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Newsletter Feb 2012


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Articles, tips, resources for teachers

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Newsletter Feb 2012

  1. 1. February 2012 Volume 6, Issue 2 Inspiring Teachers Articles this month: Gross National Happiness ……………..….2 Teacher Accountability ………….…..3 Must Read Websites ………………….4 Caption Contest ……..………......5 Open Source Teacher’s Handbook ……………….. 5 Driving educational change through excellence in teaching While the governments are spending a huge amount on creating access to education, the system is wrought with several problems. ASER, an initiative by PRATHAM measures outcomes of school education and makes this report available . Their survey in AP, HP, Assam, Jharkhand and Rajasthan , has noted that in the last two decades, impressive strides have been made in India in terms of providing school buildings, classrooms, teachers, textbooks and other facilities. The study tracked 30,000 rural children in Std 2 and Std 4 in 900 schools in these five states. The key recommendations emerging from this study are as below:- (i) Textbooks need urgent revisions. They need to start from what children can do and be more realistic and developmentally appropriate in what children are expected to learn, with clear learning goals and sequence. (ii) Systems must be put into place to track attendance, not just enrollment, and ensure regular reporting and monitoring of this attendance. (iii) Mother tongue instruction and programmes for language transition need to be introduced and expanded. (iv) Teacher recruitment policies need to Editor’s Comments - ASER assess teachers’ knowledge, but more importantly their ability to explain content to children, make information relevant to their lives and use teaching learning materials and activities other than the textbook. (v) State teacher education plans should invest in human resource capacity academic structure and enable them to help improve teaching and learning quality via in-service training and classroom visits. (vi) As per the RTE child-friendly education needs to be defined and measured regularly as a part of the indicators of quality education. (vii) Libraries with take home books for reading practice at the household level, should be monitored as part of RTE indicators. Family reading programmes could also be part of innovations to help support first generation school goers. This month we are carrying an article on teacher accountability – do read and post your comments on the blog too. The Faculty of the Month, interview is missing in this issue, but do look for it on the website, shortly. Everyone in this world wants to be happy! Then shouldn’t governments be measuring and spending efforts on increasing GNH? Read on… --Uma Garimella
  2. 2. Inspiring Teachers Page 2 of 6 Take on Education The term "gross national happiness" was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has opened Bhutan to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. In 2005 the Royal Government decided to make it a measurable index and not just an abstract notion or an academic discussion. They want to assess happiness and create conditions to implement GNH policies and programs. It is an attempt to define and measure quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than only the economic indicator of GDP. The questionnaire for the baseline study had 249 questions, which included the following nine domains: 1. Psychological well being - sense of satisfaction in all areas of life, meaningful life, spirituality, feeling of belonging etc 2. Standard of living and happiness – usual measures of income, and debt. 3. Good governance – perception of government agencies and their functioning 4. Health – mental and physical health, diseases, addictions and functioning of health care systems. 5. Education – asks about their satisfaction with the formal education as well measures their literacy in health, ecology, history, traditional crafts and politics. 6. Community vitality – related to philanthropy, family relations, crimes, sense of safety 7. Cultural Diversity – their perception on human values, traditions, impact of media 8. Ecological Diversity and Resilience – awareness, development and environment, individual lifestyles and eco- friendliness 9. Time use and happiness - reckoning the time spent in the last 24 hrs and reflecting on how it has been spent. It will be a nice idea to download this questionnaire and reflect on some of these questions. The GNH Index is constructed on 33 indicators in these nine domains, based upon a robust multidimensional methodology known as the Alkire-Foster method Interesting findings of 2010 survey 1. 41% of Bhutanese have sufficiency in six or more of the nine domains and are considered ‘happy’. 2. Men are happier than women on average. 3. Of the nine domains, Bhutanese have the most sufficiency in health, then ecology, psychological wellbeing, and community vitality. 4. In urban areas, 50% of people are happy; in rural areas it is 37%. 5. Urban areas do better in health, living standards and education. Rural areas do better in community vitality, cultural resilience, and good governance. 6. The happiest are civil servants, monks and GYT/DYT members. The unemployed are happier than corporate employees, housewives, farmers or the national work force. Gross National Happiness Uma Garimella Many other learning outcomes (other than enrolment, teacher- student ratio and pass percentages) which took place outside of formal structured education systems have not been assessed so far. This survey goes little further in its scope from the conventional system of reporting educational attainments. It has, for the first time, tried to assess different types of knowledge and skills that people have acquired in their life course such as history, culture, civic, ecology and indigenous knowledge and skills which are mostly acquired informally.
