Since inception, REACHA has attempted fundamental work in child development through integrated and holistic education. It also seeks to connect this to positive social change in order to facilitate creation of a more humane society. At the core of education, is the role of the teacher who interacts with children in the classroom. REACHA strengthens and supports this interaction in order to make learning fun and outcome oriented. It does this through a very strategic intervention at the pedagogical level: Project Based Learning (PBL) – that connects the classroom/scholastic core concepts in math, science and language as available in NCERT/NAtional Curriculum books, to the child’s real world through fun filled interactive projects. These can be delivered in class as well as through after school support. In both cases, multiple reinforcement of learning as part of transaction pedagogy is diligently practiced. The real world connect brings in aspects of social change that the child and the parents are grappling with. In this way, for example, as math concepts are strengthened, the child also learns, by doing, a project on water conservation at home and the community. The project is also delivered with high standard of ethics and moral values – thereby facilitating positive social change, better learning and development of a responsible citizen. Project “LEARN” has been formulated to capture and deliver this methodology.

A Way To Improve Learning Outcomes in School Children - A Brief Note

About Project LEARN

Government support has developed enough learning content – however, its transaction in the classroom is often not appropriate, resulting in poor to sub-standard learning outcomes for school children. Even the implementation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act 2009 has not made much progress in this regard, even though we now have many more children in school than before. Therefore, REACHA decided to focus on developing a comprehensive community based Teacher Training Initiative (TTI) that could attempt to fill this gap. We are happy to state that today we have evolved a comprehensive new initiative – LEARN - that is described in the following paragraph, which caters to this need.

LEARN (Learning in Education through Applied Reinforcement as per Need) is a pioneering initiative designed by REACHA through its 2 decades of work in formal and non-formal education in India. REACHA recognizes the nation’s concern of improvement of learning outcomes and universalisation of elementary education as of paramount importance, and strives to bring the deprived and marginalized, out-of-school and educationally backward children in rural/remote areas and urban slums under the safety net of education through an innovative approach. For thousands of these poverty-stricken children, quality education is a distant dream. LEARN aims to make this dream come true, thereby bringing a significant upliftment in the lives of the people.

LEARN aims to impart remedial or supplementary education to primary school children showing low learning achievements. The project adopts a unique, scientific approach in both pedagogy and teaching methodology. Project-based learning (PBL) methodology is combined with multiple level reinforcements to address the root cause of low learning outcomes - parental ignorance and social backwardness. The approach and methodology not only ensure that children learn well, but also create required environment for them to imbibe the concepts and subjects being taken up in the class.

With a door-step approach, LEARN reaches out to the hard-to-reach pockets in urban slums and backward rural areas having the largest concentration of educationally deprived children. Besides access to quality education as a core objective, the intervention adopts a holistic development approach and tries to remove all barriers which cause educational exclusion of underprivileged children. In addition, moral education, healthcare, personal hygiene, art and craft, sports and cultural enrichment are provided through various activities in-built in the curriculum. The project has shown effective outcomes and lasting impact as reported by independent impact assessment studies conducted by reputed agencies like TISS (for the Aroh Project).

The project targets retention and age-appropriate learning outcomes for children through provision of non-formal remedial learning centres which follow a hub and spoke model. With a shift in focus from schooling to learning, LEARN centres serve as a critical interface between the child and the government/community based school and provides support and quality learning opportunities to thousands of poor children who are not able to cope up with studies and face the threat of dropping out. A LEARN center can also be embedded within the formal-school system based on the need in a given situation.

Introduction and Rationale
India has demonstrated considerable progress in the past decade on improving access, infrastructure, pupil-teacher ratios, teacher salaries, and student enrolment in primary schools. Nevertheless, student learning levels and trajectories of the same are disturbingly low. The country seems to be in a serious crisis - despite the implementation of the RTE Act 2009.

The goal of basic education is to give students skills to communicate adequately, to solve basic mathematical problems and to apply this knowledge to everyday situations. Children should understand what they read and then be able to write appropriately. This is indispensable not only for acquiring the basic competency in the 3R’s - reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic - but also to continue learning and growing with time. Once basic knowledge is obtained, higher levels of understanding can be reached by complimenting what students know, with exercises, correlation, differences, inconsistencies, a search for information and a willingness to learn from mistakes. As far as the output at the primary level is concerned, it is expected that all children are able to attain the learning achievement levels in all the subjects, corresponding to their grades. In practice it has been observed that the achievement level of students in primary school is very poor. Various studies have shown that more than 50 % of children have lower achievement levels than desired and only very few children attain 80 % level of achievement in various subjects. A study conducted in Delhi schools observes that the schools managed by MCD reported the lowest mean scores. In the case of mathematics test based on Grade IV competencies, around 50 % students could score only less than 40 %.

