Thinking About Thinking and Learning

3 Jun

TFI has sent a few documents to read as part of pre-institute preparation and now since my exams are over and I am finally at home just 11 days away from joining the institute I am trying to devote some time to prepare myself for the challenge.

I started with LEARNING THEORY. It’s an introduction to ‘How to Teach’. Though its just a 30 pages document I can say its concise and intense.

Simply put teaching is a form of communication. It’s very similar to what I have been reading for the past few semesters. Of course I read it in Communication systems which mostly dealt in the language of bits and transmitters and protocols. But the content I shall say is similar. There is a sender(Teacher), There is a reciever(student) and there is a message sent over a medium. The message here is the subject matter which the teacher wants to convey to the student. Now what if the transmitter can send msgs to the receiver at a rate which supersedes the capacity of the reciever. True, the receiver just can’t comprehend the msg and all that it receives is plain noise. So what do we do? we try to model the mechanism and the rate of transmission based on the receiving capacity of the receiver. Well this is precisely a ‘learner-driven’ model. The text explains four different concepts that fall under the umbrella of ‘learning theory’.

  • Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain: It explains six different levels of Cognitive understanding i.e. Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. Knowledge is generally evaluated by questions like write, list, label, name, state or define, Comprehension by explain, summarize, paraphrase, describe or illustrate which checks the interpreting and translating concepts and ideas from someone else’s definitions to your own. Application is evaluated by use, compute, solve, demonstrate, apply or construct. While the higher levels of understanding i.e. analysis, synthesis and evaluation are evaluated by questions asking to categorize, compare, contrast, design, develop, recommend or critique.
  • Multiple Intelligence Theory: In the 1980’s Harvard Researcher Howard Gardner made permanent impression on pedagogical theory by asserting that the concept of ‘intelligence’ is actually a conglomeration of a number of intellectual aptitudes such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal and interpersonal. This countered the traditional measures of intelligence(IQ tests etc. )that focused primarily on linguistic and logical modes of thought and processing.
  • Learning Modalities: A learning modality is one of three senses through which students readily input information i.e. visual, auditory and tactile modality.
  • Memory Theory: It emphasizes on ‘short term’ and ‘long term’ memory concepts and how through practice, building connection to prior knowledge and organization of materials concepts can be transferred to a student’s long term memory.

The concepts are pretty simple and something that we use in our everyday lives too like when you talk to different people you try to direct the conversation towards contexts that interest them, they can link to and find intersting, so when you talk to students try and talk to them in their language based on there comprehension and try to simplify things, connect them, organize them and its good to use a lot of elaboration.

Institute Schedule

2 Jun

From 14th of June to 18th of July I will be attending Institute 2 at Teach For India in Pune. This is what my daily schedule would look like:


Looks scary but I think I am up for the challenge. Fingers Crossed.

Madhukar’s Teach For India Experience

1 Jun

Madhukar Reddy Banuri is a graduate from BITS Pilani. He has considerable work experience as Product Marketing Manager, Electrical Business Group, Larsen and Toubro, Mumbai and inspired by vision the of TFI has joined Teach For India 2009 fellowship.

Madhukar’s Career Highlights include: Recipient-Pratibha Scholarship, Government of A.P; State 6th Rank-12thclass, A.P Board; Executive Committee-EEE Association, BITS-Pilani; Editorial Board-Yearbook, BITS-Pilani; Member-Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, BITS-Pilani; Volunteer-CSR cell, L&T; Intern-Accenture, ECIL & Genesis Microchip, Introduced and streamlined a new product line for his business group in L&T

Below is an excerpt from Madhukar’s interview with the Department of Journalism and Media Affairs, BITS Pilani, Goa Campus.

Q1.how long and where have u been working for teach for India?

I have been working as a TFI fellow for the past 9 months. This is its first year, and its good to be a part of the first cohort of this movement.

Q2.when you joined this programme,were you confident that you were taking the right step for your future while your peers chose corporate jobs?

I have already had my share of corporate experience as a product manager of L&T before joining TFI fellowship. Joining TFI, for me was more of a change in work experience and learning, an attempt to achieve a square foot of idealism in this ginormous world of thoughts. I know the experience here would change me professionally and more important personally. I was confident enough that learning through a field in which my interest lies would help me in future, so joining TFI was a right move.

