Engaging the community to make schools accountable for delivering quality education

Via 

Posted On: 21 Nov 2017
Section: Notes from the Field
Topics: Education
Tags: schooling, Karnataka



K. Vaijayanti
Akshara Foundation
vaijayanti@akshara.org.in

While the dismal quality of primary education in India has received considerable attention at the state and national levels, rural communities still seem to associate school quality with parameters such as physical infrastructure. In this note, K. Vaijayanti describes an initiative in Karnataka that involves publicly-conducted mathematics tests for school children, to raise awareness regarding learning levels and to engage the community in holding schools accountable.

While India has been very successful in improving access to primary education, learning outcomes remain poor and need urgent attention. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)1, brought out every year since 2006, repeatedly highlights the dismal state of public schooling in the country. Some studies (Rosato 2013) argue that besides supply of resources, it is important to identify channels that allow for active participation of parents in particular and the community in general, in improving the quality of school education.

Participatory democracy in education While the supply side of the schooling system in India seems to be strengthening, it is the demand side that needs scaffolding. A sustainable way to improve the quality of school education is an effective decentralised management system. Accountability of the public system is best ensured by directly involving the beneficiaries. Therefore, parents of school-going children need to be involved at the school level in planning, decision-making, execution, monitoring and evaluation. It has to be a voluntary commitment that supplements vigil over public educational institutions by the Gram Panchayats2 (GPs), which needs to be enhanced.

The 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, 1993, contains provisions for devolution of powers and responsibilities to GPs to prepare plans for economic development and social justice, and for implementing the 29 subjects listed in the 11th Schedule of the Constitution, including primary education. People’s Plan Campaign in Kerala, Lok Jumbish in Rajasthan, and the School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMCs) of Karnataka are some examples of participatory democracy in Indian education.

However, participatory democracy in education may be a challenge because competence hierarchies – as in ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’ – dominate the sector. It is believed that quality education is understood only by those who are experts and that due to its intangible nature it is difficult to be judged by the masses. There is a need to connect the community with indicators of quality education through simple tools and techniques. A complementary strategy of deliberative democracy may help balance the power relations between the school and the community.

Gram Panchayat mathematics contests in Karnataka Bearing in mind ASER’s results for basic arithmetic competencies in Karnataka, Akshara Foundation, an educational NGO, developed a Mathematics programme called Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) for students of grades 4 and 5 in government schools. The Government of Karnataka adopted GKA in 2015 in the backward Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the state. Community engagement has been an integral part of the programme.

In the year 2016, mathematics contests were conducted by Akshara’s field staff with the help of educated youth (called ‘education volunteers’) from the villages where the children competed. Written, grade-specific, competency-based mathematics tests were administered to children of 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. The tests were designed for 20 marks and the duration was one hour. Education volunteers evaluated the answer papers at the very spot where the test was held and on the same day, thereby ensuring transparency in the whole process. This was followed by a public event involving a prize distribution ceremony to which GP members, parents, SDMC members, donors, and the village community were invited. Top three scorers from each grade were felicitated with financial rewards.

The contests were a way to engage with primary stakeholders by generating awareness of school quality as indicated by learning outcomes. The assumption is that if parents become aware of their children’s numeracy levels, they may demand that the school system delivers better quality education. The experiment also aimed to assess whether such an initiative can be owned by the community so that wide participation is ensured. Contribution of resources in cash or kind by the local community was an indicator to measure collective concern at the GP level around quality education.

Akshara’s data show that 521 contests were held and 70,000 children took the test. On average, about 45% of children across the three grades were found to have acquired grade-appropriate mathematics competencies. Over 25,000 parents, 5,000 SDMC members, and 6,000 youth participated and 9,200 donors contributed Rs. 10 million approximately in cash and kind.

The power of information The information pertaining to learning status is a critical quality indicator to ascertain the effectiveness of schooling. Typically, the understanding of educational status of government school children in rural areas is centred on physical infrastructure, facilities, and the number of teaching staff. The community often tends to equate quality with functionality, as represented by these parameters. The mathematics contests lifted the veil of public perception and became a tool that enabled the community to understand the actual status of learning in schools.

