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Building Replicable Model to Enhance Quality of Elementary Education in Rural and Tribal Areas

Supported by: 
Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust
Status: 
Completed
Status Date: 
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Location: Wada Taluka, Thane District, Maharashtra
 
Period: August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2013 
 
Total Project cost: Rs 1,39,01,812/-
 
Summary:
In August 2009, QUEST received grant of Rs 1,04,00,000/-from NRTT for its Project: Building Replicable Model to Enhance Quality of Elementary Education in Rural and Tribal Areas in Wada taluka of Thane district, Maharashtra. QUEST reached to over 1200 underprivileged Tribal children through its Balbhavan program, and to 720 children through its Anganwadi strengthening program. QUEST also produced various resources such as books and educational short films under this project.
 
The main components of the project were as follows:
 
A. Expansion of Grameen Balbhavan Programme
QUEST has been running its Grameen Balbhavan Programme in 10 villages in Wada Taluka of Thane District. Balbhavan is a school plus programme where children from Grade 1 to 4 are given inputs in Language Mathematics and Elementary Science after or before school hours, through Balmitra, a specially trained village youth. 
Over 4 years, QUEST reached to around 1273 students from 10 Balbhavans in Wada block of Thane District. The Progress of the students in the Balbhavans was comprehensively tested by Ms. Suneeta Kulkarni and showed a significant difference over students from non- non-intervention schools. 
The Balbhavan program was completely supported by Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) in its initial phases. Looking at the merits of the program, other organizations like SPA Education Foundation, Forbes Marshall, PrajFoundation METORES Trust have come forward to support this initiative.
Trainings for Balmitras: 
One of the strong points of the programme was regular inputs for Balmitra on Language, Maths, Library and Communication by various Resource Persons viz. Meena Nimkar, Varsha Sahasrabuddhe, Archana Kulkarni, Mandar Gokhale, Geetanjali Kulkarni. The Theatre workshops conducted over last two years helped the Balmitras in developing their communication skills which indirectly helped Language development. 
 
B.  Anganwadi Samrudhi Karyakram
The Anganwadi, run under the ‘Integrated Child development Services’ scheme by the government, caters to the needs of children in the age group of 1-3 years. Early Childhood Education (ECE), one of the six services offered by ICDS is the weakest service. The reason lies in the training provided to the Anganwadi workers. 
QUEST’s intervention in Anganwadis aimed at strengthening the early childhood education component. In the initial phase the programme was offered through Balmitras in 7 Anganwadis on an experimental basis. Though this showed a positive impact on children’s school readiness, the model was difficult to replicate and expand because the inputs totally depended on availability of a trained Balmitra in a given village. Another weak link in the programme was having no formal understanding with the ICDS department. QUEST worked out various strategies to receive support from various stake holders and was eventually successful in getting permission from ICDS to train the Anganwadi workers. 
QUEST has designed a 6 stage programme for strengthening ECE in AWs. The 6 stage programme spans over one and half years. The AW sevika’s are given inputs in a 2 day workshop for each stage followed by onsite support and supervision. 4 stages were completed under this NRTT project.
 
C. LiRIL
QUEST is participating in LiRIL (Literacy Research in Indian Languages), a collaborative longitudinal study in Early literacy conducted under the guidance of Dr. Shailaja Menon. The LiRIL project aims to undertake foundational longitudinal research on children’s early acquisition of reading and writing in two different Indian languages – Kannada and Marathi. Most of the research in early literacy has been literacy has been generated in Western, English-speaking contexts. We lack an understanding of each of these aspects in terms of children’s acquisition of reading and writing in different Indian languages. 
SRTT, in collaboration with trust partners and Dr. Shailaja Menon (of AzimPremji University) undertook a longitudinal project on early literacy in Indian languages. This project started in August 2013 in collaboration with two Trust partners, QUEST (Sonale, Maharashtra) and Kallike (Yaadgir, Karnataka), to study literacy teaching and learning in two different Indian languages – Kannada and Marathi. As a ground work for the longitudinal study, the LiRIL team conducted pilot work at the two research sites for two academic years (July 2011- June 2012; and July 2012-July 2013). During these two years, an extensive set of literacy assessments in each of the two languages was been developed and field tested. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected through field-testing the assessment battery on students (Grades 1-5), conducting classroom observations, teacher interviews, curricular analyses, and a pilot case-study of a girl child from a family that migrates seasonally.
 
