By Vrinda Sarup
Critical to a good foundation is a grip on the language. This is less complicated when the local language is the medium of instruction. It is for this reason that the draft New Educational Policy lays a strong case for early foundational learning in language and maths. This is well recognised amongst educationists, academia and practitioners. Numerous methods exist for achieving this objective, both in the government and private-run schools. Yet, there is no mandated common comprehensive design or methodology to ensure a strong foundation in language and mathematics by Class 3. This situation exists across all government schools.
The National Achievement Studies of the NCERT or ASER shows poor performance of children in language learning and simple mathematics. This is alarming, as the bulk of enrolments (70-75%) are in government-run schools.
A government primary school in Mirzapur village of district Kurukshetra, Haryana seems to be following a different approach. Five-seven year olds in Class 1 and Class 2 can read stories from their textbooks and story books with fluency (in their dialect, which is a form of Hindi). These children are from deprived backgrounds and are first-generation learners. There are taught by young teachers, who are earmarked teachers for Class1 and 2, and have been intensively trained by the Language and Learning Foundation (LLF), an NGO working closely with the government of Haryana to build a strong foundation of language and learning in seven districts of the state.
The Haryana Education Department appears committed to sustain the methodology that has emerged, to ensure that language learning foundation of Class 1 to 3 students is strong. The local education administrators are confident that by the time of the next National Achievement Studies, ASER or the state's own assessment of student learning, their Class 3 children will scorebetter. To ensure better results, educational administrators have themselves gone through training and have developed a sense of understanding to use this methodology.
The LLF instructional design seems to have brought a complete transformation in the teachers' approach towards teaching local language, which is Hindi in this case. The teachers gradually and progressively help children develop an understanding of Hindi words, sentences, followed by stories, poems and writing skills. The workbooks are well-crafted and are used by the children to develop writing skills. These can also be used as colouring books or material for augmenting motor skills. There is compatibility between the prescribed class textbook, Jhilmil, and a comprehensive Teacher Guide, which reminds the teacher of the scope and variety of classroom transactions that she has been trained for, including the way in which she can move forward.
The block level supervisors and the LLF support staff are regular visitors to the school. They hold periodic reviews to reinforce the teaching methodology as well as to assess learning outcomes.
Haryana seems to have demonstrated a resolve to tackle the quality learning challenge by going to its very root-ensuring sound language learning at the base of schooling. They have also, unhesitatingly, invested in the best expertise to build a system of teacher training and supervisory management, which will help attain this objective. If the Mirzapur village primary school is anything to go by, then both the government of Haryana and LLF are showing a way forward to a new young India.
Former Secretary School Education and Literacy, Government of India. Views are personal.