Imagine a classroom, say 5th standard, where the students are Multi-grade, Multi-level and Multi-Lingual in nature. Will a uniform way of teaching address the issue of learners here? The answer is a big NO. The mainstream education in urban areas itself is insignificant in a rural area but the system still follows the same because it is not ready to welcome changes. Now think about the situation in tribal areas. Should they be learning the same material which has no relation to their context? But that’s what the mainstream education provides. One-size-fits-all is not the solution in education.

In a tribal area which is also a conflict zone, it is altogether a different equation. Here, functioning of the school can be a big gamble. Problems range from lack of infrastructure, shortage of skilled teachers, policy level decisions, situation of everyday class rooms and so on. Here, in the south Bastar area in the district of Sukma, Shiksharth faces all these challenges. The team has developed a solution to the issue of Multi-Grade, Multi-Level classroom which, in a few years, is going to revitalize the landscape of education here in Sukma. The idea called “SUBJECT LAB” will be entering its second pilot phase in the next academic year.

Subject labs replace classrooms with subject rooms, in alignment with the 21st-century skills. They bring in contextually relevant teaching-learning opportunities to enable self-paced and self-designed learning that caters to different learning styles. Hence, it suits a child in an elementary classroom with multi-grade, multi-level and multilingual diversity.

Subject labs aim to provide personalised learning opportunities with child centric teaching practices. It also makes space for novel methods of learning by creating print rich classrooms and raises the overall education standards. Children are given the opportunity to develop a sense of independent learning by identifying the level of learners and providing personalised learning options through different mediums.

Sentence Wheel
Teaching usage of Articles in a sentence using the Sentence Wheel

I have been involved in the implementation of the subject lab pilot in one of the porta cabins in Sukma where I did it with 5th standard students. There are certain significant changes noticed in the students after the pilot started. Initially, the strength of the class increased. The children who otherwise roam around, inside the school but don’t come to the class regularly, started to come on time. This can be attributed to the curiosity of learning that builds up through different mediums. Secondly, the number of breaks during the class, reduced. Children used to go outside the class at least 5 times in 40 minutes. This is a common pattern one can notice in the porta cabin set up. Since the beginning of the subject lab pilot, this has dramatically decreased because of the engaging tools we are using to teach through audio-video and print mediums.

Video-based teaching has increased their curiosity, focus and attention in class. This is an added advantage that a slight change in the method had brought in my class. The use of a wide range of teaching-learning materials, including activity and games based lesson plans have helped in making the students understand the topic. Thereby, making a positive impact on the learning outcome. English as a subject itself is hard for them to digest but now, the children in my classroom are able to understand the basics of English grammar and even answer questions based on the same.

Multi-lingual Noun Chart

Teaching Noun as a concept would be boring but what if they understand it indirectly through a game or what we all might have played in our childhood – Name, Place, Animal, Thing. Bringing this game into the context of their surroundings can be tricky but once they grasp the idea, it’s easier for them to relate and learn. Similar to this, a lot of engaging activities and games have been designed in the unit plan and were incorporated into the subject lab pilot that led to significant results.

Incorporating the context into curriculum, facilitating in multiple languages and establishing a connection between text and reality is of paramount importance in bringing the education to first generation learners here in Sukma. The context lies in the basics that A is not just for Apple and Aeroplane but is also for Arrow. The Gondi, Halbi, Dhuruva speaking kids can relate more with arrow. The challenge lies in infusing this knowledge into the education setting which unfortunately is designed for mainstream educators and learners. Here lies the crucial role of civil society organizations like Shiksharth who work at grassroots in the conflict area and create out-of-the-box solutions which are more accommodative of all the children.

The blog is written by Rohith Rajan, India fellow working with shiksharth.

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