D. Innovation Fund
Under the innovation fund with NRTT’s permission, classes for Dance and singing were arranged on an experimental basis. The classes continued for two years with participation of 61 children from two villages of Sonale and Dadhre. The children even got the opportunity to perform on stage twice. Though this was a good start, it became difficult to sustain the programme due to various reasons like unavailability of the Resource Persons and geographic distance between the participants. Hence the programme was withdrawn. 
 
E. Doorstep Library
In order to create a literate atmosphere in the community, books were provided at their doorsteps through Balmitras. It was proposed to start the library in 7 villages catering to 1000 people. It started in 5 villages which gradually reduced to 3 villages and the number of members decreased too.  
This component did not work out as it was visualized.  It was difficult to find suitable titles which the parents were demanding. It was observed that often parents returned the books without reading them. Also, Balmitra themselves had a limited exposure to books and hence could not promote the library effectively. Ultimately it was decided to reach out to past students of Balbhavans, who started taking advantage of the library. On an average 100 books were exchanged during a month in these Balbhavans.
 
F. Material Development:
1. Development of books for children
Taking into consideration of dearth of literature for beginning readers in Marathi, QUEST had intended to develop 5 big books and 20 small books. By the end of year 1 of the grant, QUEST developed 1 big book and 9 small books in 4 colour offset. 2 out of 10 books have been published in 4 languages (Marathi, Hindi, English, Gujrati), namely Oo-Too & Bee Lavla. 
Copies of ready to print designs were shared with the Publishers of children’s Literature. However, the response from the printers was not very encouraging. The publishers found them economically unviable to publish 4-colour books. Hence, QUEST developed 5 single colour books till the end of the grant period. The names of the books are:- Naavech Nave, Paatyach Patya, Shal Palavali Tari, Khishaat Mavel Evadha Church, Rayadi Baaeechi Ahadi. 
 
2. Development of Video Resources for Teachers
QUEST completed the production of 19 educational films under this grant, on topics such as  concept of Balbhavan, Early Literacy and teaching of Mathematics were completed. These films were shot live with a multi-camera set up, to capture the rich interaction in a live classroom. QUEST has used these films and found them to be very useful not only for training of the new Balmitras but also during training for other organizations under external resource support and for training of teachers from KGBVs in Jalna District. The films were also used for the D.Ed intervention, a component of QUEST’s Nandurbar Project. QUEST has integrated the Math films in the online course on Mathematics that QUEST is conducting. The films were made available on QUEST’s website. Two of the films were used by an educator in a workshop in Dubai and she reported that they could easily cross the linguistic & cultural boundaries.  
 
G. External Resource Support to Other Organizations
Looking at the impact on learning levels in Balbhavans and Anganwadis, QUEST proposed to support 3-5 other organizations working in the field of education. A 12-day training module was designed which had elements of both on-site and in-house trainings. 
Over 4 years, QUEST conducted workshops for 13 organizations viz. Samarthya, Jeevan Vidya Trust, KSU, Meljol, Janaseva, Janarth, PragatiPratishthan, ARCH, Daughters of Cross Mission at Velugaon, Dediyapada and Manor, Khelghar, AdiwasiSahajShikshanPariwar, Jaag Foundation.  The interactions with the organizations were not limited to just the educational part but also the overall functioning of the project and the various strategies used. 
 
H. Resource Centre at Sonale
The Resource Centre at Sonale is rich with books and audio-visual materials as proposed. The Shikshak Abhyas Mandal which is one of the important activities of the Centre has completed its 50 meetings during this period. Though it did not take off as a strong centre point of activity for teachers and students despite many attempts of conducting Math Remedial and Science Toys activities in the Centre, it has become an ideal place for conducting training and workshops for teachers and students. The reason for lack of sustainability is the long distance from the main centre. Amidst this situation, too, on an average, 20 various groups visit QUEST annually. These visitors are mostly teachers, educators, government officials, organizations working in the similar field and well-wishers/supporters.