What does it take to build joyful learning experiences for children?

At the end of USAID’s program in 2015, we continued to work with government middle schools in Samastipur, Bihar, under our flagship program Anandshala. Over the years, we have researched, experimented and learnt a lot about what it takes to sustain these learning experiences.

Bihar’s dropout rate at the middle-school level (6-8th grade) is 8.9%; the highest in the country. Samastipur was one of Bihar’s most educationally backward districts. Low learning levels, coupled with a lack of infrastructure and resources resulted in high student-teacher ratio, which exhausted an already fraught situation. The subject-based curriculum training for educators was not adequate for 21st century teaching practices that children needed. A lack of recognition and support for teachers and headmasters also led to further demotivation.

Through Anandshala, the school dropout prevention model was adapted and integrated with existing government systems to support change at a school level. It was vital for us that the school, the community and the government work together to drive lasting change. There were 6 key areas we focused on to help create and nurture joyful, meaningful learning environments where children stay, engage and learn.

1] School enrichment

Curate and conduct activities that help children learn outside the classroom, engage with peers and sharpen their 21st century skills. For example regular morning assembly, Bal Sansad (student parliaments) and last class activities.

2] Student agency

Let students take the lead. Create a safe environment where students can talk about the challenges they face. Empower them and provide the support they need to find solutions to challenges. Strengthening Bal Sansads has helped build student ownership and created support systems to improve school environments.

3] Educator capacity building

Build capacities of educators to help them identify, curate and provide the nuanced support their students need. Boost data-driven response strategies and 21st century mindset to aid better feedback loops in the classroom.

4] Content and pedagogy support

Help teachers find ways to make content more engaging. Teacher workload, if designed properly – can be reduced, and their time can be focused on improving teacher-student relationships.

5] Parents and community engagement

Keep parents, caregivers and the community involved in the child’s learning journey. Build trust between parents and schools through regular open houses, home visits or an automated telephony system like IVRS to keep them updated on progress.

6] Change leaders and teacher recognition

Support the government system to train school and community stakeholders on building joyful learning environments. Recognize and reward educators and schools for good practices. The Anandshala Shiksha Ratna Puraskar has been initiated and run for over 5 years in partnership with the District Administration of Samastipur, and has managed to promote adoption of good practices across the district.

With the generosity of the district government in Samastipur and funders like – the Charities Aid Foundation, the Dalyan Foundation, Impact Foundation India, HDFC, The Hans Foundation, Voluntary Service Overseas, Porticus Asia Ltd., Give India Foundation, Idea, Max Foundation, Mid Valley Health Care Services Pvt. Ltd., Sanjeev Prasad, UNICEF and VIP Industries – we were able to co-create a scalable model for government middle schools that:

  • Nurtured a more responsive education system
  • Helped students from the most marginalized backgrounds stay, engage and learn
  • Increased focus on building 21st century skills
  • Improved learning outcomes
  • Bettered teacher-student relationship
  • Enhanced student leadership and ownership towards schools
  • Improved teacher motivation and community engagement

Since 2015, Anandshala has impacted 106,800+ children, 53% of whom are girls. It has built capacities of 3,800+ educators and worked with government education functionaries in 380+ schools.

Author: thelearnerbyquest

Quest Alliance's space for reflection on the education sector

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