Kannada, Kannadiga, Kannadigaru, Karnataka,

Kannadigarella ondaagi Kannadavannu ulisona, kalisona and belesona

A tale of two government schools

A tale of two government schools
by
H N Ananda

The contrast between the two government schools could not have been more telling. Both the schools faced similar problems of infrastructure. But, one school proved that lack of infrastructure could not deter learning while the other school refused to create a conducive atmosphere for learning.

Needless to say, both the schools that I visited to study the assessment being undertaken by the Karnataka State Quality Assurance Organization (KSQAO) provided me insights about learning and assessment.

The first government school

Situated amid slums, the school hardly has the ambience of even a typical government school. Once inside, when the bell rings, you would not know whether it is the school bell or the temple bell! This, because a temple is attached to the school and there is no wall to separate the two. The School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) president doubles up as the temple secretary also.

The school has no quadrangle for the kids to assemble or play. So the children line up for prayer in the foyer, which also houses a staircase, and in the narrow verandah attached to their class rooms. After school, the kids literally step on the road as the school is situated on the busy road where, till recently, lorries were being parked.

All that this 66 year old school has to offer is a depressing sight.

The second government school

This school is more than 100 years old and is housed in a dilapidated structure — an indication of the education system in ruins. There is stink all around; a bore well meets the water needs but there is a puddle around the tap where the kids wash the vessels and plates after the midday meal. The area around the school is a dumping yard for chillies where loads of chillies are weighed and packed in bags. Helplessness is writ large on the faces of staff and students, who seem to have resigned themselves to this scenario.

Both the schools have similar infrastructure problems. What, then, is the difference between the two schools?

Teachers make all the difference.

In the first school, teachers have risen to the occasion and contributed towards learning in their classrooms. But in the second school, the teachers offer you a string of excuses as to why there has been no learning in their classrooms.

The proof was the assessment of the KSQAO.

Children of the first government school were cheerful and earnest. When the KSQAO exam was conducted, they looked forward to the question paper and were eager to write. They were prepared. As soon as the question paper was distributed, they put pen to the paper and were engaged in answering. There were no attempts at copying. Students who finished revised their answers. In fact, it was a picture of near perfectness.

On the other hand, in the second government school the entire 7th standard students did not know what to do and how to answer the question paper. Forget about the answers, not many could write their names on the answer sheet. They looked left, right, up and down but not at the question paper. And those few who ventured to look at it seemed to find nothing that they knew in it.

The class was full of craning necks and blank looks that presented a picture of utter helplessness. Some yawned, some whispered, some fought with others but few wrote the answers. Even if they were given access to books, their performance would not have been any better as learning had not taken place in the classroom. When the time to answer the paper had ended, none seemed to have answered all the questions; in fact, it was more appropriate to find out if anybody had attempted at least one question!

A chat with the teachers of both the schools highlighted the contradiction in their attitudes and perceptions which could be linked to the performance of their students in the KSQAO assessment.

While teachers of the first government school were eager and willing to put in extra efforts to coach their students, teachers of the second government school gave excuses like pressure of non academic work, lack of parental support and excess load of syllabus for the poor performance of their wards. They vehemently opposed the idea of mass promotion because of which even the chaff got promoted to the next class. Hence the falling standards, they argued. But it was obvious that there was no conviction in their arguments.

Back to the first government school.

This school had the advantage of being a Learning Guarantee School under the expansion programme. This exposure was of great help, admitted the teachers. They took on the task of training students to face the KSQAO assessment. Extra classes were held even on Sundays and the model questions in the KSQAO booklet were practiced. Even though similar questions were framed, the students were told not to expect the same and were prepared for other questions. It meant they never encouraged rote learning. Examples from daily life were drawn out while structuring the model questions. Learning centered around non rote practises only help the child to broaden his horizons of learning. This school only emphasised this principle.

Tailpiece: At the first government school, a girl entered the class crying while the evaluation was about to begin. She had met with an accident on the way and was shaken by the incident. The evaluator, a teacher from another government school, took the girl in her arms, consoled and cheered her up. Sensing that it would not be enough, the teacher asked the entire class to join her in a small dance and she herself led way by singing and dancing. The whole class was on its feet swinging. The shaken girl was all smiles now. The right mood had been created in the class room.

H N Ananda is Consultant, Documentation at the Azim Premji Foundation

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March 1, 2008 - Posted by | Schools in Karnataka State

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for this interesting account. We’ve linked to it at the Karnataka Learning Partnership blog (http://blog.klp.org.in)

    Comment by Gowri | August 4, 2008 | Reply


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