It is evident from various studies, that children from poor and marginalised background are the worst sufferers in the present education system. The factors responsible for low learning outcomes in all children, such as small and inadequate infrastructure, less financial resources, untrained teachers and uninteresting methods of teaching, exist all across. However, the marginalised children are further disadvantaged because of their poor socio economic background, ignorance and illiteracy of parents, indifference of teachers to poor students, lack of conducive learning environment, no reinforcement of learning at home, low value of education in the families, poor nutrition etc. Besides the above, straightjacket approach to the content and process of education does not work for all. The relevance of the standardized curriculum and teaching-learning methodologies affects the pace and quality of output, especially for the poor and backward children. If the remedial measures are not initiated, and extra attention is not paid to poor and disadvantaged children, the quality of education cannot be assured to them.

The thrust of policy and practice in India has now shifted from “schooling” to “learning”. The Twelfth Plan (2012-2017) underlines the importance of learning outcomes. One of the most important steps for long run and sustainable improvement in learning outcomes is to focus at the beginning. For the 2014-15 school year, the annual work plan guidelines of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have new insertions that underline the importance of building solid foundations of language and numeracy in early grades.

LEARN is a unique and pioneering model for Universalisation of Quality Elementary Education which has been developed and shared pan India by REACHA over the last 20 years. The initiative has got wide recognition and is being hailed as a genuine and robust good practice to achieve access, retention and desired learning outcomes for children between 6 to 14 years of age. REACHA has shared the LEARN methodology with corporates like Tata Power, Tata Telecom, Tech Mahindra, Rural Electrification Corporation Limited as part of their CSR in Education efforts. School systems like Delhi Public School, Manava Bharati, Ahlcon International, Apeejay, DAV etc. have benefitted hugely through teacher and Principal training. The CBSE at the Central Government level have consistently engaged with REACHA on PBL and LEARN methodologies to further strengthen learning outcome efforts. NGOs like KAtha, Ank, Vidya & Child, Aroh Foundation, Maa Kalka Sewa Samiti etc. have imbued this approach through REACHA experts over the years.

Since 2009-10, the LEARN approach has taken up nearly 30,000 children in about 100 slums of Delhi/NCR and 80 villages of UP, MP and Maharashtra in partnership with Aroh Foundation, Maa Kalka Sewa Samiti, Nathani Steel etc. covering a wide spectrum of socio, economic and systemic deprivation and marginalisation, into the fold of education. The LEARN methodology was also shared with the Tech Mahindra Foundation to assist its NGOs working in the area of primary education. Indirectly, the project has benefitted more than a lakh of people through this intervention. The project ;8has today evolved into a scientific and proven model to improve learning outcomes of children belonging to urban and rural poor and first generation learners. It has demonstrated a unique community action and participation that tries to remove barriers that cause educational exclusion of underprivileged slum children.

Project Goal
LEARN has an overarching goal of strengthening Government’s efforts towards Universalisation of Quality Elementary Education including the components of access, retention and learning outcomes, which is not only a national concern, but also a global issue, voiced as EFA and one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG2). The project also aims to address the larger issue of poverty and ignorance through provision of educational opportunities to the poor and unreached segments of society.

Specific Objectives
• To improve access, retention and learning outcomes for children in the age group of 6-14 years so that they receive quality education at elementary level.
• To enrol and mainstream residual out-of-school children from the disadvantaged and marginalised social groups, residing in rural villages and urban slums;
• To improve retention in schools and lower dropout rates;
• To improve learning outcomes as per indicators developed and ensure age-appropriate learning levels through supplementary and remedial coaching.
• To improve teaching quality in schools.
• To connect scholastic learning with co-scholastic activities like sports in a scientific and structured manner so that the mind-body balance is developed in every child. This forms an equally important component for integrated child development
Other Objectives
• To provide holistic and integrated child development activities through a comprehensive programme catering to the emotional and health needs of the children.
• To give due importance to moral and value education for creating good and responsible citizens.
• To create a conducive environment against child exploitation and strengthen a rights-based system in favour of child education and development.
• To promote multi-sectoral linkages and programmes that link education with health, nutrition, labour, environment, and other areas by generating support from various stakeholders.

Beneficiaries, Outreach and Target:
Poor and marginalised children in rural backward areas and urban slums form the main target groups. Children eligible to be covered under the project are in the age group of 6-14 years and those who are:
1. Deprived of education and have remained out-of-school for some reason.
2. Dropped out of formal education system due to poverty or lack of educational facilities.
3. Not attending school regularly either because of work or problems at school.
4. Attending school, but not able to learn and achieve the desired grade-specific level.

Project Duration and Annual Cycle
Projects can be taken up in any location for total period of 3-5 years after which they can become sustainable through community ownership.

