In many schools across rural India teachers receive very limited support. As a result they often have low morale, lose motivation and are frequently absent. We have witnessed this first hand in the area where we work in rural Rajasthan. Spot checks at four local government schools have revealed that teachers are only present 25% of the time.
In contrast, teachers at Hunar Ghar, the school we run, are present 86% of the time. This is a testimony to how we approach their training and professional development and ensure their engagement with the school and its community.
Teachers are people, they have personal as well as professional challenges. The majority of the Hunar Ghar team have families that depend on them to run their small-holdings in addition to their teaching responsibilities. We recognise the difficulties this presents and are empathatic to their situation.
We promote a culture of personal responsibility. Our staff understand what their role is within the school community and what is expected of them. All staff are jointly accountable for the success of the school and the well-being of the students. They are motivated by the knowledge that they are working towards individual goals for each child in their respective classes while also working collectively to ensure that the local community understands the value of the education and experiences provided by Hunar Ghar.
Typically in India, teachers receive two years of training, focussed on teaching by rote rather than child development. A teacher posted to a rural school will go on to receive two days of training a year and no professional feedback. So, we invest in our teachers in order that they feel a sense of growth and worth that will be reflected in the classroom and the community.
Hunar Ghar follows the standard Government curriculum which can at times be ambiguous in its learning expectations. To overcome this, we have developed a week by week planning schedule to help teachers understand how the curriculum is being covered and how different concepts relate to one another for the most effective teaching. We have also created class support books as depositories of resources which make it easier for teachers to understand how to translate textbook contents into valuable learning experiences for first generation rural learners.
Every Saturday there is a whole team meeting to ensure adequate preparation for the following week. These weekly meetings are complemented by plans for regular opportunities to observe other colleagues teaching and also to be observed by peers and the headteacher. These observations provide points of reflection and generate discussions and constructive feedback. In addition, all teachers have a monthly review with the headteacher, reflecting on their recent challenges and successes. This personal mentorship has a great bearing on the development and commitment of the school teaching staff.
Rural education can be rapidly and sustainably changed for the better, not least by codifying simple steps that lead to change, establishing proper support networks for teachers and approaching them as individuals in need of nurture, support and guidance to develop and grow – just like their students.