Imagine a school where students decide on lessons and mode of teaching, actually teach and evaluate each other even as teachers watch unobtrusively — to intervene only when necessary! This is not a new-age corporate school’s experiment but an attempt in government-funded schools for children from the poor and socially marginalised sections of Telangana.
The Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TSWREIS), which runs 268 social welfare schools providing free education, food and clothes to nearly 1.5 lakh children from class 5 to 12, is introducing the novel concept from the coming academic year.
“We are calling it ‘Freedom Schooling’ with students playing a proactive role in deciding pedagogy. Topics will be divided into modules for effective understanding of inter-disciplinary approach to subjects like math and biology, for instance, to make lessons more interesting,” says TSWREIS secretary R.S. Praveen Kumar.
Ten boy students and an equal number of girls from classes five to eight chosen from 13 schools totalling 1,240 will be put in charge of classrooms with teachers playing the role of a facilitator. They will be writing essays, making presentations, preparing project reports and make their own informal assessments daily before the teacher intervenes.
Students will be provided with seamless internet connectivity, pre-loaded content tablets and access to other online information with filters in place. “These early innovators will form the inner circle. They will be encouraged to teach others, especially slow learners, to spread the group. Focus will be to find out where they are lagging by going to their level and peers are the best bet,” says Mr. Kumar.
In fact, it is an extension of ‘Green Gurus’ idea initiated in 20 schools of excellence four years ago where best students were identified and encouraged to teach lower classes. Such ‘teaching assistants’ were also entitled to payment per class taken and this helped them earn much needed pocket money.
“Teaching is also the best way of learning. The concept of teaching assistants gave us excellent results. It also helps us tackle teachers attrition rate since we have been finding it very difficult to hire good teachers,” says Dr. Kumar, an IPS officer, who brought about a sea-change in functioning of these schools.
TSWREIS took a conscious decision to empower students. “Schools are the best platforms to break stereotypes. My students are no different from others and can play multiple roles effectively even if their parents cannot read or write,” adds Dr. Kumar.
This summer, some teachers will undergo training to become ‘observers’ to kick off this novel idea.