Project Team

Management: This team is responsible for project execution as per strategy, plan and guidelines. It has an experience of working in scholastics, and delivers directly under the expertise of Nikhil Pant, Principal Consultant, REACHA.

Technical Team – is mentored by domain expert, Nikhil Pant, who has a rich experience in school education and has developed the pedagogy and methodology of PBL. The master trainers in the technical team, trained by the mentor himself, are responsible for training the teachers to deliver at field level. The technical team is responsible for curriculum design and development, classroom transaction, quality of teaching and monitoring.

Field Team: At the field level, there are coordinators/supervisors and community teachers.

Implementation Strategy
The proposed project strategy includes the following strategic interventions:
• Align project objectives with the RTE Act 2009 and national development plans in Primary Education.
• Address access and equity gaps in elementary education in covered schools and villages by adopting innovative measures and ensure regular attendance of children in schools;
• Devising special strategies to tackle the problem of dropping out before completing the full cycle of elementary schooling;
• Focus on early grade supplemental instruction to ensure that all children achieve the defined age-/class-specific learning levels;
• Improve quality of education of the beneficiaries to the desired measurable level which can be assessed and reported through school examination;
• Create awareness amongst parents and teachers regarding learning outcomes;
• Work towards motivation, capacity development and accountability of community and parents for ensuring regular attendance and quality education; and
• Convergence with local authorities, aanganwadis, corporates and civil societies, panchayats, for ensuring the desired outcomes.
• Be an effective interface between the disadvantaged and deprived children and government schools to bring lasting impact of the intervention.
• Bring the benefits of other schemes and welfare programmes to LEARN beneficiaries for their holistic growth and development.
• Promote exploitation free society for the beneficiaries, especially those who are victims of exploitative circumstances.
• Take measures to improve the family well-being, especially economic conditions of the family by dovetailing other interventions for skilling mothers for better income generation.

Approach and Methodology
The project structure has been designed as a dynamic and flexible, child-centric model to suit the needs of the individual beneficiary, within the larger frame of his/her social milieu. The project adopts a modular and replicable approach, which makes it easy to enlarge in scale and coverage; an innovative curriculum and teaching learning methodology which prepares the child for school enrolment and subsequent retention and learning. There are in-built components to ensure long-term sustainability of the project.

The LEARN model is built on a tier structure and can work on a cluster approach, which helps in implementation, management and monitoring of the project on a large scale to ensure quality of delivery and sustained impact. The basic unit of the project, located in the village or slum, is the bottom tier and is the hub of all action. All centres are connected to nearby primary schools. Over the next 3-5 years, 50 LEARN Centres, located within a radius of 5-20 kms, can be evolved to form a cluster which is governed by a Nodal Centre. A number of nodal centers may be set up depending on the need. All nodal centres report to the main administrative centre. It is here that a Community based Teacher Training Institute (CTTI) is housed from where the process of quality learning radiates outwards. At the CTTI all transactional content/pedagogy development and training of teachers (ToT) by master trainers happens. Teachers here come from the nodal center geographies. CTTI also attempts to decentralize its functioning to the nodal center so that extra travel may be avoided and ToT can happen there.

To begin with, typically an action area is identified for the project on the basis of secondary data and reports. A random sampling and survey is done in the area to locate primary schools and identify the eligible beneficiaries for the project. A nodal centre is established in the area and relevant staff is recruited.

The project is envisaged to have both school-based intervention and community-based intervention as per need to provide a more holistic learning environment to each beneficiary.

School-based intervention would have the following objectives:
1. Initial identification of beneficiaries
2. Capacity building of teachers
3. Monitoring of students’ performance in school

Community-based interventions would have the following objectives:
1. Initial identification of beneficiaries who are not attending schools
2. Identification of community teachers
3. Setting up of LEARN centre/s
4. Capacity building of community teachers
5. Teaching-learning at the centres for children
6. Monitoring of students’ performance in school

LEARN centre is situated within the village or slum, making it easily accessible for both the students and teachers/monitors. The teachers will be drawn from the village itself and care will be taken to engage only those individuals who have a passion for mentoring and teaching. They are further strengthened through regular capacity building workshops. The centres provide a safe and friendly environment with a curriculum designed to keep the students interested and engaged with a host of creative activities.

Absenteeism if any is immediately and regularly checked by the teacher. Both instructors and mobilisers pay regular visits to the child’s family and parental counselling is a regular exercise. Value education and celebration of various important days are mandatory for each centre. Each child’s profile and progress is maintained at the centre and a child-centric approach is adopted to take them forward. A strong networking is established with nearby schools, both public and private, for mainstreaming the children, where needed. The educators, mobilisers and supervisors take care of the admission formalities, including preparing the affidavits and documents required. They also maintain contact with the school and monitor the learning progress of the school children.

