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Three schools from Delhi have made it to the nationwide list of top 12 government schools

Top form: A student-programmed robot   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The walls of the entryway of the school are covered with bright charts that talk about everything from sustainable development and ‘Swachh Bharat’ to ‘happiness goals’ and exam schedules. The cream-coloured floor gleams and the sun peeps out from the clouds behind the rows of students — dupattas pinned, shirts tucked in, not a hair out of place — sitting quietly for morning assembly. It’s 8 a.m. on a hazy Delhi morning and this school in Dwarka Sector 10 is about to flip my perception of government schools completely.

“Government schools in India get a bad rap,” says Principal T.P. Singh. “But with RPVV, we try to do better.” The results are evident. The Dwarka branch of RPVV or Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya, along with its counterparts in Lajpat Nagar and Rohini Sector 11, are the three schools from Delhi that have made it to the nationwide list of top 12 government schools that’s been compiled by EducationWorld portal as part of its India School Rankings 2017-18. In fact, the Dwarka school tops the list, with the Lajpat Nagar and Rohini schools at No. 6 and No. 12, respectively.

Labs and libraries

The RPVV schools, a Delhi government initiative to provide quality education to marginalised sections, were first opened in 1997, with one each in Rohini, Paschim Vihar and Surajmal Vihar. Twenty-one years later, there are 22 schools, with five of them launched last year alone.

All of them boast of language labs, upgraded auditoriums, relatively well-stocked libraries and, most importantly, a teacher-student ratio of 1:35. They take in students from Classes VI to XII and admissions are through an entrance test. Students are eligible only if they have studied in a government school for a minimum of two years.

When RPVVs were started as schools for high performers, they had the same shortcomings as other government schools — poor infrastructure, undefined learning outcomes, dated teaching methods. “But the last four or five years have seen a lot of change,” says geography teacher Neerja Lamba, who has been with the school since 2003. “We have a stress-free learning and teaching environment now. There are cultural activities and exchange programmes; students want to come to school,” she says. Singh points out that the Delhi government has given the schools a free hand for improvements. “For example, for any expenditure below ₹50,000, I don’t have to write to the government. Little things like this make it so much easier.”

Over the past four years, the Delhi government has steadily increased funding for education, from 20% budgetary allocation in 2015 to 23.5% in 2017 and 26% in 2018.

Principal T.P. Singh

Principal T.P. Singh   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The schools’ improved infrastructure is testament to that. In the Dwarka branch, there’s a fully air-conditioned auditorium, a conference hall open to both teachers and students, and a spanking new running track that instantly catches the eye. The labs have the latest equipment; there’s a ‘project development’ room where students are recycling paper; and there are working water purifiers on every floor.

Robot Gangnam Style

The change is nowhere more perceptible than in the Rohini Sector 11 school, halfway across the city, where I find Class X student Prashant Kumar elbow-deep in a half-built drone. He is working after school hours in what the school calls the ‘Atal Tinkering Lab’. “I’m pretty sure I can get it to fly in a day or two; I just need to stabilise the gyro sensor,” Kumar says confidently. His supervisor Vivek smiles behind him. “That’s going to need another month or two,” he says. Close by, Class XII student Pratham Chopra’s robot is dancing to ‘Gangnam Style’. The coding took four months, says Chopra.

In the corner there is an actual 3D printer, the table around it littered with prototypes of printed whistles. The design’s final version is now being used by the school’s PT teachers. Science teacher Sadaf Fathima shows us a keychain printed in the shape of her name. The lab is the school’s pride and joy, set up as part of the Central government’s Atal Innovation Mission. Nearly 10,000 schools across the country applied for the grant, and RPVV-Rohini was among those to bag it in the first round.

Food, water, lessons

The one-year-old lab has sparked an interest in science among students, helping also to bring more girls in, say teachers. There are only three girls in the Class XII science stream this year, but the trend is beginning to slowly change in the younger classes, they say.

Social sciences teacher Shivani Singh says such facilities help immensely to address one of the biggest

Happy faces in the classroom in the Dwarka Sector school

Happy faces in the classroom in the Dwarka Sector school   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

problems of government schools: dropouts. In the Dwarka school, 63% of students come from families with monthly incomes below ₹5,000; their parents are rickshaw-pullers, labourers, sweepers, tailors, mechanics, domestic help, etc. When these students come into Class VI, they are undernourished, unable to take home school work, and, in some cases, have to contribute to the household income by taking up odd jobs.

But even as the dropout rate in Delhi government schools has been increasing, from 2.9% in 2014-15 to 3.4% in 2016-17 ( study), with worse results in municipal corporation schools, the RPVVs don’t have any dropouts. “Children want to do more than just study from textbooks. The ‘more’ is what we provide,” says Shivani. “They get clean water and nutritious food like dal chawal, daliya porridge, poori-sabzi. Girls get sanitary napkins,” she says.

Walking through the school’s corridors, both at Dwarka and Rohini, there is a steady stream of ‘good morning’ greetings around us. The students, free for the day after a gruelling exam, are not reticent and engage with their teachers comfortably. “That took a lot of hard work,” says Principal Singh. It was not just academics but also student-teacher relationships that needed overhauling. From improving teachers’ listening and communication skills to newer teaching methods and learning objectives, “we needed a change in pedagogy,” says Singh.

A new pedagogy

It was this need that led him to begin the Cluster Leadership Development Programme, running now in all schools under the Directorate of Education in Delhi. “We select 10 or so principals, area-wise, and get them to work with a facilitator-trainer. The principals, in turn, go back to their schools and work with the teachers,” he says.

This has reduced teacher-student conflict, Singh says. “And communication skills among students have improved; it’s not great, but it’s much better than what it used to be.”

Students at play on the Rohini campus

Students at play on the Rohini campus   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The clubs and extra-curricular activities also play a big role. RPVV Rohini, for instance, has a Legal Advocacy Club where lawyers and judges address the children once a month. The Bal Bhavan Kendra is an arts and crafts initiative sponsored by the government’s National Bal Bhavan in addition to regular art classes. I find a classroom filled with Madhubani paintings, wall hangings, home decor items, and more.

We walk into a room full of Class X students, and when they hear of their school’s ranking, they break into ear-to-ear grins. Asked about their ambitions, they list scientists, doctors and more, but among them a handful says ‘teacher’. They are as excited to teach in this school as they are to learn. The teachers accompanying us couldn’t have been prouder.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 8:18:17 AM |

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