Interactive education at STIR-Day 6 in India
Follow Curtis Scholarship winner, Drew Jensen, as he explores India.
Drew Jensen is Global Citizen’s 2015 Curtis Scholar. The scholarship provides an immersive experience highlighting effective development programs focused on sanitation, girls and women, and education. Drew is traveling with Global Poverty Project staff, meeting key partners and working in India. Below are photos and blog entries from Drew’s journey. This is day 6, follow the rest of his trip here.
My time in India is winding down, and my visit to STIR today made me wish that I could stay much longer. Every day I'm here I meet another exceptional group of people doing amazing work to combat poverty.
STIR is a non-profit that focuses on expanding opportunities for quality education in impoverished areas of India and Uganda. Alongside the primary goal of getting children through school, they also supplement this work with a variety of efforts to develop great teachers and create behavioral change in parents. At the end of the day, a student's chance for success is dependent on the support system around them.
For our visit, STIR took us to a school that they are currently working with in East Delhi. Despite the fact that Indian schools are currently on summer break, the STIR teachers from he local school and their other branches were more than happy to come in and meet us to share some of the work they're doing.
Hilary and I with the STIR teachers.
One of the biggest problems STIR is working to solve is student attendance. A step towards increasing attendence is a new program to engage parents in the educational process as well. Most of the student's parents aren't literate, so as the students develop their own reading and writing skills, they have been charged with the task of teaching their parents how to write their names in English and Hindi as well. Parents who come in to meet with the teachers to discuss the student’s progress are asked to write their own names in both languages, which are then placed on a bulletin board next to their pictures. The parents of these students love this idea and thrive on the positive reinforcement. The parents can see firsthand the progress of their kids and the value of their kids education, and thus push their children to keep attending. Since implementing this program, the school we visited has seen their attendance rates double.
Here are some pictures of flashcards the teachers and students made:
Another problem with the Indian educational system is a lack of qualified teachers. Considering this problem, STIR has instituted a bottom-up teacher development program. STIR has brought in exceptional teachers from the schools they partner with to be trained in methods that their research has proven to be effective. These methods are centered around making classes interactive rather than simply instructional. Then the teachers that STIR has trained go back and train their fellow teachers in the same methods. There are 4 levels of teacher development, and as the teachers reach specific training benchmarks, they receive certificates of completion. The level that a teacher is at is also tied to their compensation.
These programs for both teachers and students are implemented with the idea of improving continuity in the schools STIR works in. It was truly inspiring to see the passion of the teachers STIR has partnered with. This bottom up approach seems to hold great promise, as it allows the schools to be sustainable even once STIR has moved on to other schools, and is cost effective because it doesn't require STIR to train every teacher on their own. I find this to be a truly brilliant approach to developing a quality education system. The innovative approaches to community development I've encountered here in India continue to amaze me.
Here's one of the posters from the STIR classroom in East Delhi.