Curriculum and Teaching:
Child-centric and innovative project-based learning methods are followed for imparting the curriculum and pedagogy designed for the project. While community teachers would be responsible for delivery of teaching, it would be important to build the capacity of school teachers for better outcomes. The project adopts the NCERT or State prescribed curriculum, but follows its own well designed and robust project-based learning modules in which learning relates to a child’s everyday life. Core concepts have been identified from the NCERT books for all 4 subjects (Hindi, English, Math, and Science/EVS – Environmental Sciences). Stories are framed around the social and societal concerns of the child and community like water, air, food, etc. 3-5 Stories are taken up for a month in the classes. Every story is divided into the learning of 5 days; each story includes learning objective, matching of core concept and activities. This is the basic essence of the PBL approach.

E.g. Core concepts covered through NCERT books in some of the Project's (Px):

a. Hindi: Barakhadi , swar-venjan, matras, akshro ka nirman, shabdo ko jodna, shabdo ke sath vakya banana, akshoro aur shabdo ko bolkar aur likh kar abhyash karna, vakya se anukshed ka nirman karna, kahani ko padhana, kavita ke madhayam se vakyo ko bolna sikhana,etc.
b. English: Alphabets, sound words, formation of words, develop writing skills, building the rhymes words, to develop writing skill of sentences.
c. Arithmetic: counting up to 100, both forward and backward, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, tables up to ten, concept of time etc.
d. EVS/ Moral studies: hygiene, body parts, knowledge about climate weather, day’s name month’s name, river, mountain, environment, identification of colours Drawing: fruits, vegetables and shapes.

8 level multiple-reinforcement and revision is imparted to the students:

• Reinforcement R1- Core Concept is embedded in the sub-module activities each day in a week.
• Reinforcement R2 - Every subsequent day in a week, the first 15-20 minutes are to be used for revision of the previous class through a quick recall.
• Reinforcement R3 - A Core Concept often gets repeated for multiple days in a week.
• Reinforcement R4 -Every weekend there is an hour of revision on the weeks study.
• Reinforcement R5 - during weeks 2nd to 4th —- R1 to R4 are repeated as another module of Px is underway (generally).
• Reinforcement R6 - Month end - there is a post-test/game on Px. This is a verification on whether the Learning Objectives have been achieved or not. Further remediation, child-wise, would then be planned. Also, periodic visit/interaction with the child's school & teachers would need to be undertaken and notes entered into their DF as part of remediation.
• Reinforcement R7 - By definition PBL relates to a child's life….thus outside class there is constant and consistent reinforcement of the concerned Core Concept.
• Reinforcement R8 - In school the same core concept are being taught through the NCERT book

Assessment Tools for the beneficiaries

Scholastic Assessment: Pre, mid and Post Test papers are used as assessment tools to assess the level of the beneficiaries in the beginning, middle and end of the annual project cycle. The rationale for the pre-test is to assess the datum level of the student; the mid-test is conducted so that the progress status can be checked, and suitable remediation is applied. After the mid test the results are also compared with the results of the mid- term exams of the other children in the school that are not part of LEARN, so that the actual/real-time development in the student can be traced for the better functioning of the centre. At the end, the post-test is conducted to assess/evaluate the improvement in the student from the stage of the beginner, and post application of remedy in mid-term.

Pre and post testing is also done for each project so that every core concept is strengthened.

Co-scholastic Assessment: Co-scholastic assessment of the children is conducted to assess the level of skills in sports, music, environment, art, etc.

Assessment through direct observation in the LEARN Class:
Every teacher is required to maintain an observation diary to write daily notes on every student. These notes are part of formative assessment. This also forms the basis of the discussion with their parents in parent teacher meeting.

Capacity Building of school teachers and community teachers (ToTs)
With an objective of sustainability, enhancing the capacity of teachers, field staff and monitoring staff, regular capacity building exercises and TOTs is undertaken at the cluster level. There is a provision for both pre-service and in-service capacity building trainings of all teachers. Need-based Training Modules are also developed for existing school teachers to help them cope up with low learning levels of students.

The community teachers are regularly exposed to various teaching learning techniques, talks and shows on child behaviour, activity-based teaching learning methods, creative teaching techniques, story-telling, etc., to provide an enriched learning environment to the child. The educators are also given training in life skills and soft skills to enhance their counseling abilities, computer skills etc.

Pre-service training is given to all community teachers at the nodal centre/s at each cluster (as the project grows); thereafter regular monthly TOTs-cum-monitoring workshops are held as per need. If required, trainings are conducted during school holidays and refresher courses given to all community teachers.

A core team is working at the REACHA Resource Center (RRC), Ghaziabad/New Delhi for taking up Project LEARN on a pan India basis.

The entire TTI initiative is part of Project Khoj – REACHA’s flagship community intervention initiative that seeks to find solutions, and implement them too, in the most innovative and cost effective manner.

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