Q3.is the policy for the recruitment strict about the academic performance of the undergrad students?

No. Though TFI does state that we need graduates from best academic backgrounds, it is just one of the criteria. More importantly the overall personality of the person is what TFI considers. Leadership experiences, involvement in different voluntary activities and the interest towards the TFI mission and movement, count for selection.

Q4.what are the teaching methods that are different from the existing methods that are employed in this programme?

As TFI fellows we follow a proven structured model for student achievement. Right from setting expectations to students, planning purposefully and executing them effectively in classroom are all set, and a rubric called “Teaching as Leadership” guides the fellows to become an effective and an efficient teacher. Students are kinetic learners, so our teaching methods are more activity based, reducing the traditional rote way of learning. Fellows involve in action and student centric based teaching methods which makes learning more easy, interesting and fun for the students. TFI model is based on the model followed by Teach For America (TFA) and Teach First of UK. It is being appreciated by the existing teachers and being followed.

Q5.how many students have already benefited from this program and what are the plans for expanding it?

The fellowship programme is presently in its first year.There are 87 fellows across different low-income government and private schools across Mumbai and Pune. There are more than 3200 students being taught by TFI fellows. There are ambitious expansion plans. TFI plans to work in 5 different cities in the next 3 years.

Q6.students prefer to go for a high paying secure job.how do you plan to attract students with this kind of thinking towards this programme?

Firstly, TFI fellowship is not a voluntary job. It is more like a mandatory fellowship, a movement with a cause. It is like any other job you do. A TFI fellow is a teacher in a school and it is a valuable work experience since TFI offers a challenging working environment with a tremendous scope for professional and personal improvement. I personally feel that no other job offers you such an environment to work in. Students passing out from different Universities will have a greater ambit of learning and also networking as a part of TFI’s diverse cohort. After two years of TFI, a fellow has an experience of being an educator and a community leader. This opens doors to different areas of work according to our interests. It also gives us options for various higher degree courses in the field of education, strategy, international policy, business administration etc. because the experience here carries a lot of weight.TFI is not high paying, but a person has to decide if the learning and success he wants is long-term or short-term.

Q7.what are the placement opportunities after the required two year working?

TFI has established partners with many corporates and schools in India and abroad, who value TFI experience. There are teams in TFI which work on mentoring TFI fellow in getting into right job, right field or right university. Otherwise also, TFI is a structured work experience, I think there would be enough placement opportunities for the fellows after two years of fellowship.

Q8.staying within a frame of the required curriculum,how do you propose to make changes in the existing drab style of teaching?

A TFI fellow needs to teach the curriculum given by the school (or board in case of government schools), and also a separate curriculum that is followed by TFI. This curriculum is based from the best private schools in India. The curriculum that the students of TFI fellows learn is essential for an overall focused academic development of any student of that particular grade. The curriculum demands a much rigorous teaching standards, purposeful planning and continuous assessments. Since the inequity in the system is because of the vast difference in curriculum followed by teachers across Indian schools, as fellows, this TFI curriculum and the method of teaching this curriculum, both might initiate the change that we want to see.

Q9.how is the response of young India to an innovative programme like this?

So far it has been great. TFI had a massive jump in the fellowship applications for the next year fellowship. Its still early to say the entire ‘Young India’ believes in the mission of the movement, but we are getting tremendous support and positive response from the youth organisations, NGO’s, media and friends everywhere we go.

Q10.do you think that the Indian system of primary education is at par with the international standards?

If we are talking about the government and low-income private schools where more than 70% of Indian students study, then no. Definitely not at par with international standards. India has made efforts in increasing the education reach and quantity, and we have been successful in that. But the quality of primary education still is a big concern and needs a lot of revamping. There is a definite inequity among the children and this is where we, as TFI fellows work to bridge the achievement gap.

Q11.what are the possible benefits that an individual will have after the completion of this programme?

As I said it already, TFI opens up various options after the fellowship to work with any corporate or work in the field of education or work with the government or study different courses or master programmes in different fields or become a social entrepreneur itself, because the quality and learning from the work experience here adds value to you. The personal transformation, professional development and networking, all at a cost for a divine cause are major benefits a fellow would get!