While it is early to assess the impact of the contests, most of the participating GPs experienced an immediate effect. Instances were reported of groups of parents visiting the schools the next day to question the authorities. Elected representatives said that the results were an eye opener and the ‘all-is-well’ myth was destroyed. Preliminary evidence indicates that the initiative is gaining visibility in terms of GP members visiting schools, quality of Mathematics learning being discussed in GP meetings, circulars being sent by GP heads to parents on measures taken to improve school quality, and so on. Within a fortnight, the results were also shared with SDMCs, Taluk Panchayats (block level) and Zila Panchayats (district level) to facilitate discussions on the status of learning in government schools and take follow-up action.

Besides, this intervention was a step towards closing the gap between the ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’ with regards to education, and strengthened the community and local agencies to push for corrective measures to make schools more accountable.

Concluding remarks Participatory community action is an urgent need of the hour. Efforts such as this can create public spaces for stakeholders to engage; erect a bridge of communication between the school and the community; and enable an environment for development. The contests worked as an instrument to raise awareness among the community regarding children’s learning status, and generate a common resolve to make schools accountable to functioning in a manner that ensures quality primary education. This is especially important in the absence of robust institutional arrangements for accountability.

While quality of education has drawn a great deal of attention from policymakers at the national and state levels, there is still a need to inform local stakeholders regarding the issue and to strengthen them to participate locally to find solutions. GP-level mathematics contests may be a mechanism to enhance the capability of decentralised institutions for local oversight and support.

Notes: ASER is the largest citizen-led survey in India that provides information on children’s school enrolment and basic learning levels across the country. A gram panchayat is the cornerstone of a local self-government organisation in India of the Panchayati Raj system at the village or small-town level and has a sarpanch as its elected head. In 2014, only 11.8% and 20.1% of students from grades 4 and 5 respectively, could solve division-level problems.

Further Reading ASER Centre (2016), ‘Status of Education Report (Rural) 2016’, Pratham. Avritzer, L (2002), Democracy and the Public Space in Latin America, Princeton University Press, New Jersey. Baiocchi, G (2005), ‘Participation, activism, and politics: The Porto Alegre experiment and deliberative democratic theory’. Drèze, J, A Sen (2013), An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Govinda, R and R Diwan (2003), Community Participation and Empowerment in Primary Education, Sage Publication. Hadenius, A (2003), Decentralisation and Democratic Governance: Experiences from India, Bolivia and South Africa, Elanders Gotab, Stockholm. Heller, Patrick (2012), “Democracy, Participatory Politics and Development: Some Comparative Lessons from Brazil, India and South Africa”, Polity, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp. 643–665. Nylen, WR (2003), Participatory Democracy versus Elitist Democracy: Lessons from Brazil, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Johnson, C (2003), ‘Decentralisation in India: Poverty, Politics and Panchayati Raj’, Working Paper 199, Overseas Development Institute, London. Pillai, PP (2006), ‘Democratic Decentralization, Participatory Development and Civil Society: The Story of People’s Campaign for Decentralized Planning in India’, World Society Focus Paper Series, World Society Foundation, Zurich. Rosato, L (2014), ‘School ‘Quality and Effectiveness’ and Parental Attitudes towards Education in Rural India and Insights from the Alice Project’, Working Paper. UNDEF (2013), ‘2013 State of Participatory Democracy Report’, United Nations Democracy Fund. Vaijayanti, K, MN Suma and A Mondal (2016), ‘The Impact of Akshara Ganitha: A Longitudinal Study 2012-13 to 2014-15’, Akshara Foundation. Available here. UNDP (2000), ‘Decentralisation in India: Challenges & Opportunities’, Discussion Paper Series, United Nations Development Programme, New Delhi.

