Learning from experience last year, the Directorate of Education’s Project Pragati is being revised and expanded. ‘Piloted’ only for the last batch of ninth-graders, this year it will cover all grades six to nine at all Delhi Government schools, five “core” subjects and roughly impact nine lakh students.
Intervention at ninth grade, that too in just three subjects, came a little too late, feel department officials. This time, they’re starting early. The course material — put together by the department’s teachers with support from the NGO, Pratham, and printed by the Delhi Bureau to Textbooks — was ready by February and about 24,000 teachers who teach classes VI to X were “oriented” over five days ending on April 7. The programme itself will continue till the summer vacations start.
Crucially, the “supplementary material” being put together by the department is largely in Hindi with some expressions rendered in English. While DoE officials concede there is high demand for English-medium teaching now, instruction in the vernacular is a requirement of the Right to Education Act, 2009. There is also a sizeable body of research — including a relatively recent one based on Young Lives longitudinal study conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — that says kids learn better when taught in the mother tongue and their capacity to pick up a second language improves significantly too.
The plan to divide classes into segments according to the students’ learning levels, ‘piloted’ only at the 54 model schools last year, has been shelved altogether. Shailendra Kumar Sharma, originally from Pratham and now advising the director, education, says the “supplementary material” — in the shape of thin workbooks or booklets — is appropriate for the diversity in a government school classroom. “We’re not touching the syllabus. There are new stories in the material and worksheets. Many activities are suggested. Some the students can complete independently, some have to be attempted in groups with teachers facilitating. This will help with peer-learning,” he explains. Anil Teotia, principal of the District Institute for Education and Training (DIET), Dilshad Garden, adds that the enrichment programme will ensure that students start on the year’s syllabus with their concepts clear. “For instance, for Class VI, we’ll cover Class V.” This will be followed by a “dip-stick” survey to check the progress made.
Other adjustments have been made to accommodate this. Teachers have been largely relieved of non-academic work, they have to set only monthly targets and not weekly. The last time they ran the programme, the department centrally sent questions to parents through SMSes to engage them into the process. “Fathers surprised their children by putting questions to them,” says Sharma, “We gathered feedback after it ended – 95% parents said they would love to receive questions on text messages and 70% found their kids studying more.”