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JANAKI RAJAN

India,

Janaki Rajan, working within the government school system to improve the quality of education and to increase the low pass rates of secondary school students, has a cadre of volunteer teachers working together with regular teachers to supplement the curriculum, give one-on-one attention, and help students learn to study.

This profile below was prepared when Janaki Rajan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.

INTRODUCTION

Janaki Rajan, working within the government school system to improve the quality of education and to increase the low pass rates of secondary school students, has a cadre of volunteer teachers working together with regular teachers to supplement the curriculum, give one-on-one attention, and help students learn to study.




THE NEW IDEA

Janaki is working to change the quality of education that millions of children in India receive. For Janaki, that means working within the government school system because that is where the vast majority of Indian children receive their education. Working inside the public school system is also important because it can be done immediately and because, since it does not require major structural adjustments, it is far less likely to trigger bureaucratic rejection than outside challenges.

Janaki sends her volunteer teachers into the public schools to work side by side with the government teachers. These teachers provide a supplementary curriculum for the students during times when the regular teacher is absorbed with other duties. The curriculum is particularly designed to help students study for and pass their secondary school final examinations, permitting them to continue on to pre-university courses. Janaki's teachers also provide one-on-one tutoring and special attention to students, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged. Janaki's initial testing of these methods in public schools has shown that the one-on-one tutoring, an extended school year, and a supplementary curriculum have helped to raise pass rates by thirty to sixty percent in participating schools. While this is a considerable achievement in and of itself, Janaki further plans to help the permanent staff learn how to meet this new high pass rate standard even after Janaki's volunteers phase out of the school.

Further, Janaki hopes that this ice-breaking program will foster a more conducive atmosphere in the public schools in which to initiate many other needed changes, including curriculum reform.




THE PROBLEM

India has made considerable progress since independence in expanding access to education, for urban and rural, rich and poor children, through government-run and -financed schools. However, as Janaki states, "Whether or not expanded education opportunities will translate into meaningful development depends ultimately on whether people actually learn as a result of these opportunities."

The low pass rates of students in India (two-thirds of those who make it to secondary school fail to pass) testify to the fact that making education accessible is not enough. Many of the students who fail are from lower economic strata, where parents do not have the time or education to provide their children one-on-one help with their schoolwork.

Students who fail to pass their secondary exams cannot continue on to pre-university and university work. They do not qualify for government or other prestigious jobs. Often, they end up in menial, low-paying informal-sector jobs not only because of their lack of educational qualifications, but also due to the loss of self-esteem that follows being marked as failures.




THE STRATEGY

Janaki began by targeting the tenth-year class in four schools, two in Hyderabad and two in Delhi. She is training a number of young volunteer students from teachers colleges in these cities to carry out her programs in these schools. These student-teachers not only act as an educational supplement, but also provide intellectual and emotional support for their students. In addition, these student-teachers provide remedial teaching to those students who have not mastered material from a previous grade level. They also conduct aptitude and ability testing among the students, counseling them on potential future careers.

Janaki expects that by the end of the year, pass rates for tenth-grade students in these schools will have doubled. Over the next few years, she has a dual strategy for spreading her method to other schools. First, she will use the media to circulate news of her successful new method and obtain support and help to allow her gradually to enter other government schools in many states. Second, she will deepen her involvement in the schools where she already has activities, reaching down to lower grade levels and closer to the root of the problem.

Eventually Janaki hopes that the schools themselves will adopt not only her program but her standards of success. Teacher performance will be judged successful only if almost all the students actually learn and pass the examinations.




THE PERSON

Janaki has a graduate degree in education, psychology, and English. She began her career as a high school teacher and has steadily grown in her profession and experience, becoming a principal and curriculum consultant.

She has established alternative public schools for low-income neighborhoods and has served as a member of the UNICEF Education for All working group.




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