Bridging Gaps in Primary Education

In rural areas where there is no accessible or functioning government primary school, communities, with Seva Mandir’s help, run Shiksha Kendras which cater to children (nearly half of them girls) from remote hamlets which have no access to schools. These bridge schools aim to prepare children for government-run schools by giving them the necessary literacy and numeracy skills. Bridge schools typically have 25-30 pupils between the ages of six and 14. Most Shiksha Kendras are run by one teacher, but schools which have larger numbers of pupils will have several instructors, providing a pupil-teacher ratio of 30:1. To assess and track the progress of children in the Shiksha Kendras, Seva Mandir conducts evaluations twice in an academic year.

A number of systems have been put in place to assure the efficacy of the

Shiksha Kendras. The teachers are selected from the local community, so as to create a comfortable learning space for the children, with pupils and teachers sharing a common mother tongue and culture. All teachers receive full training in teaching academic subjects and management of SKs to ensure that they can deliver quality education. A management system has been implemented that promotes enthusiasm for teaching and creates an ethos of accountability, ensuring that the bridge schools are run efficiently and successfully. Three time- and date-stamped photos of teachers and children are taken daily (and checked regularly) to ensure that schools run according to schedule. To further deepen the relationship between the Shiksha Kendras and the children’s parents, Parent-Teacher meetings are organised once every two to three months so that parents can follow their child’s progress and have discussions with the teacher.

Education at the Shiksha Kendras revolves around participatory, activity-based and child-centred learning. This engaging style of teaching shows children that learning can be fun, whilst giving them the essential skills needed to move up through the classes and then on to a government high school or, in some places, private school. Children are taught both Hindi and English alongside maths.

A recent scheme is introducing digital tablets to improve the teaching of English, a subject which the Shiksha Kendra teachers find hard as they do not have exposure to the language on a regular basis. The tablets are installed with language learning apps and videos, specifically chosen to benefit the children’s age group. This initiative makes it easier for teachers as well as children to learn English, at the same time as improving their use of technology in an area where people still have difficulty accessing information about what is happening in the world.


Impact

Pupils in Shiksha Kendras tend to perform better than their peers in government schools. A recent comparison shows that, whereas government pupils in grades 4 and 5 scored 30% in Hindi, 25% in maths and 5% in English, children from level A of our Shiksha Kendras scored on average 60%, 56% and 43% respectively.

The quality of the education provided by Shiksha Kendras, and their accessibility, has given rural communities a more positive attitude towards education, and we have provided a quality education to approximately 39,000 children since the Shiksha Kendra programme began. Encouragingly, a large proportion of students are now girls, which is an indicator of a change in traditional attitudes towards their access to education; between 2008 and 2018, 44% of enrolled students were girls. In earlier times they would have been kept at home to work or look after younger siblings while the parents worked.

The comparative results of half-yearly evaluation for the Shiksha Kendras showed that there was an increase of 10% in the number of children achieving Level 3 (the highest grade) between 2007 to 2018, while there was a decrease of 3% in the number of children achieving the lowest grade, Level 0/1, in the same time period.

Every year also shows an increase in the proportion of Shiksha Kendra students who enrol in government schools to continue their studies, with over half of those who enrol entering Grades 5 and 6. Since 2007, over 12,500 children have graduated into government or private schools.

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