Oct 3, 2021

Teach For India : Making Steady Headway

Since March 2020 – when India first went into a lockdown – the state of our program has been challenged beyond expectation – and through it all, it has emerged hopeful. Our deep learnings on our journey have bolstered our belief in our new vision: that an India free of poverty and filled with love, will be attained through an excellent education for all. And yet, there is a significant, immediate mountain for us to climb for our Students. Learning losses, physical and socio-emotional neglect, low parental investment, reduced access and engagement with learning have been amplified by 17 months of school closures. This points to the continued need for swift, sustained action, at scale.

Supporting education from the onset of the pandemic is the best way to protect the most vulnerable students and lay the foundations for a speedy recovery, while also building resilient systems for the future.

As we progress towards Phase 4 of Teach For India, we aspire to build a movement of 50,000 leaders working collectively with love to transform the lives of 1 in 10 low-income children in our regions, through an education that unleashes the potential of Self, Other and India.

Your contributions support us immensely as we inch closer to our vision.

An Up-to-the-minute Summation

In 2021, we welcomed over 650 Fellows, who attended the inducting Summer Institute in a virtual format. The dual realities of staggered school start dates and the economic destruction have expanded the role of the Fellows. The Fellowship has now been successfully repurposed to respond to the pandemic. Fellows are trained to work as nodal partners in communities with Student well-being and parental investment at the core of their roles, with a focus on Socio-Emotional Learning. The organisation has been agile, planning for multiple scenarios, ranging from extended virtual modes of teaching to virtual assessments. 

Since the onset of the pandemic and the steep challenges it brought, our Fellows have continued to implement a new vision for blended instruction: one that combines online live classes with asynchronous, self-guided, experiences. Even as schools reopen across cities and students trickle in, we envisage our Fellows to leverage at-home learning as a primary means to extend the learning day through our Blended Learning approach, and measure the progress of our students.

Back to Schools (2).png

Our program has been continually counting successes -

  1. 92% of TFI Students have access to devices against a national average of 74%.

  2. 69% of TFI Students are engaging in synchronous learning (live or online classes) against a national average of 18%

  3. TFI students continue to have an average weekly instructional time of 18 hours against a national average of 0-9.5 hours.

  4. 100% of reachable TFI Students continue to receive some teaching material or activities regularly. (National average - 41%) 

  5. 100% of TFI Fellows have received formal teacher training on how to conduct remote teaching-learning (National average 50%)

  6. 63% of our grade 1-8 students are showing positive growth in Literacy from September 2020.

  7. 80% of parents of Students in elementary grades are invested/involved.

Learning from our first volunteer program pilot - 

To provide for a differentiated and specialized instruction, we initiated the on-boarding of remedial volunteers. Presently, we have 2500 volunteers supporting Fellows and their classrooms in bridging the learning gap. We also partnered with external holistic learning solutions providers to redesign our approach to delivering Math curricula for Students through accelerated support programs. This equips our Fellows with tools such as Inquiry-Based Learning, Authentic Problems, and Concrete, Pictorial, and Abstract (CPA) to drive applied thinking and problem-solving. 

Additionally, we found that classrooms with volunteers have a higher percentage of Students attending all synchronous learning spaces, compared to classrooms without volunteer support. Elementary classrooms with volunteers are having higher engagement rates with asynchronous material compared to those sans volunteers.

Regaining some semblance of normalcy -

At present, five out of our seven sites are seeing our Students and Fellows back in the saddle, in variables.

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Chennai: Schools for Grades 9-10 opened up in Chennai recently. Having had PPTs as a form of virtual information transfer for the past 18 months the children had a smile on their faces as they scribbled on the blackboards and held charts after a long time.

Hyderabad: 90% of schools are now open in Hyderabad. You will find out Students immersed in learning as they get back to their physical classrooms after 15 months. This renews our hope in bridging the learning losses they have experienced, while simultaneously continuing to put their well-being at the forefront.

Delhi: Students of Grades 9-10 are back in schools with an infectious energy, urgency and zeal. At the same time our Fellows are relentlessly using alternate spaces to build classrooms for children in their communities.