Q12.are the government and related agencies cooperative of this kind of impactful change?

For a change to happen at this scale, support from different corporates and especially government is a must. The local municipal corporations have been supportive till now and promise to be in the coming years, because they see the change happening. Different NGO’s have shown interest in working with the fellows in different areas. So there has been quite a good cooperation where learning is happening from both the parties.

Q13.what are your experiences of this programme?how much change is there in you as an individual ?

My experiences in TFI have been wonderful. Working with children and providing them with the powerful source of education is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Past few months has been an enormous personal transformation for me, alongside with the huge learning; from my diligent peers, from my fellow teachers, from the ever concerned parents, from the industrious community people, and not to forget from my adorable-n-fearless bunch of students. But it is not simple as it seems. It is a challenging experience. As a school teacher, you are a leader in your class, where your students are many grade levels below. Pulling them up to a level where they are supposed to be amidst the under resourced environment, investing all the stakeholders in your mission to make your students best, is quite a task. The skills of planning, critical thinking, resourcefulness and teamwork are something that I have developed and kept on reinforcing. As an individual I have become a person who believes in the need of empathy and integrity among all. Constant reflection during my work has made me a better judge of my actions.

Q14.where do you think this experience will lead you to or do you think this programme has changed your previously planned out decisions?

Frankly, I came into TFI to gain some valuable work experience so that it adds a lot of weight to my resume and help me get to my masters. But this work experience has already developed me both professionally and personally so much, that I feel all my aspirations were a child’s fantasy. There is so much more in life to do. Its just not being so much money conscious, just not wanting a high-paying job, just not wanting a masters but life has something more to it. TFI fellowship has opened other options for me and it has changed my previously planned decisions. Hopefully, in these two years I realize what I actually want to do in life 🙂

Q15.how satisfied are you with the way things are executed in this programme?

It has been good till now. There have been initial hiccups here and there since it is a start up movement, but an efficient leader, a brilliant staff team along with an energetic clan of fellows have made things work more smoothly and in a structured way. There are questions raised on certain methods we follow, since we have taken them from Teach For America (TFA) and Teach First of UK, but Indianizing them to be applied rightly in our context and making things more structured would be the responsibility of us, as the first cohort, so that this movement goes on to be a revolution.


TFI seeking Campus Ambassadors

31 May

Teach For India is now seeking campus ambassadors and young professional ambassadors. Ambassadors will give 2.5 hours per week to represent Teach For India at their institutions – serving as a liaison and creating awareness about the 2 year Fellowship. They will experience first-hand how an ambitious and global campaign operates and receive weekly training on developing themselves as communicators and leaders. Please e-mail recruitment@teachforindia.org if you would like to interview for this role.

My experience as Teach For India’s Youth Ambassador for GOA:

Although the very first time I spoke to Shveta Raina, National Manager TFI recruitment she asked me if I can be of any help in spreading the word about TFI in Goa, My actual work began very late since somehow the work of sending me info on TFI was delegated to someone and it never reached me until December when Shveta called me up again only to find out that I never recieved any documents from TFI. Anyways by the time I reached Goa, the third and final deadline for applying to 2010 fellowship was approaching and I chalked out a two pronged approach to let people know about the fellowship in whatever little time I had. The very first thing I did was post a lot of stuff about TFI on my blog and social networking pages. Steered a few discussions with friends and took contacts of the general secretaries of various Goan Colleges through DePP i.e. Department of Publicity and Public Relations of my college. My friend Abhay helped me a lot in finding contacts in Goan colleges. Infact we hired a bike and went to the Colleges together. Few of the things that I did were:

