First School – First Year

The Education Alliance is a non-profit organization that aims to help governments in India provide quality education to every child. The vision of The Education Alliance is to empower government schools to create the next generation of leaders.

We work to catalyze quality transformation in India’s education system by nurturing Government-Partnership schools – schools that are run on government premises in partnership with a non-profit, where the non-profit is held accountable for delivering a superior quality of education.

Our first pilot Government-Partnership school started in July 2015, with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) partnering with Ark, an international organization working to transform children’s lives through education. Within the UK, Ark runs a network of 34 partnership schools for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; this was Ark’s first school outside the UK. They started with KG and Grade 1 last July with just 9 children, and rapidly enrolled 120 more students through the rest of the year. Today, they have 265 children enrolled and are working towards expanding the school this academic year. 

When the school year began in July 2015, the learning levels of the children were very low. The children the school serves had not had access to toys, learning materials or books, all crucial for cognitive development. Most had never been read to and their vocabulary levels were much lower in comparison to children from affluent backgrounds. In just one year, the students have shown tremendous growth. They are now able to sort and name colours, identify and name shapes, create patterns, compare sizes, and are beginning to develop a number sense and a broader vocabulary. Teachers use colourful, interesting learning materials and ensure children are truly engaged – quite a difference from more traditional models in India where children learn by rote.

Another huge success in the first year has been student behaviour. When the children began last year, few had any understanding of expected classroom behaviour. Now there are strong school routines and students know how to listen to instructions, pay attention, participate, work with their peers, and are truly getting the most out of the school day.

Low attendance affects the entire government system and pupil attendance in local primary schools is estimated at 75%. Here, attendance has been steadily improving, and the average attendance rate is 82%. The school’s emphasis on good hygiene, regular health checkups scheduled for children, and the provision of an additional meal have significantly improved the health of many pupils.

These successes would not have been possible without the support of the parents. The team has invested resources and time to ensure the school has a strong relationship with parents. In addition to evening parent meetings, Ark has established two new routines; regular ‘chai pe charcha’ (‘a conversation over tea’) mornings and ‘bring your parent to school’ days.

The school has received a steady stream of visitors from the government and other interested stakeholders. The SDMC was extremely impressed with what they saw, and basis this showcase, has instituted the ‘School Quality Enhancement Program’, under which this partnership model has been extended to an additional 6 schools in the academic year 2016-17. These schools will have SDMC teachers who volunteer to be part of the program, working alongside selected NGO partners, to deliver an exemplary learning experience to their students.

The hope is that these schools will become beacons of excellence within the SDMC system, and innovations from these schools can be replicated to the remaining schools over time.


 

A strong monitoring and evaluation process and framework has been established to track the performance of these schools and hold them accountable. Over time, we envision that these accountability structures will also start applying to more and more government schools, thus raising the bar for performance across the system, and ensuring that all students get the education they deserve.


This post was written by Amitav Virmani, CEO of The Education Alliance