India has been maintaining an impressive growthin the education sector for the last two decadesirrespective of global circumstances. There is,however, scope for improvement always, writesRaj Bagaria, a student at The LawrencevilleSchool in New Jersey, US, based on his research.
Since 1990s, poverty reduction and economic growth in India have been spectacular. Maintaining an average economic growth rate of 6.7%, India has lifted millions of people out of poverty. However,education sector still needs major reforms. The India Socioeconomic and Caste Census recently showed that only 3.5% of rural students are college graduates, whereas 35.7% of residents are illiterate.
In the last three years, my personal research and community service project involved conducting a comprehensive survey of a public charity school — Ved Vignan Maha VidyaPeeth (VVMVP) in Bangalore — to grasp the state of rural education in India.
The VVMVP school network, one of the biggest educational organisations in India, has over 400 schools educating over 40,000 students across 20 states.However, one of the major areas of education in which these schools can improve is enhanced collaboration between students and teachers.
In rural areas, free schools almost universally employ rote learning that does not encourage students to utilise their knowledge creatively outside the classroom. Financial constraints prohibit these schools to meaningfully innovate their educational system. Therefore, a emphasised the Harkness method of learning. In this style of education,students often sit in a circle and debate and unravel certain topics amongst themselves, while the teacher serves as a guide through the discussion. The practical benefits of this teaching style include greater communication and articulation skills, greater interpersonal skills, stronger grasp of the material, and a wider perspective on any topic or issue.
Since the students never had any prior exposure to anything similar to Harkness, the project introduced activities in order of progressing difficulty.During the beginning of school, only as lightly moderated curriculum that the students were accustomed to was used.Then, for understanding of students and to enhance their abilities, oral poetry recitations speaking method was introduced.Immediately, the levels of anxiety amongst the students were observed.However, as with the first step, the students eventually grew comfortable with the new teaching style.
Once the students felt at ease with this activity, another step was taken toward Harkness by playing different collaborative games that forced the students to both analyse other students as well as speak loudly. Soon, as the students began to open up, harder debate activities and class discussions were introduced. These exercises immensely boosted students’ confidence and their ability to clearly express their thoughts and ideas. Teachers started witnessing that, students were more eager to attend classes and were definitely speaking English more fluently and effortlessly.
Harkness learning is a wonderful solution to the problem of rote learning in India that does not entail any additional costs. The Harkness learning can help rural students develop important life skills that would enable success beyond the classroom.