  3. 3. Inspiring TeachersPage 3 of 6 This year on Nov 11, National Education Day, the PM of India Mr Manmohan Singh launched a nationwide campaign “Shiksha Ka Haq Abhiyaan” to motivate the children of the country to do well in studies to achieve their dreams. Though India has been late in implementing the Right to Education Act, it has set up several schools in every nook and corner of the country to ensure easy access to education. As many as 83 per cent of the total 1,061 thousand habitations have access to primary schooling facilities within 1 km and 76 per cent habitations to upper primary schooling facilities within a distance of 3 km guaranteeing that access would not feature as a major road block for enrolment. Similarly the number of teachers both at the primary and upper primary levels of education over time has increased many folds. Though the government had made strides in ensuring easy access to education can it also assure a quality that is on par with good education systems across the world? The Government of India has spent INR 88,000 Teacher accountability – a highly compromised value in Indian education system – Anitha Jagathkar Ms Anitha, is a Project Manager with CfBT Education Services, India. She led her team in evaluating various alternative educational programs in India. She has assessed several schools for institutional effectiveness in various districts of AP. She has also authored several baseline reports and drafted school improvement plans for both public and private schools. As a Leadership trainer she mentored school principals to improve the provision in their schools. Currently she is pursuing her Ph.d at National School of Leadership, Pune. She can be contacted at Crores (~$18 Billion) on education since 2004. The government should get the credit for investing in education which has no definite outcomes. Less than 5% of the education budget is spent on non- salary recurrent expenditure [Kingdon, 2010]. The maximum education budget is allocated for teacher salaries and benefits that have increased generously to respectable levels in recent years, due to the 6th pay commission. Then, why are the educational institutions shying away from taking accountability for the outcomes of their institutions? While assessing GyanShala, an alternative education provider in Gujarat, which provides quality education to thousands of slum children in the selected Gujarat and Bihar cities, I was astonished to learn that the government school teachers refused to implement the successful GS pedagogy in their schools. Equally surprising was the reason for refusal, the teachers felt that the implementation of GS methodology meant more work, more pressure and more accountability. The fundamental question that has been intriguing the stakeholders for decades is why are teachers especially in public schools not accountable? What makes them so? Is it possible to make schools accountable for student achievement levels? Education in India is both Centre’s and State’s responsibility, giving the state governments a stake in the state education policy making. Different states follow different teacher recruitment procedures in India. But one thing is common to all states, total job security. This aspect of the job determines the entire behavior of a school teacher throughout his career in schools. Whereas in a corporate sector where cut throat competition is the drive to excel in performance, in public sector and especially in schools there is a lack of motivation to excel as the work force is confident of regular cash flow in the form of salaries and yearly benefits. (Cont’d on page 4)
  4. 4. Inspiring Teachers Page 4 of 6 1. Everything you knew about learning may be wrong – new insights 2. A good essay on evaluation your-life/ 3. A good blog for faculty in universities and colleges 4. New e-textbooks from Apple for-iPad 5. Good collection of teaching resources at University of Florida 6. Thousands of free media for public use 7. Math Puzzles to sharpen your mind 8. Zero budget natural farming by Subhash Palekar 9. Two teenagers put Lego man in space 10. A website to help faculty build courses 11. Article links good teachers to lasting gains beyond classrooms 12. UMIC provides infrastructural facilities to nurture inventions among students from various disciplines. Teacher Accountability ….. Since no power can easily terminate their services, there is no reason for teachers to enhance their performance by setting goals and targets. The schools lack clear plans, measures and strategies that collectively define the direction and outcomes of a business. Individual school having a vision is a farfetched notion as they are bound by state policies and dictums. Plans and strategies are of little value as they are not accountable for their schools’ results. One of the most basic evidence of teachers’ accountability anywhere in the universe is attendance which is the most compromised.The school staff exemplifies marvelous teamwork in being absent regularly from the campus. There is a subtle harmony among the teachers and the leaders in maintaining the balance of teacher and leader absenteeism. This stems from weak monitoring mechanism, high level of corruption, influence and power of teacher unions, lopsided policies that cannot fire teachers, seniority-based salary structure, and the extreme centralized nature of the education system. Though the systemic maladies manifest in all sorts of irregularities in the public schools, the teachers per se are highly qualified and well informed in stark contrast to the teachers of the private providers. However, when the students’ outcomes and achievement levels are compared the students of private schools stand out in terms of high grades, always. It is difficult to deny that the private school teachers are more accountable than public school teachers. Though the constitution of India guarantees RTE to all the children, it is the prime duty of the enforcement agencies specifically the learning institutions to enable the government machinery to achieve the national goal. Unless the schools contribute to the nation’s commitment young India cannot feature as the most literate population in the world in the distant future. See more on pg 6 Must read links - also at
