Oct 16, 2020

InpirED 2020: Conference to reimagine education

The Education Sector in India has been hit by two waves in the last few months -
- The COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted schools, and
- New Education Policy 2020 that lays the guidelines for a reimagined education after 30 years.  

We believe, teachers and educators should be at the forefront of these conversations and hence we wanted to provide a platform to bring together educators and other stakeholders to understand the implications of The New Education Policy 2020, celebrate teachers, build communities of practice towards blended learning, connect with world-class teaching practices and experts, and advocate for collective action towards the National Education Policy 2020.

With all of us pivoting to a virtual world, we’ve been inundated by online education conferences and ways to learn virtually. A lot of us have also spent time asking important questions. How will our children learn this year? How do we balance well-being with learning outcomes? How do we upskill our teams with new skills? We've also been thinking about the New Education Policy 2020 and its many promises and hopes. With all this in mind, in the first week of October, we launched a national conference - inspirED 2020 - a space to dive into these discussions and together reimagine education.

Over the 5 days of the conference, we engaged with diverse stakeholders to dive into the priorities of the National Education Policy 2020, attended live masterclasses with some of our Fellow classrooms who are experimenting successfully with blended learning to zooming out and hearing from world-renowned experts like Bill Drayton, Jacqueline Novogratz, Shashi Tharoor and many more. We were amongst students, educators, policymakers, parents, and funders. We listened to each other. We held diverse perspectives. We tried to find a synergy to act collectively towards an excellent education for all our 260 million school children. The inspirED2020 conference hosted more than 100 speakers from various backgrounds.

The session revolved around the following themes over the 5 days - 

Listen and Learn - Listen to and learn from educators and diverse stakeholders on issues of great relevance in the education sector today. 

Dream Together - We will hold spaces to unleash our creativity and imagination on what education can look like in the future and dream together to create a new vision of education for India. 

Act together - We will together build a collective commitment through a series of white papers on our learning and recommendations to implement our vision.

These sessions ranged from a student teaching a magnificent masterclass on visual story-telling using hand-drawn anime to leaders sharing deep insights on what and how they've learned. With a focus on taking the NEP to action, 13 partners released 12 white papers, documents that intend to provide tangible guidance on how to take concrete topics like teacher development program, parent investment and school leadership, and propel them into action. Teach For India also published three papers- 

Blended Learning: A Digital Equalizer

Child protection and safety in schools 

Building 21st Century Skills and Leadership in Students

A specially designed website for the conference, lists the schedule for these 5 days, the speakers that we hosted, our partner organizations and gives access to the white papers published.

We also released the first version of India & I, our open-source curriculum, which was attended and co-led by students, demonstrating that as the stakeholder with the greatest stake, they must be at the table of reimagining education. 

Sep 11, 2020

Virtual Classroom(s) and the learnings

It has been more than four months now since schools closed across 190 countries, affecting more than 90% of the world’s student population. 32,000 Teach For India children have been out of school since then. While these prolonged school closures are threatening to exacerbate the existing inequalities, they have also presented us with a new idea – that children could learn beyond school

Our organization and Fellows are embarking on this journey of discovery to develop innovative teachers and robust infrastructure to enable our children to learn beyond school. Our teams have spent months researching, using new pedagogies, creating inclusive learning models, running virtual teaching pilots and gathering important lessons on the use of technology to move to a new normal. All of this has only strengthened our belief in the power and opportunity that blended learning brings for our children. We now have the potential to bridge the digital divide that has long contrasted income groups. With technology, we’re presented with limitless chances to differentiate, provide personalized instruction, and envision an educational system that transcends the boundaries of school. Perhaps for the first time ever, this new type of learning could be a true equalizer for all children.

To put this into effect, our Fellows are following a comprehensive teaching method - Blended Learning (a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning). One of our Fellows, Porvika Bala, narrates how she went about the entire process since the last 3 months -

"My students’ community reported their first COVID case very early on, by mid march. Since then I’ve distributed grocery and hygiene supplies for my students twice, through Teach for India. Mental wellbeing of the students also took a hit, and many of them reported feeling very lonely and missing their friends. To help with this, I allotted time for Socio-emotional learning during our Zoom classes, and I create space for them to play, chat and share with their friends every single day.

One of the earliest classes I took for my students was about the COVID 19 situation - statistics, precautions and how we can do our part. We brainstormed ways in which we could spread awareness to our family and community. They produced several ideas without my assistance and implemented them with the help of their parents and siblings. Some of these include drawing creative rangolis at their doorsteps, creating funny videos to share with people they know and sticking posters around their house.

Due to the delayed reopening of schools and the potential of online learning, my biggest priorities are parent investment and personalized learning. To that end, I have been in regular touch with my students’ parents, Headmistress, conducting Parent-Teacher Meetings and receiving feedback.

Some of the biggest challenges are - getting children to engage, gauging how much they understand, and attendance. Several children keep videos off/leave the call in between and it's not always possible to figure out why. Also, completion of homework is a challenge, coupled with parents and siblings helping out - ultimately data isn't very reliable on how much they understood. Attendance is also difficult, due to network, only one device, interest levels, etc.

One of the things going really well in the virtual classroom is differentiating learning for kids and individual attention, since I'm able to split them into groups. I'm able to talk to each of them without much interruptions. Another thing that has been working out is literacy (since kids have to type and read a bit), for a fraction of the kids English has improved. "

Aug 27, 2020

The Dramebaaz Dream- A Fellow's story

I, Amrita teach a bunch of highly energetic and passionate students from Grade 9. I still remember the first time I heard of ‘Dramebaaz’ in my school. It was probably the first week of my Fellowship and I experienced the first-hand joy of contagious excitement. “Didi, will you take us for Dramebaaz this year?” Neeraja asked. Simply based on the theatre connotations the name came with, I promised her that I would. For the uninitiated, Dramebaaz is a platform and a "Be the Change Project' at Teach For India that leverages theatre to empower students from low-income communities.

Cut to 5 months later when Dramebaaz rolled out its sign-up form and I quickly signed up two teams with the intention of inculcating in them the love I have grown up with, for theatre. Over the weeks, I had realised that my students showed a knack for drama. However, their experience was limited to stage proscenium and the usual manner of conducting street plays.

Here is where the real uphill task began. The moment I mentioned that we wouldn’t play to our strengths, I was bombarded with concerns and complaints. However, I pushed them to look at the learning and I saw them gradually embrace the same.

The two teams auditioned for their place in this year’s edition and then, the select few, worked closely on the themes and scripts they wished to take upon stage, with regular feedback from my end. They witnessed different forms of theatre and re-imagined their portrayal of the theme till they were satisfied.

We finally settled upon taking forward a Mime and a Street Play- both new styles of theatre with topics as unique of the method. By the end of it, I saw a phenomenal improvement in students with regard to their skill sets, expression, confidence and resilience.

It was an inspiring journey, which was only made sweeter when their efforts were rewarded in the form of recognition on stage.

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