EDUCATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

Proposal for a Model Programme in 500 Blocks

Sept. 9, 1997

Purpose

To introduce advance methods of primary education into India that can dramatically accelerate the pace and increase the quality of early childhood learning in both rural and urban areas through an intensive model programme covering 500 blocks spread throughout the country.

Methodology

Significant advances have been made in the West over the last few decades in methods and technology for increasing the speed and quality of primary education. Some of these methods can be applied universally in any country or context to achieve enormous improvements in child education. One highly successful approach to early childhood learning has been evolved in the USA by the Institute for the Development of Human Potential, founded by the eminent educationist Dr. Glenn Doman. Doman’s work is founded upon the conviction that learning is a natural instinctive urge in young children that is very often curbed or destroyed either by neglect and lack of exposure or by compulsory teaching. During more than three decades of work with both normal and brain damaged children, Doman has shown that exposing young children to interesting sources of information for very brief periods each day actually stimulates the development of the brain cells during early years and fosters a spontaneous curiosity and natural love of learning in children. Doman’s methods have been practiced for more than 20 years at the Institute’s school in Philadelphia and more recently in similar institutions established in South America, Western Europe and Japan. The same methods have been applied successfully by more than one million parents around the world.

In 1992 a primary school was established by Mr. and Mrs. S. Raghavan at Arasavanangkadu, a village of 1500 people situtated ten kilometers from Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu to apply and test Doman’s methods in a rural Indian setting. The school commenced operations in mid 1994 admitting 15 children aged 3 - 3 to the first class. All of the children were drawn from low income, scheduled caste families in which they are the first generation to receive any education. The act of teaching consists primarily of presenting sensory images, objects and information to the child in a pleasant and interesting manner and permitting the child to observe and inquire about the subject, without compelling the child to memorize. Coloured flash cards with large images are utilized as convenient, low cost teaching aids. Rapid acquisition of basic reading and verbal skills in multiple languages occurs naturally by exposing the child to whole words as objects repetitively for very brief periods. In this manner at a young age even children of illiterate parents learn several languages as effortlessly as they normally learn to speak their native tongue. A large portion of the teaching materials are produced at the school by the teachers, who customize their teaching aids to suit the interests and knowledge levels of the students. Rapid acquisition of basic math skills is achieved through the use of number line method which enables the child to physically experiment and act out different combinations of addition and subtraction. Information on people and other living things, places, history, geography, and other cultures are presented to the child in the form of stories, pictorial information and explanations combined together to present facts in a living, integrated context rather than as a series of separate divorced subjects.

The dramatic results achieved at the Arasavanangkadu school demonstrate that Doman’s methods can be extremely effective, even when utilized with children from educationally backward rural communities. By the end of the first 18 months, very average children are able to read simple Tamil and English stories. During the same period, they also learn to recognize all the states of India, the geography of the country, the continents, peoples of the world and a wide range of plant and animal species. In addition to teaching the children, the school also engaged two unemployed women from the village with teaching credentials and successfully trained in these methods. The trainees have learned and now regularly apply these methods for teaching our children and they also actively participate in the design of lessons and production of the teaching materials. Although there was initial skepticism and suspicion from the village community, including the families of the first year children, parents have become proud of their children and the village as a whole has come to embrace the school. Requests for admission are coming from villages in a ten mile radius. These results can be compared with the learning of children from comparable backgrounds attending the local public school, most of whom are unable to read and understand even Tamil sentences at the end of six years of primary education.

The availability of low cost, easy to use personal computers has added a powerful new tool for early child education that can be adapted in a cost-effective manner to increase the speed and quality of learning. New methods of teaching which take full advantage of the computer have proven highly effective in model schools established in the USA. A low cost, modified version of these successful methods can be adapted to Indian conditions in combination with Doman’s basic educational methods to make these methods even more effective. The Arasavanangkadu school has already been successful in enhancing its teaching methodology by introduction of the computer as a teaching and learning instrument.

Strategy

The objective of this proposal is to promote the widespread adoption of Doman’s advanced teaching methods throughout India. The strategy proposed is to establish 500 schools based on the new methods in 500 different blocks around the country. The dramatic improvement in learning achieved by these methods will act as a powerful demonstration and generate considerable interest from both the educational profession and the general public. This can be expected to result in the establishment of new schools in the private sector based on the new methods as well as the gradual conversion of existing private and public schools.

Doman’s methods can be enhanced by combining the classroom education that he advocates with computer-aided learning and with skill-based vocational training for all students of 7 years of age and older. By this means, students in rural areas will acquire high levels of both academic knowledge and practical life-oriented work skills before graduation from High School. This education and training will better equip them from success in life than the average college educated student in India today.

Action Plan

The proposal calls for the following concrete action steps by Government:

  1. Send a small delegation of five or six people, including one of the Raghavans, to the USA to visit Doman’s institute and to prepare a detailed report on the method of education and its suitability to Indian conditions.
  2. Prepare detailed business plans for the establishment of 500 block level schools.
  3. Establish 2 to 4 regional training institutes in India to provide six month training courses to a total of 1000 teachers per year for the next eight years. Establish a model school at each training institute, so that the training can include actual teaching experience with the new methods.
  4. Establish 500 block level schools around the country starting with one class per school. Each half year one additional trained teacher will be assigned to each school to support addition of a new class of students. Each classroom will be equipped with one personal computer, large screen television and VCR for use as a teaching tool.
  5. Establish a vocational training center at each of the 500 schools to impart vocational skills to all students from age 7 years onwards.
  6. Document the progress of the students every six months through external studies and evaluations.
  7. Widely publicize the results achieved by students at the new schools in comparison with student achievements in other schools.
  8. Encourage private sector initiative to establish additional schools and teacher training institutes utilizing the new methods.
  9. Conduct detailed studies to determine the most effective way of converting existing public and private schools to the new methods.
  10. Provide incentives to state governments for adopting the new methods in existing schools.

Five Year Budget

Lakh Rs

Establishment of 4 regional training institutes and model schools to train a total of 1000 teachers/year @ Rs50 lakhs for fixed costs & Rs50 lakhs/year recurring cost x 5 years x 4 centers

 

 

12.00

Establishment of 500 block level schools adding two classrooms per year @ Rs 4.00 lakhs fixed and Rs2.50 lakhs per school per year x 500 schools x 5 years

150.50

Total cost for five years

162.50

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