  • Spoke to the coordinator of Department of Journalism and Media Affairs of BITS Pilani, Goa Campus and arranged to publish an interview of Madhukar Bhanuri, a 2003 batch BITSian and TFI 2009 fellow in the monthly newspaper called BITS HERALD.
  • Spoke to the placement committee of my College and asked them to put up info on the placement division website, so that people can avail the opportunity. However, this couldn’t work out. But still documents containing info on TFI were spammed on our LAN.
  • had a meeting with the Principal of MES College of Arts and Commerce (he was aware of the movement but hadn’t informed students in his college and was unaware of the final deadline). So gave him a few printed notices which were put up in the college. He even informed me about a principal’s forum which constitutes the principal’s and heads of various other colleges of Goa and they were planning to have their next meeting and I could have addressed all of them together but this possibility faded since we were too late.
  • had a meeting with the placement coordinator of Dhempe College of Arts and Science, she was receptive and agreed to put up the notices which I gave her about TFI.
  • Similarly, noticeswere put up in Salgaocar Law College.
  • I was not really sure if Diploma Holders were elligible to apply for TFI still I met the Principal of GPP(Goa Government Polytechnic) and put up our notice(recruitment Flyer) there.
  • Similarly I had a meeting with the Principal of Goa College of Architecture and briefed him about TFI and handed him the flyers which he agreed to put up on their notice boards. Further he also agreed to forward some of the information about TFI to his past students through mails.
  • Apart from this there were three other colleges i.e. GCE, PCCE and St. Xavier’s amongst which the first two were closed and exams were going on in one so I forwarded some online stuff to their General Secretaries who agreed to spread the word through mails in their colleges.

However, since the deadline was very near and the application procedure is also lengthy all I expected of this was that these guys would have had a look at the website and would atleast know about the movement. 

Suggestion to the new CAs and YPAs

It’s a great opportunity and you will get to meet a lot of awesome people. Start off your work early so that more and more people could use this opportunity. Be on the lookout for opportunities to publicize the movement, and I am sure you will be able to find many such opportunities.

All the Best!!!

P.S.: I am attaching a few files which will help you get an idea of the movement.

Recruitment Flyer

FAQs

Change Your Life and the Nation

Beyond_fellowship

Teach_For_India_Information

Poor Quality of Education in Government Schools

30 May

India is currently in the midst of one of the worst educational crisis which is being followed by huge inequity in the socio-economic status of its people. While there are a significant number of people falling under the upper and lower middle class of society in India, there is a huge population lying below poverty line with no major efforts towards the elevation of their status in society. 

  • 40% of India’s population is illiterate.
  •  Indian classrooms are understaffed (1 in 4 teachers will be absent on any given day)
  • Teachers are not engaging ( Only 50% are likely to be teaching at any given time)
  • Drop-out rate is unusually high (More than 1 in 3 children who begin primary school will drop out before reaching 5th grade)
  • Education spend is relatively low (India spends only 3.3 percent of its GDP on education, compared to an average 5.8 percent in developed countries) (Source: India’s Educational Crisis, Teach For India)

 “Perceptions and Myths on the Education System in India” by Child Rights and You (CRY) states that results after rigorous research and interaction with parents from the underprivileged sector shows that parents want to send their kids to schools regardless of which section of society they belong to and one of the major reasons of their kids’ dropping out of school is that they don’t witness any changes being brought by education in their child’s life. Further they also believe that the public or government schools are not functioning well as the teachers are generally absent or even if they are present they hardly show any inclination towards engaging their class through active presentation and child management skills. 

Thus, unquantifiable improvements in a child’s mental abilities, lack of immediate results and the sorry state of public schools are the major factors behind the drop-out rate being unusually high in India. 

The approach of the government has been to ‘provide’ education by ‘producing’ it through a vast network of government schools managed by state bureaucracy. However, government schools are failing the poor. Though Education spend is relatively low in India in terms of GDP the high rate of teacher absenteeism is not due to low salaries. In fact, in India, the ratio of average teacher salary to per-capita income is more than 3.5. The corresponding figure for US and UK are less than 2.0 and those for East Asian countries are less than 2.5. (source: Business Models for Providing Education to the Poor, Ayan Sarkar)

The problem is systemic – the government simply does not have the organizational wherewithal to ‘produce’ quality education for all. Fiscal measures have proven to be incapable of mitigating systemic inefficiencies and failed leadership. 

In order to provide education based on improvements in communication and life skills while increasing the confidence, spontaneity and other soft skills within a sustainable framework to children from vulnerable back grounds I visualize that a self sustainable educational model with alternative revenue sources can be an answer to the problems of schools running on grants or low economic backup by the government.  