Ahmedabad: We are back in schools, with Grades 6 and above open. Our Fellows are leveraging larger spaces in their schools to ensure attendance in classrooms with adequate social distancing. Staff has also resumed in person training.

Mumbai: While schools still remain shut in Maharashtra's urban areas, our Fellows have found creative ways to reach their students. Community centres are open in some of our schools in Mumbai. After over 17 months of school closure Students and Fellows are finally coming together to build deep human connections in-person.

Pune: With schools still shut some of our Pune Fellows are leveraging Parents as Partners to arrange alternate spaces for in-person classes. At the same time, our Staff has been upskilling local teachers in Blended Learning, Socio-Emotional Learning and Bridge.

Bengaluru: Schools have opened, with a lot of good cheer from the community. It's been heartwarming to see Students attend classes in full numbers and our Fellows in their element.

Aug 27, 2021

Fellow Stories: Riding the second wave of COVID

Students learning from home during the pandemic
Students learning from home during the pandemic

Meeting my students for the first time, online, was not easy. It took us, students and Fellows alike, a lot of time to adjust to the uncertainties that virtual learning brought. Blended learning was exciting initially- so much to do, so much to explore! But I could see my students not responding well to it, it only started making meaning for them when I partnered with them. After introducing them to various zoom features, google classroom, reels, mood boards, canva, and other tools that I was using, I could see so much ownership in my classroom! They were conducting quizzes for each other, hosting KBC with me, lesson planning for important themes in history! My experience last year has influenced the vision I'm setting for my students this year- as they enter grade 10, I hope my students and I work together to create safe spaces for each other. I want them to be independent and continuous learners, I want them to continue to question everything around them, I hope to see them create strong friendships and most importantly, I want them to continue being their resilient selves. 

With another academic year full of uncertainties, especially working with a board class online, my priority is to keep my students and their needs at the forefront. Involving students in every decision making process- making timetables with them, sharing unit plans with them, setting goals with them, understanding what teaching methods work best for them, updating their parents about their progress etc. I also plan on collaborating and working closely with school teachers this year. Their knowledge of the content and their experience with boards will definitely help me support my students better. We will also be working with volunteers this year- to drive rigour in our classrooms and to ensure we reach every child. 

Along with regular content-related teaching, I have also started a small book club with my students. We meet every Thursday to discuss a short story over a cup of chai/coffee. This space is entirely student-led, my students even made up norms and set culture on their own! We generally watch youtube videos, talk about the context of the story, the era in which it was written and how it affects us today. I see my students understand the world around them and question society. They have also become much more self-aware. Their Reading Comprehension levels have also increased. Apart from this, all our synchronous classes have small morning meetings, movie or song analysis too! Most of my students consume media differently now- they pay attention to lyrics, dialogues and cinematography too. We also host student darbars once in two months to celebrate talent in class! 

The second wave hit our community terribly. Some of the parents were asked to not come for work and most parents decided to go back to their villages as they could not support their family. My school team and I have been working towards COVID relief for the families we cater to. We are currently helping them out with ration and medical expenses. A lot of our students did not have access to a device to attend online classes, we conducted a donation drive for the same. We also leveraged Teach For India devices in our classrooms to ensure that learning doesn’t stop. 

In order for a child to be their best self, they need to have a safe and sustaining environment, where they can learn and grow to their fullest potential. Our students had that space when they were coming to school everyday, but because of virtual learning, their homes became their school. Teaching an all girls classroom definitely comes with its challenges- they are teenagers and face new battles in their families and communities everyday. They are expected to help with household chores and adhere to strict gender roles. Investing them and their parents became a huge challenge. During our community visits, while interacting with our students’ families and other stakeholders in their lives, I realised the need and importance of gender sensitisation in the community. This drove me to join GenderBenders, a Be The Change Project based in Delhi. Our vision is to empower individuals to shape a gender-neutral world. We are currently developing a curriculum for gender sensitisation for students, parents and educators.

