From 2019-20 I worked at the grassroots of the Indian Education System in Uttarakhand gaining more than a handful of insights. Living in the foothills of the Western Himalayas each day was more picturesque than the next.
In the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand there are two school calendars namely the Summer and Winter. Summer school began at 7 am and lasted till 1pm and Winters was 9 am to 3;30 pm.
The real challenge was not teaching the students, it was reaching the schools.Me
My Interventions in Primary Schools
My foremost responsibility was intervening with the Primary Schools Headmasters in remote government schools at a particular block in Uttarakhand. My interventions were meant to increase the learning outcome of the young minds in classes three and five using a range of activities such as showing them videos, role reversal, providing them with interesting worksheets and chart making sessions were all encouraged in the classrooms I entered.
The difficulties in running Single teacher run schools
Now working at the grassroots I became aware of the serious shortages of teachers. As I intervened further with students ranging from Class III to Class V, I realized most of schools I taught in where single teacher run schools with all the administrative burdens falling on the Headmaster (Officially a Principal, but also a teacher).
The Headmaster taught five different classes at the same time to avoid the children from making noise as he mostly has to fill up the following
- Mid Day Meal Register
- Scholarship Forms (Navodya)
- Inter School Contests (Quiz Competiton, Spellings etc)
- Opening Bank Accounts
- Physically Depositing Money into the Bank Accounts
- Finally teaching the students
I empathized with teachers in the schools I intervened with. But I only felt and understood it when I experienced it when headmasters requested me to teach students and finish off their the syllabus as they filled up forms for the students or went to the banks.
It’s through lived experience and by realistic books such as Poor Economics by Abhjit V Banerjee and Esther Duflo that I was able to connect the dots of the stark ground realties to data and facts I read in books.