  5. 5. Inspiring TeachersPage 5 of 6 Open Source Teachers’ Handbook Many people understand what is Open Source in software – a philosophy which gives access to the product’s source material. It is also a philosophy where people contribute and cooperate to build a product. Bhagirathi Behera, a teacher with more than 10 yrs experience and now working as a principal has initiated a book compilation project with the help of the community of teachers. He has partnered with Teacher’s Academy to bring out this compilation of experiences, opinions, ideas and expertise and make it available to all teachers. Your contributions will appear with your name in the book. What do you need to do? Please send YOUR answers to the following questions along with your picture and brief profile (include information about high school, college, activities, honors, work experience, why you have chosen teaching as a career, what are your strengths as a teacher, your career goals in next 1, 3, 5 and 10 yrs ) QUESTIONS Your philosophy of teaching 1. Think of your best teachers. What positive characteristics do you believe these teachers had? Which of these characteristics do you believe you have? 2. Think of your worst teachers. What mistakes did they make or qualities did they have? How are you avoiding those mistakes/qualities? 3. What three words would your students use to describe you? 4. Define student and school according to you. 5. How do you see the teacher’s status and role in society change in the recent past? Beyond class 6. What is the purpose of homework / projects? What is your typical homework / project? Involving Parents 7. What role have parents played (and are playing) in shaping today’s education system? 8. What are some ways you involve parents in your student development strategy? 9. How do you approach a parent who is upset and and/or angry? Teaching 10. Explain how you structure the 40/45 minutes of a class period? 11. How much effort do you put in planning this lesson? (in terms of subject, method, aids) 12. How do you cater to the different needs of students in your class? 13. How do you incorporate technology into your instructions? Classroom management 14. How do you handle disruptive students in the classroom? Any special strategies for the occasional and for the repetitive behavior? 15. How do you create an atmosphere of tolerance and friendship among students in your class? Deadlines 30/03/2012- Responses for questionnaire. 30/04/2012 Editorial team and title of the book 5 /09/2012 -Book release at Hyderabad If you want to be on the editorial team contact personally on 8084125247, or 9440607287 Mail us at Project Coordinator: BHAGIRATHI BEHERA PRINCIPAL GREEN VALLEY INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL,MALINAGAR SAMASTIPUR ,BIHAR-848125 Picture Caption Arun Shetty: Can I phone a friend? Neelu Vig mobile has a calculator! Sridhar Belide I need tech support.. Pradeep Joshi: You tell me first! Ashok Kumar: Sorry sir, out of coverage area! Atul Negi: If you get the answer right, you get this cool mobile. Dashrath Ram:Black Board meeda maths cheyyadam pata idea, Balck Berry lo cheyyadam kotta idea!! Take my mobile madam, will not charge you!!
  6. 6. Inspiring Teachers Page 6 of 6 Teacher Accountability cont’d from page 4 Though the government invests heavily on capacity building of the faculty for its schools, nothing has changed from the dawn. Well, defining the problem is not the solution in itself. What is needed is a complete remodeling of the recruitment structure with well defined policies and norms that govern the weak accountability mindset of the department. A few strategies that might ensure that individuals become more answerable to their professions are introduction of PMS (performance management system), more responsible teacher unions, demand driven services and an empowered community that does the quality check of educational institutions on the departments’ behalf. Performance Management System Let’s not believe that PMS cannot be introduced in government organizations. The job becomes easier if the objectives for the department are clearly mentioned and monitored. Just as profit is the objective for a private firm, service is the main objective for the public schools. The activities then stem from this objective at each level of hierarchy and monitored. PMS can be introduced in a phased manner starting from senior and middle management, and then the teachers and the administrative staff. Services should be demand driven and monitored by the community for effective functioning. It is human nature to shirk responsibility if no one is looking. The lack of honest hierarchy and infrastructure compounds the problem further. School self evaluation complemented with external review could be the best way to pin the school leadership and the faculty for their actions and outcomes. This method debars the interference of unions in the day to day administration of schools. Similarly if the teacher unions are localized and made accountable for the progress and development of schools in their own areas, our schools could feature as the best models of excellence in the continent. Unless the learning institutions are trained for societal and organizational accountability through a set of work guidelines it is difficult to improve the provision in our government schools. (Comments are invited on this important aspect of education from all our readers) See us at: Teacher’s Academy Hyderabad PHONE: 97011 41118 E-MAIL: Community Empowerment National agenda requires local actions and leadership. With training and with the use of simple monitoring instruments, the local community will not only ensure that the schools excel, but also save state’s expenditure on a defunct monitoring system. When the community is empowered to take decisions on the efficacy of provision, changing policies and changing governments’ interruption on education system in the states will be reduced.