This can be achieved by starting with a pilot project where we need to work with the education scholars and develop study and training modules with single minded devotion to develop English speaking ability in kids and help them get over their fear, gain confidence and acquire excellent communication skills. This is because English which is needed to get a good job is nonexistent in public schools. The vernacular medium of instruction does not leave the children with the confidence to study further, given that all higher learning is only in English. Even those who pass out of these schools and go further have little ability and confidence to get equal access to the new age jobs. Hence, the huge gap between those who have benefitted from economic liberalization and those who haven’t keeps on increasing day by day. (Source: http://www.parikrmafoundation.org/) 

This would also provide a quantifiable model, where changes in the overall personality of students and their standing in the class can be measured based on their acquired abilities and confidence levels. Further, the model would encourage children to take up subjects of their choice and make informed decisions through availability of unadulterated information. This information will not only provide consulting while making career choices but would also help them develop into creative and informed individuals who will bring positive changes in their respective communities. This would be our first step towards an India where all children will attain an excellent education.

"Touchwood" I feel lucky!!!

18 Mar
Last semester in college, there is something called a study oriented project that I am doing these days on the social sector which in itself is vaguely defined and until yesterday i.e. when almost more than 3/5th of my semester is over, there isn’t much that I have done which would be called work and hence my midsem is almost screwed.

Anyways, so Yesterday when I went to my project guide she asked me to start with the survey that includes visiting some underprivileged households to find out their take on the public schools in the neighborhood.

Though I have been in the college campus for more than 3 years now, have seen hundreds of things changing here in the past few years, from administration to seasons to workers to contractors to students but still there are regions even in this 200 acres campus which were never visited before. I have been to that far corner called workers quarters a few times when the zhopdi existed to have lime and once when my Abhigyaan student Vijay literally dragged me to his house, but yesterday was the first time when I actually went inside those one room zhuggi houses whose area in the square feets could be compared to any of the toilets in our hostels and where almost 12 families live happily(of course happiness is subjective). A family of five squeezes in a 8x8x6 cubic feet cube. There are no windows, the walls have become pitch black because of the soot of the smoke which has become a part of their everyday oxygen, the floor is not cemented. It’s utter misery. And yet they don’t crib. Yet all they can think of is somehow getting another days work which pays them a meagre sum of Rs.80 in the evening after an 8 am to 6 pm job of cutting the grass from the sprawling green gardens of BITS. And yet they have no problems. Infact they don’t have any expectations from life, any dreams as such and most of all almost no hope. And yet they are happy(???).
While every morning you and I crib for not wanting to go to work or classes or for anything under the sun that’s not controlled by us. Everyday I am unhappy for thousands of things that I don’t have or I don’t run and all these Gardeners can think of is whether the grass is sprinkled with water or not…..

That’s a Goal!!!

20 Dec

With my eyes towards the ball midway in air, I clumsily moved ahead crossing half a dozen kids when somehow, someone wearing a blue jersey pushed the ball towards me with a forceful effect of his right foot and I miraculously turned the ball in the right direction, one kick and it was right inside the post, keeper’s foot missed it with just about two inches and it was just this easy for me to score the first goal of my life. All I had to do was to be at the right place.

This made me think how was I at that place or what inspired me to be there. This was in the first minute of the second half of the football match between dream a dream kids and nike employees.
Minutes before this all I was doing was watching them all play from a distant and when Pooja asked me why am I not playing all I could say was “I’ll go in for the second match”, well, there was no second match..Rakesh knew it and he literally pushed me into the game with a few other kids who could not play in the first half as substitutes for the players who were really tired…That one little push made a difference to me, I scored the first Goal of my life, that’s big..at least for me..And the truth is that it’ll be big and important for anyone…Think of the kids who were playing there first match, who were competing against each other and against their own selves, their own limitations for the first time, who were experiencing the spirit of the game and togetherness of the team and more than anything they were experiencing the human will to WIN. They all wanted to WIN and not as an individual but as a TEAM. They were pushing themselves, running from one side of the ground to another.
And how did this all happen?…with the efforts of a few individuals in the Dream Team and Nike.
That’s what the Dream Team strives to do, they work to push people to their best. They strive to make kids aware of their potential, they are trying to give them dreams, aims and GOALS. Now, that’s a GOAL!!!