STARS OF HOPE – Impact of Progressive Communities on Learning

The Government Kannada Lower Primary School in Marasandahalli, Hosakote block, Bangalore Rural District, has not changed in all these years that Akshara has been working here. It looks like a little village abode even now, an overhang of foliage framing the veranda. Around 25-30 children, classes 1-5, poorly equipped as before, two teachers, and under-resourced.



In a small, half-lit classroom, one of only two in the school, teacher Shyam Shankar directs a Mathematics class for grades 4 and 5 with Akshara’s teaching-learning materials (TLMs) – the square counters, base ten blocks, fraction strips, decimal set and much else making for random choreography on the floor. Shyam Shankar would not have it any other way in his Mathematics class.

Akshara’s Mathematics programme, Akshara Ganitha, ended here two years ago. But this dedicated teacher, who took up Mathematics as his discipline midway into his 15-year career only because he was inspired by the programme, preserves its TLM kit with respect. “I use it every day. Absolutely,” he says.

It shows. Many of his students are achievers. In 2016-17, Chetan gained admission to class 6 in Navodaya and Monisha to Morarji . In 2017-18, Tanushree and Varshini made it to Navodaya. Not many children move meritoriously from government schools to quality-conscious Navodaya and Morarji schools for secondary stage education. The passage is arduous.

“They were able to score well because of the Mathematics coaching with Akshara’s TLMs,” says Shyam Shankar. “Children get a good foundation because of it. Their skills become stronger.”

In September 2016, Tanushree bagged the 1st prize and Varshini the 2nd in the Gram Panchayat Mathematics Contest Akshara Foundation held, in which the Marasandahalli school was one of the 9 participating schools. Close to 100 children from classes 4, 5 and 6 contested. Tanushree and Varshini had already crossed the threshold to bigger things in Navodaya, but represented their old school, holding aloft its flag of merit.

This is not the only banner flying high. As enlightened teachers, Shyam Shankar and his colleague know the value of engaging the community. Akshara’s community engagement team says, “There’s cooperation between the teachers and the people. Parents visit the school regularly to ask about the progress of their children. The teachers have the mobile numbers of all the parents. There’s trust between these two stakeholders.”

The team also acts as a catalyst, bringing together villagers, parents, teachers and students to sustain the momentum for education. In a progressive village like Marasandahalli, it is not hard to do. It has 483 people and a literacy rate of 60.80%, not too high, comparatively. The educational impetus, however, is strong in a village which has hardly any transport connectivity, and where the livelihoods are dairy, silkworm rearing and small-scale trade. “The important thing is the villagers have the enthusiasm to educate their children,” the team says.

Chetan, Monisha, Tanushree and Varshini are the new generation, their aspirational urge nurtured by a good government school, supportive teachers and an education-oriented community.

– Lakshmi Mohan for Akshara Foundation

STARS OF HOPE – Rakshita’s Perfect Scores!

On 27th  September 2017, Chinchanooru village in Aland taluk, Kalaburgi district held a school level Gram Panchayat math contest. This was just one of the scheduled GP contests, similar to the ones Akshara Foundation has been facilitating all across the state, this past year. So what makes this one stand out? Read on.

The Govt. Higher Primary School, Chinchanooru played host to the competition this time around. Four government schools come under this Gram Panchayat, and the total number of children who participated in the contest that day was 203.



After the fanfare of an elaborate inauguration ceremony, the question papers were distributed and the contest finally began. When the education volunteers evaluated the answer sheets and the results were announced, the winners’ marks were also disclosed during the prize distribution ceremony.

Rakshita, daughter of Jettappa, a daily-wage labourer, had scored 20 out of 20, pleasantly surprising everyone in the crowd. Now that’s an amazing score to have, considering some of the numbers that come up.

Amidst the cheers and jubilations, one of the GP members, Mr. Shivasharanappa Sajjan objected to the marks scored by Rakshita, saying it is impossible for this girl to score 100% mark in this contest, while many others have scored far fewer marks.

