the quality of school education in the country,” he explains.

While Rajpal and his team came up with a very detailed process to effectively teach concepts, they also realized the necessity to improve classroom teaching by training teachers in a curriculum that can be effectively taught. Similarly, Sridhar Rajagopalan, MD, Educational Initiatives faced the wall trying to convince schools that the norm of rote learning had to change.

What Rajpal and Rajagopalan did was to change the mind set. “Acceptance and use of modern education processes and ground level changes in the thinking of teachers and children is most important to take our efforts forward,” opines Rajagopalan.

Collaborating with schools and making them change was a major task. For Rajpal, the collaboration with schools started with building relationships with the ‘early adopters.’ “Progressive minded school owners and principals especially from Coimbatore, Erode, Vizag etc, who wanted to experiment with new methods of teaching saw value in our work and were willing to try,” he says.

For Rajgopalan and his team the experience of running the Eklavya School in Ahmedabad helped. “We were essentially outsiders to education but we had a strong vision of the change desired and the ground level experience helped us a lot in convincing mentors, teachers, partner schools and parents and children,” he informs. However, both Rajpal and Rajagopalan agree that the biggest challenge was to persuade schools to overcome teacher resistance to changing classroom practices.

As demand for quality education is growing, this innovative teaching methodology is reaching the length and breadth of India, with some prominent names like Bombay Scottish, Mumbai, Delhi Public Schools, New Delhi, and several others from even smaller towns adopting it.

The moot question however, is has this innovative minds been able to transform education? “I think we are changing the way people teach and assess students. We have succeeded in showing people the need for the change, but not yet in making the capacities needed for it widespread enough,” says Rajagopalan.

“To me transforming education means that we see visible change in learning outcomes and not just process. In a country like India, no real transformation is possible unless we scale the impact the skills of a very large number of children,” says Rajpal. So, has he been able to do his bit to change the situation? “I believe we are re-framing the conversation between the teacher and student inside the classroom - within the constraints of mainstream syllabus, timetables, and teacher talent – and thereby building a skill-capacity in children that will be of life-long use. However, there are miles and miles to go,” he signs off.