As I begin my second year of the fellowship, my hope for myself is to make meaning of my journey, to create impact beyond my classroom and to understand my true purpose in this sector. My hope for my community is to be ambassadors of gender equality. And finally, my hope for my students is to see how powerful they truly are. I want them to believe that they can actually change the world.

-   Riddhi Satti, Delhi Fellow, Cohort - 2020-22

Ration distributed to our communities
Ration distributed to our communities
Aug 10, 2021

Hear from Akash

"I teach grade 9 and 10 students at the St. Albert's High School in Hyderabad. I have seen my students grow from going completely silent in mathematics class to solving questions on the whiteboard while explaining them to their peers. We have gone from just copying answers in science class to asking about everything under the sun.

It has been a challenging period to deal with multiple classrooms and community visits. Still, my school team was always there by my side and helped me successfully fulfil my responsibilities. While teaching higher grades added an extra amount of pressure to complete the syllabus and make students exam-ready, blended learning came as a rescue; I had the opportunity to ensure my students' holistic development and well-being without compromising academic excellence. With schools reopening, I am engaging an average of 24 instructional hours of synchronous learning spaces every week and a commensurate amount of asynchronous learning material in the virtual medium.

The last few months were filled with hardships, uncertainties, and adversities. Still, they have left me with a hope that we will one day see all children attaining excellent education, just because we have a lot of people like us working towards supporting directly in this movement."

These past three months have been a rollercoaster ride with uncertainties surrounding schools opening and the safety precautions that had to be maintained when the schools eventually opened. Creating a safe space for Students to return to school needs meticulous planning. We had multiple conversations with the school staff and the parents to ensure the safety of the students within the school, such as physical distancing in the classroom and staggered entry plans for different grades. With physical distancing norms, having group activities was limited, so we had to devise means of hybrid learning with the help of school staff.

Measuring impact

  • We’ve had 90% attendance of the students in school and 82% engagement in classroom participation and asynchronous work submission.
  • 70% of the students are completely aware of the available career options for them, 55% have shortlisted the feasible options considering various personal and academic factors, and 20% of the students have chalked down their next steps for the short term and long-term goals
  • Our continuous efforts with English learning labs and specialized blended learning curriculum has increased the class average literacy mastery by 10% over last year’s average mastery. Alongside the literacy mastery, students have shown 24-30% progress on listening, writing, and speaking skills over last year’s levels. Besides, with digital learning, debates and discussion spaces, practical classes and real-life problem-solving techniques over the previous eight months, grade 10 students’ average mastery for all the subjects grew by 18%.

Students’ overall well-being

Community visits and parental conversations to examine their well-being and convince them to bring their children back into the learning loop have become fruitful. Engaging with parents has led to them becoming more involved in their child’s education and holistic development.

The pandemic put a lot of pressure on my Students. While some of them have learned and grown from these experiences, few are still struggling to cope with the pandemic's added burden. To address this, we have declared Fridays as “No Bag Days” at school, where the students engage in Socio-Emotional Learning and also get an opportunity to showcase their talents/projects to the whole class. Grade 9 students also participate in various co-curricular and extracurricular events and competitions like inter-school debates, quizzes and regional and district level sports competitions to improve their social skills.

Blended learning has also led to an opportunity for the students to acquire digital literacy skills and take responsibility for their own learning. It is a big goal that we aspire to achieve through our classrooms, where the students take responsibility for their own learning. We organized personal SWOT analysis and career counselling spaces (external partners) with our students to create self-awareness and realize their goals and aspirations for the future. We have also collaborated with other Fellows from different schools to provide career counselling to our students.

Student achievers

One of the success stories was that of a student who cultivated reading books during the lockdown. She slowly picked up with reviewing the books on her blog. Today, she is almost on the verge of finishing her own novel and planning to publish it as well. The virtual learning also helped a few introverts and lower order students in my classroom to open up and use different learning methods to master the concepts at their own pace without any peer pressure. It brought a completely different aspect of their personality and learning prowess which increased their self-confidence and self-belief.

A peek into Akash's class
A peek into Akash's class
Distributing devices to students
Distributing devices to students
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