The 2nd and 3rd prize winners were at a considerable distance in terms of marks scored. He insisted that the prize distribution ceremony be stopped at once and Rakshita be made to answer all the 20 questions once again.

And so, a different question paper was given to Rakshita. She set out to take the new test. Scoring a perfect score again, Rakshita put every objection back in its place, and rightly so!



The entire crowd was overjoyed and so were we, at Rakshita’s math prowess. The standing ovation that followed resounded thunderously in the grounds, and went on for a while, amidst bells, whistles and claps, of course.

What followed afterwards was something no one expected.

Not only did Rakshita get the GP contest prize of Rs. 1,000/- which was anyway due to her,but she also got another Rs. 1000/- from the person who challenged her math abilities, Mr. Shivasharanappa Sajjan. Such a  great sport!

The vice president of the Gram Panchayat gave another Rs. 1000/- prize, another GP member Rs. 500/- and a village youth education volunteer Rs. 500/- and the School Head Master  further added Rs. 500/- to this kitty.

Instead of going home with a 1st (cash) prize of Rs. 1,000/- , she mopped up Rs. 4,500/- at the end of the day!

It was a truly memorable GP contest, especially because of the kind of support Rakshita got from the entire village.

Congratulations Rakshita! You are without a doubt, one of our stars.

Please see: All images are a reference to a GP contest held in schools, and not of the one talked about.

The Odisha Chapter Begins 

Stepping into Odisha is an ambitious outreach for Ganitha Kalika Andolana. Balangir and Rayagada, the programme’s terrain, are two backward districts where learning indicators are not so strong.

Setting the course for GKA’s Odisha chapter was the Master Resource Persons’ (MRPs) training that Akshara conducted for 50 teachers from the two districts. They gathered in sylvan Chikkaballapur outside Bangalore, determined to pursue their new course material as a teaching-learning opportunity.



They were GKA’s MRPs who, as master disseminators, will cascade the training to batches of teachers in Balangir and Rayagada. Surya Narayan Mishra, Deputy Director, Planning and Training, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), hand-picked them from amongst the best and brightest in the districts.

They were Mathematics teachers, youngish, enterprising, with an open mind. Most of them had a BSc and quite a few an MSc with Mathematics as their specialisation.

Akshara’s Master Trainer those five intensive days was a seasoned veteran, – her speciality, Mathematics, training, engagement. The teachers were near-perfect trainees, diligent as students, poring over Akshara’s Training Manual, experimenting with the kit, and listening. Profuse note-taking filled square-lined notebooks, the grid and calculus coming up with speedy precision. GKA’s methodology received extensive treatment. They wrote explanations, underlined crucial points, worked through sums.



By Day 2, they had a deeper sense of the value chain they could create when GKA reached 4600 classrooms and 1,98,000 children.

The training content contained the GKA sweep, with the Trainer explaining the methodology in detail. The CRA Cycle – C for concrete, or the teaching-learning materials (TLMs); R for representational, or procedural clarity; A for abstract, or the ultimate conclusions of Mathematics. The 5E Model of Learning – Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate. Group Learning Strategies, and concepts in the class 1-5 Mathematics syllabus.

“Take children in stages,” the Trainer said. “The first two stages are transit places. You can’t have C, R and A going in different directions. So how will you build your bridge? You develop a relationship with the three stages.”

“I teach in a hinterland school. Children don’t understand how many 10s there are in 100,” a teacher despaired. “Teach with colours, take the abacus, take the number line, the base 10 blocks,” said the Trainer. “Linger over the representational stage, that’s where understanding comes. Reinforce.”



The mood had lightened in the first two or three hours of the training. The unfamiliarity with GKA and its TLMs, the unknowing, had dissolved. Participants erupted in the delight of figuring something out or probed further and questioned, groups of them talking together. The Trainer encouraged it. “The energy of excitement is a positive vibe. If children exult in your Mathematics class, it is a eureka moment. It means they have discovered something.”

The days went by in camaraderie, unlearning and learning, and a spirit of inquiry.

