By equipping students with soft skills, Madurai-based Aparajitha Foundation is determined to create a generation of confident citizens

K. Divya, a class VIII student of Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Thirumangalam, is good in academics but a shy person. Of late, she has started making eye contact when she talks with people.

Archana, a class X student of NMSM Corporation Higher Secondary School, Madurai, got irritated easily and would often cry and scream. Now she is able to control her anger and handle negative feelings.

Achuraj, studying in Class IX in Sundaram Fasteners MHSS, Aviyur, suffered from an inferiority complex and avoided any kind of competition. Now, he believes he too can win prizes.

These are some of the changes taking place in young students attending Government and Corporation schools across Tamil Nadu. Similar changes will be visible in Gujarat and Hyderabad too. They are being helped to rediscover themselves by the Madurai-based Aparajitha Foundation, charitable arm of the Aparajitha group. The students receive 20 audiovisual lessons each, once a week, for classes VII to XII, to prepare them psychologically and socially to face the real world.

The exercise is called the ‘Thalir Thiran Thittam' (TTT), and the curriculum contains 120 lessons focusing on developing various soft skills in children and applying them in real life. The interactive lessons are delivered through fun-filled activities in the classroom. Visually rich DVDs are created and supplied by the Foundation, containing music, games, puzzles and songs.

Says Mr. Bharath K.S., Chairman and Managing Director of the Aparajitha group, “The idea is to create a transformational change through awareness and holistic preparedness that will enhance employability of these students in the future.”

He points out that students coming from less privileged social or economic backgrounds have an initial disadvantage in coping with others, which burdens them with a huge handicap as they begin their careers.

“Regular curriculum equips them with knowledge and hard skills but it does not cover the soft skills relating to emotional and social intelligence, which become the deciding factor to move ahead in a competitive world later on,” he adds.

To bridge the gap, the TTT curriculum teaches communication skills, critical thinking, creativity, handling stress and emotions, gender sensitization and equality, etiquette, self-confidence and self-awareness, mingling with others, decision making, problem solving, goal setting, adapting to changes, and expressing disagreements amicably.

Launched in 2008 as a pilot project in five Government schools in Madurai, TTT has become a State-wide scheme today, covering 4,239 Government schools and 150 aided schools and reaching out to 15 lakh students.

Gujarat follows TN

The Gujarat government will be introducing it in its 6,769 Government and aided schools from this year, where TTT will be known as “Tim Tim Taare”. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed last April and video lessons have been created in Gujarati and sent for the State Government's approval. Video lessons are also being made in English, Hindi and Telugu following a proposal from Hyderabad requesting TTT lessons for primary schools.

The Ross School of Business, affiliated to The University of Michigan in the U.S., conducts research on TTT and offers suggestions annually to implement it across various levels.

The change is visible. Ms. Indumathi, Head Mistress of Sitalakshmi Girls HSS, Thirunagar, writes in the Foundation's journal: “I see a difference in the way students who have undergone TTT classes behave in the classroom, on the campus and in general. They have become more confident and better behaved; they treat elders with respect and help each other. They have become better in social graces.”

“TTT has turned students from being mere listeners into active participants,” says Mr. Shanmuganathan, teacher at Thiruvalluvar Govt. HSS, Tirupur. “Students who were humming only film songs have started humming TTT songs. I have no doubt that this programme will transform them totally”.

The response from school administrators, headmasters, teachers and students has encouraged the Foundation to extend the programme's reach to students younger than 10 and older than 18.

Says Ariaravelan, Project Manager TTT, “Feedbacks from those who have benefited by these lessons are a clear indication of their budding self-confidence. It is our duty to strengthen these positive traits in them and help them optimise their potential.”

TTT Methodology

* The framework of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has been used as a basis to develop the curriculum, which spans the formative years, from Class VII to XII.

* The program employs Active Participatory Learning Methodology instead of normal instructional methodology. It uses electronic visual and audio learning kit for the students supported by the school teachers acting as facilitators.

Participatory learning

* Builds on the experience, opinions and knowledge of group members

* Provides a creative context for exploring possibilities and defining options

* Provides a source of mutual comfort and security which is important for the learning and decision making process