Melige village is located in Tirthahalli taluka of Shimoga district, Karnataka with a moderate population of 882 people. The sex ratio of Melige is higher than the state average (1100 as against 973 in Karnataka). It has the highest literacy rate when compared to other villages in the state (87.65 %). Gender difference in education is not severe as compared to other villages in the state.
The government high school of Melige village with the active involvement of the former Head Master (HM) has taken an interesting initiative. The school conducts special classes for 10th class students to improve the academic performance and to increase the overall pass percentage of the students. Prior to implementing this special classes, the former HM had discussed it with teachers and the School Development and Monitoring Committee – SDMC, (which also has representation from parents). He asked the teachers to collect every student’s academic records, residential address and contact numbers. Further, based on the academic records, students were divided into smaller groups. Each group is a mix of students who performed well in academics and those who did not. The performance was assessed on the student’s yearlong academic records. Thereafter, the group was equally divided based on the strength of students in a class and the number of teachers available. Each teacher was made responsible for the academic performance of one group so that additional individual attention could be provided. The data on residential addresses and contact numbers were used to trace the students’ progress frequently.
At the beginning of each academic year, the teachers visited the homes of all students to inform their parents regarding special classes and seek their cooperation in implementing it. During their home visits, the teachers convinced the parents to allow their child to attend extra classes in the morning and evening (group study). In parallel, the teachers also assessed if the environment at home was conducive for the child to study. Accordingly, they advised parents on how it could be improved to the best possible extent (For example, putting up some study charts provided by the school in the room in which the student studied). In a few homes, teachers observed that they had no electricity connection; they distributed solar lamps through donations received from the local Rotary and Desi clubs. One of the additional duties of the teachers was to convince the parents about significance of girls’ education as compared with the household work responsibility.
Special classes are conducted before the commencement of regular classes. Students need to be present at school by 8.30 a.m. and it ends at 9.30 a.m. The regular class commences from 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. In the evening, after the school hours, the students need to stay back for group study sessions from 4.30 p.m. to 5.45 p.m. The subjects that are taught in the morning are taken up for the group discussion in the evening session and the respective subject teacher is expected to be present during that discussion. Students who do well in most subjects are made the leader for his/her study group. During the group study sessions, the leader is responsible to teach and clarify any doubts raised by other students from his/her group, therefore offering peer support. In case the leader is not able to solve these doubts, it is solved by the respective subject teacher. The teachers mentioned that this method of teaching has significantly increased the peer group academic skills as well as confidence level of the students.
Every morning and evening, students are expected to give a call to their group teacher and the teacher in turn notes down their study hours. The teachers face some difficulties in monitoring the students’ study hours because a significant proportion of students could not afford mobile phone. Therefore, this technological dependency acts as a hurdle for effective communication and monitoring. But teachers visit the homes of students to make up for this loss. However, the frequency of these visits has reduced as more and more families have chosen to get mobile phones.
In the first few years, special classes were limited only to 10th standard students but since the past three years (from 2017-18) the school has extended this intervention to 8th and 9th standard students also.
Over the years, this special classes led to an increase in student enrolment and gradually improved the overall academic performance of the students. Due to this slipover effect, children from other surrounding villages have been motivated to enrol in this school. Through this intervention teachers were able to give individual attention and at the end of the day, the students were able to understand the concepts with the peers. The process of new learning method helped children to build self-confidence and they were able to understand the subject matters in a structured way. This helped students to score high marks in the examinations and ultimately this has helped them to aspire for higher education. Parents are also increasingly convinced that this is a useful method to improve their children’s academic performance. This also helps the parents not to have an additional out of pocket expenditure on private tuition. Hence, they willingly support it. Based on last five years data, there is a significant improvement in the pass percentage of the students who enrol in this school.
In all, one can say that this intervention has worked well for the students and the school and merits the potential for scaling up. Although, it will not be easy since this intervention requires huge investment of time by teachers as well as parents. One of the major challenges that could emerge if this special classes were to be scaled up to other schools is the availability of transportation facilities for students outside regular school hours. In Melige village Gram Panchayat (GP), most parents have taken up this responsibility and made their own arrangements to drop and pick up their children from the school. However, If the school or the government is able to provide a regular and reliable transportation facility, then this challenge can be overcome. The novel initiative rests on the collective passion and dedication of teachers, parents and students. Teachers and students both need to be committed to working longer hours, and parents need to provide the best possible study environment for their children at their homes. In most cases, this is not easy. With the best possible intensions also, parents are seldom able to afford time, additional reading materials, Teaching Learning Materials (TLMs), technology and other support materials.
Institutionalisation of any such initiative that is based on individual initiative and passion is always a challenge. There is enough evidence to show that teachers are overburdened and therefore those teachers who voluntarily agree to take extra classes and work for longer hours would expect extra remuneration from government in case this becomes a universal intervention, which is not an easy solution. It is also not necessary that each teacher will voluntarily agree for such actions. Therefore, what becomes important is to create an enabling environment where teachers everywhere are enabled to initiate their own innovative solutions. A system to identify, acknowledge and reward such initiatives cold be created, which could also be used for distribution of untied additional funds to the school.
[Disclaimer: Views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CBPS]
Research Associate, CBPS