In their feedback forms, teachers marked a vigorous Yes for parameters like: usefulness and effectiveness of the GKA TLM kit; group learning; and training content and design.



They felt they were privileged to be a select group that had mastered GKA’s teaching concepts and understood the importance of the andolan, or movement, they could unleash, and were ready to hit the ground as soon as they reached Odisha.

– Lakshmi Mohan  

Spreading the joy of Mathematics to six more districts.

Karnataka State Government rolls out Phase 2 of Ganitha Kalika Andolana in collaboration with Akshara Foundation.

October 20, 2016: The Karnataka State Government and Akshara Foundation, today signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to roll out Phase 2 of Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) – a Public-Private Partnership Programme to improve numeracy skills and facilitate classroom teaching of Mathematics. This phase will include all government primary schools in Bengaluru Rural, Chamarajanagara, Chitradurga, Chikkaballapura, Dharwad and Gadag Districts of Karnataka.

In June 2015, the State Government, supported through the Hyderabad Karnataka Regional Development Board (HKRDB) and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) had launched Phase 1 of GKA in the six districts of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, namely Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Bellary and Bidar.

Following the Honorable Chief Minister of Karnataka’s budget announcement for the year 2016-17 made on 18th March, 2016 related to the ‘expansion of activity based Math Programme for grades 4th and 5th in government primary schools’, Phase 2 of GKA will reach out to approximately 1.36 lakh students of grades 4 and 5, in approximately 4,930 Government Primary schools in Bengaluru Rural, Chamarajanagara, Chitradurga, Chikkaballapura, Dharwad and Gadag Districts.

Akshara Foundation will be in charge of developing and providing the content for the Ganitha Kalika Andolana kits, teacher’s manual and concept cards; developing and distributing math videos that will demonstrate all the math concepts taught till grade 5 with the use of TLMs provided in the kit and monitoring and assessment of the children’s learning levels through the course of the programme.

The State Government through SSA will ensure that the Math Kits are procured and delivered to all the schools in the six districts and that the teachers and resource persons are trained. Akshara Foundation will bring in the Master Trainers for this phase of the programme as well.

The comprehensive teaching methodology envisaged in the GKA programme is compliant with the guidelines prescribed by the National Curriculum Framework 2005 and supports the textbooks and workbooks designed by the Karnataka Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT).

Only about a fifth of the children studying in Grade 5 of Government primary schools in India are able to do basic division, putting them behind children in private schools at the same level. Akshara Foundation, in partnership with the Karnataka government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan aims to bridge this very gap and reach out to all primary schoolchildren across Karnataka by the year 2020 through this programme.

About GKA: Ganitha Kalika Andolana is a model support programme aimed at bridging learning gaps in math among children in grades four and five by using an activity based creative approach and peer learning rather than rote application of mathematical concepts. The programme also aims to build significant math capacity among teachers in the state.

About SSA: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right.

About Akshara Foundation: Akshara Foundation was set up with a mission to ensure Every Child in School and Learning Well. We believe that quality education is the undeniable right of every child and children should not be deprived of it just because they do not have access to it or the resources to realise their dreams.

Visit: www.akshara.org.in

Testing the level of math in children, the Gram Panchayat Way.

An entire academic year has just gone by after the grand launch of Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA), the innovative support programme rolled out in June 2015 by Akshara Foundation, in collaboration with the Karnataka State Government.

During the course of the year, the programme was implemented in six districts of the Hyderabad Karnataka region namely, Gulbarga, Koppal, Bellary, Raichur, Bidar and Yadgir. Around 8,000 teachers, 682 Government Resource Persons and 718 Cluster Resource Persons have been trained on the methodology, so that 300,000 children in 7,515 schools could benefit from this programme.

In an attempt to understand exactly how much the programe has benefitted the students and how much they have been exposed to it, Akshara Foundation was a proud facilitator of a one of its kind math competition for the children this summer.

