Ed Forrest, Founder and CEO of Educate for Life reflects further on the experience of Hunar Ghar’s self review facilitated by Adhyayan. One of the most important aspects of the process was getting the pupils involved, helping them to understand what makes a good school and encouraging them to question and assess how well Hunar Ghar is doing.
In the majority of schools across India, parents, children, and community members are disenfranchised from participation. Around Hunar Ghar, schools are closed 50% of the time, teachers absenteeism is 75%, and the structure designed to empower parents – the school management committee – isn’t constituted. As a result, enrolled children get just 3.5% of the teacher exposure time they should. Given this poor provision of education it is curious that rural people, when they don’t send their children to these non-functional schools, are accused of not valuing education or caring for their children’s futures.
At Hunar Ghar, we develop and demonstrate how schools can be effective and functional in low resource settings. Involving stakeholders is central to our approach. The space for someone to express an opinion on something that effects them, and for structured action to be take on their feedback, is key to our approach.
When we discovered the Adhyayan school self-review process, it was clear that it is a tool that can be effectively used to do this. To work, it requires the input of parents, community members, teachers, students, and school management – all the people involved in running and using the school.
As such, the self-review process we conducted last week was characterised by some key successes. We had important participation from the children. They were exposed to a framework to help them understand if their school is good or not, and tools to evaluate performance in areas that effect them. Equally, illiterate parents and community members were orientated to the same framework, and in doing so were shown what they can expect from a school. For both, it was four days of them exploring the school with clear indicators of ‘good’, and sharing and expressing their findings and perspectives.
As CEO, it was an opportunity to engage directly with the children and parents in reviewing their school, to gain insight into how they see it, and understand their point of view.
The situation was similar for the teachers. The tool gave them clearly defined expectations of the school and its management. It provided a forum for observing how other teachers worked and for the management to value the teachers’ input in the school development process.
Going forward, the team has already initiated integrating the AQS tool. Our principal Chandrakant Sharma is leading the development of an approach to embed the tool in the weekly practices of stakeholders. The teachers who participated are this week training the other teachers to use the tool and the evidence collecting techniques. This Saturday, they will discuss the approach further based on their experiences. We are looking at how the tool can be embedded in class councils, the school council of children, teachers’ weekly practices, and our school management committee.
Within this, the team are prioritising the six domains of a good school that the tool looks at and mapping out how they will approach them in the next twelve months. They are also evaluating each indicator, and defining a process to modify them so that as a school we will have indicators that are the most useful to us and the village community at Hunar Ghar.
This work is being incorporated into our school annual development plan. This means that children and community members will now be able to play central roles in making their school better. Hunar Ghar already performs well above average. With the self-review embedded in our daily practice, we expect even more exciting developments.