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This competition was organised and spearheaded by the Gram Panchayats themselves. (A gram panchayat is the cornerstone of a local self-government organisation in India of the panchayati raj system at the village or small town level and has a sarpanch as its elected head – source: Wikipedia) Many villages come under a single Gram Panchayat. And Akshara identified around 250 such gram panchayats, spread across the 6 districts of GKA.

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Out the 250 identified Gram Panchayats, the team managed to conduct competitions in 216 of them.

Covering concepts on the Number System, Arithmetic Operations, Geometry and Measurement, the question papers were set by Akshara Foundation .

A total of 18,085 children showed up over the course of six weeks to participate in these competitions. This mammoth project involved around 2,000 youth volunteers and 20,000 odd parents, taking the ANDOLANA (meaning a Movement) to a whole new level. Many of the parents were exposed to the impact of interactive-based learning and in turn, the importance of math, for the first time.

So how does something like this work? Easier said than done. Akshara Foundation set each question paper with painstaking care, to cover all the major listed concepts equally. They were then couriered to each Gram Panchayat in sealed envelopes.

The Gram panchayat members would then begin the competition by opening the sealed envelopes on the day of the competition, in front of everyone. All the participants were given a paper each, and had to solve all the questions within the given time. Our youth volunteers would then huddle in a room and and correct the papers themselves, once all the papers were collected from the children.

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Once done, the results were announced in a grand closing ceremony, where the child who bagged the 1st prize was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 1000/-, Rs. 600/- was awarded as the 2nd prize and Rs. 400/- as the 3rd prize.

All this (excluding the setting of the paper) took place over the course of a few hours, right in front of everyone. There were no hidden rules or blanks left to fill in by the unassuming audience.

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All this sounds like a picture perfect new method of assessing children, but how did the children actually fare?

Of the 18,085 children who were tested (4th standard, 5th standard and 6th standard), the overall performance of those in the 5th standard was found to be relatively better, with a marginal increase in the percentage of students in high grades when compared with the performance of those in the 4th and 6th standard.

Some stark figures that need to be spoken about: 72.3% of the children tested could perform 4-digit addition, but when it came to 4-digit subtraction and multiplication, only 55.6% and 30.9% of them could manage it.

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While 23.8% children could do 4-digit division, only 17.2% children could solve division problems conveyed through a practical scenario.

Overall, the children of Raichur and Yadagiri districts scored the highest (14% and 18% scored above 75% respectively). Bellary and Kalburgi districts exhibited the lowest performance scores (where only 9% and 7% of the children scored above 75% respectively).

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The children’s performance, good or bad, has definitely started many a conversation amongst all the stakeholders. We are happy that this initiative has motivated the community to take a keen interest in their children’s education.

And to ensure this dialogue opens up in all the areas of Ganitha Kalika Andolana, Akshara Foundation will help organise around 400 more Gram Panchayat competitions, similar to these 216 over the course of the academic year.

Links to images and press clips:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aksharadotorg/sets/72157668273677140

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aksharadotorg/sets/72157668273810880

CELEBRATING six months of Ganitha Kalika Andolana

Akshara Foundation, in partnership with the Karnataka government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, launched a math programme called Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) in June 2015.

It aims to improve numeracy skills in over 300,000 students in 7520 Government primary schools across North Karnataka.

Six months of GKA are already behind us and we are happy to share that increasingly children in government primary schools are enjoying learning math.

We know because we hear from teachers, community leaders, volunteers and children. The achievements of this movement are many. And so are our supporters, like you.

Here’s a look at our journey so far…
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Do spread the word about this movement by sharing this video.

More power to the #GKAMathMovement. Enjoy!

Prepping the teachers for Ganitha Kalika Andolana.

Teacher training under Ganitha Kalika Andolana in Koppal district IMG_1161 I was eagerly looking forward to visiting a centre where the Teacher training was in progress. I got the opportunity in Koppal district, one of the 6 districts in the Hyderabad–Karnataka region, where the Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) is being rolled out by the Government of Karnataka along with Akshara Foundation. IMG_1254 The first visit was outside Koppal town, down a rutted mud road, which deposited us inside the pleasant compound of the Urdu HPS school. The teacher training was in progress and the participants were fairly engaged in doing the task given by the Resource Persons (RPs)– in this case it was a revision of the multiplication process using the Teaching-learning material provided in the Akshara Math Kit. There were three RPs, all of them High School math teachers, who had a clear grasp of the principles behind the pedagogy and were confidently answering the queries. IMG_1259 When the topic of fractions was started, one teacher wanted to know why the fractions in Kannada should not be named as ‘one-fifth’, for instance, instead of ‘five parts of which one’ – to loosely translate the practice in the Kannada language. Finally we agreed that it is best to teach children terminology that is used in the text-book, which also maintains uniformity across all schools in the state. I was touched when one of the RPs picked up the Teacher Manual and told me, “This Manual is the Bhagavad Gita – it has everything we need to teach maths!” IMG_1309 At the second training center we visited, the participants were sitting out under the shade of a tree, since it was a small and stuffy room allotted for the training. Here too there was a High School teacher who was conducting the session single-handedly, with assistance from Ramesh, Akshara’s District Coordinator. IMG_1332 Many of the teachers were in some confusion about converting time on the 12 hour clock to the 24 hour clock; an interesting session on area and perimeter followed. They admitted that in the school the portions relating to geometry were usually hurried through at the end of the academic year. IMG_1211 There was a request for extending the training by one more day so that adequate time could be given for activities. The RP was very grateful that “Akshara has given such a beautiful Kit to students in Government schools.” See how the two days were spent by all these teachers and RPs, in pictures.  – By Kanchan Bannerjee

CHANGING THE WAY 3,00,000 CHILDREN SEE MATH.

We launched Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) with a lot of gusto, amid even more applause. This first-of-its-kind programme in partnership with the Karnataka Government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is going to cover 3,00,000 children in over 7,500 schools. We know what you’re thinking – that’s a huge figure.

But for us, it’s just the beginning. Or as we like to call it, Phase 1. Getting a programme like this to be rolled out in six districts was relatively simple. It is getting the children taught in the right manner using this kit – that’s the BIG challenge. Akshara_In-School Programme_059 When resource people and teachers, the people who are going to spearhead its progress hereon see the contents of the Big Box or the GKA kit for the very first time, they are awestruck and taken aback at the same time. They are torn between a ‘wow’ and a ‘How am I going to use all this and teach math?’ 1 It’s simple, really. With some seriously-intensive training. And no puns intended. Training is an integral part of every new beginning, and is necessary for a smooth transition, progress and therefore, success.

Within days of the Andolana going LIVE, all training charts had been drawn up and calls started pouring in. Everyone seemed keen on getting this show on the road. There are three levels to the GKA training programme. The first level was training given by Akshara Foundation to the Master Resource Persons. The second was a 3-day session exclusively for Cluster Resource Persons (CRPs) and experienced teacher trainers from all clusters, trained by Master Resource Persons of Akshara Foundation. 1   From 23rd June to 30th September ’15, out of 1,400 resource people to be trained, we covered 1,280 – about 120 CRPs have yet to be assigned to their clusters by the state education department. Hardly had they been trained, they were eager to begin the 3rd round of training immediately.

For instance, within a few days of their training, the resource people at Devadurga waited impatiently for the kits to arrive. The minute they did, they fixed the 23rd of July to kick-start the teachers’ level of training. The third and final round will see these CRPs transfer their knowledge to the 8,300 teachers of the government primary schools in all districts. And as of 31st July ’15, around 684 teachers have already been trained. DSC_0357 We visited a 2nd level training programme in Urdu, at Gulbarga and could not help but share our experience. A group of 30 uncertain looking people slowly trickled into the classroom, unsure of what to expect over the next three days. They all had one common expression – why in the world was Akshara teaching them basic math? DSC_0176   The group was trained by Mr. Deshpande and Mr. Kulkarni, retired educationists who were first trained by Akshara Foundation. Nothing could have braced these 30 for what was about to hit them. Out came the blocks, foam squares and beaded ropes, to explain how they could be used in Addition and Subtraction. And with that, their eyes started widening with interest. Addition and Subtraction later, the group was hooked. DSC_0215 They could not peel their eyes away from the board. Frantic notes were being taken, questions fired, things being pulled out of the kits to see how they could do it on their own. It was chaos, fun and learning, all rolled into one roller-coaster class. This was followed by multiplication, division, fractions… slowly every one of the 21 items were used to cover the entire 4th and 5th standard syllabi. After each concept, they kept exclaiming if it could interest them this much, imagine how the children will love this way of learning.     DSC_0335 They were busy solving math problem after problem, using element after element. The paper money, base 10 blocks and foam squares seemed to catch their fancy the most. It was amazing to see how they had all become children in class all over again, learning to love math the way it should be loved.   DSC_0242 And this is just one such success story, from one of the training programmes. Imagine the sheer magnanimity of this movement when all 8,300 teachers and 1,400 resource people join in as enthusiastically! Check out our entire album on the 2nd level of training sessions.   

10 essential facts you need to know about Karnataka’s Math movement.

Did you know that the state of Karnataka has come up with an incredible antidote to the drudgery of learning math in the classroom. To this end, the state government has started Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) – a one of its kind math movement which is currently underway in the state and is making math fun, interesting and stimulating enough for both students as well as teachers. Here are a few interesting facts about this silent movement that is influencing the way math is taught in government schools…


Read on to find your way to the movement:

1. The game of numbers
Ganitha Kalika Andolana, is set to benefit 3 lakh children in classes 4 and 5 across 7520 schools in the six districts of the Hyderabad Karnataka Region.

2. More power to the exponents
Karnataka’s math movement is one of its kind public-private partnership (PPP) between the state government and Akshara Foundation, a non-profit.

3. Factoring the lowest common denominator
The math movement is currently on in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the statewhere development indices are consistently low. The six districts of Hyderabad Karnataka Region are considered most educationally backward and the region is conferred with special status in the state under Article 371J of the Constitution.

4. Weapons of math instruction
The math movement is backed with attractive, well researched teaching and learning material (TLM), math videos, pop-culture posters and teacher manuals in Kannada, Urdu and English. Designed with flair and care, these can tempt even an adult maths-phobe to give Math a shot. Brightly coloured counters, beads, dices, clocks, plastic currency, miniature weighing scale, exciting videos and much more – all of it is certainly giving math learning a new dimension.

5. Keeping a count
Ganitha Kalika Andolana is also supported by an Interactive Voice Response (IVRS) facility. Share real time data on the usage of math teaching aids, voice your concerns and make the movement a success – all of this just by making one call.

6. Grammy sensation
Grammy award winner Ricky Kej has composed a catchy math anthem in both Kannada and English for the math movement. Also available for download as a song and phone ringtone, the anthem is already a hit with both students and teachers.

7. License to common creativity
Not in Karnataka but still want to use all teaching resources? As partner to the math movement, Akshara Foundation has made all the resources freely available under the Creative Commons License. Training manuals, math videos, concept cards – all of them just a click away. Go download!

8. Keep it safe – part of the equation
The state government has left no stone unturned to ensure that while the teaching and learning material is child friendly it is also non-toxic and completely safe to be used by children. All the teaching aids are certified to be non-toxic by National Referral Center for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI).

9. Trained to score
This silent math movement is certainly stepping up the game for teachers. Nearly 8000 teachers are being trained in math teaching methodology, understanding the key principal and being motivated enough to achieve the ultimate goal. After all, inspired students require inspired teachers.

10. Math matters
And if you are wondering whether all this will really improve numeracy levels of children in the state, then stay tuned to hear more about Ganitha Kalika Andolana – Karnataka’s math movement where a third party appointed by SSA and DSERT will assess and analyse the impact of this effort.

So add these all up, get inspired and join the movement.