Sowing the seeds of citizenship

Navjot Kohli, Meghana Desai, Deboshree Bhatacharjee

Child-friendly’, ‘learner-centred’, ‘joyful learning’, ‘democratic’, ‘peace education’, ‘values education’, ‘citizenship education’, ‘constructivist classrooms’… phew! The expectations for how education ought to be are endless, and, unsurprisingly, overwhelming for the teachers burdened with fulfilling them. Much has been written in our policy frameworks about the gaps in the way education is currently delivered and the challenges in overcoming them. Time and again, this has been reiterated through teacher training, education forums, workshops and conferences, and yet, the chasm remains as wide as ever.

So, we all know the problem, but what is the solution? We all know that it is not just the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) but also the EQ (Emotional Quotient) that will determine our children’s development, their level of meaningful contribution to their family and the world, and the quality of life that they will eventually lead. Interestingly, several competencies necessary to build emotional intelligence among children overlap with the competencies needed to turn them into responsible, productive citizens – a prime expectation of 21st century education.

If we look at school education through the lens of providing a ‘value-based education’ with the key constitutional values of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice as the bedrock, we have a winning proposition in hand. The question then becomes – how can we translate this lofty vision into a realistic action plan, relevant to the school context, without creating any pressure on the school ecosystem?

We are presenting below an overview of one such initiative which started from a few rural Zilla Parishad (ZP) schools in Maharashtra and has now successfully been scaled up to around 40,000 government primary schools across Maharashtra and all government primary schools in Goa. This initiative has also been accepted and is being implemented in the private school networks of the Archbishop Diocesan Board (ABE), Goa and Vidyabharti.

‘Mulyavardhan’ – background and evolution
In 2009, Mr. Shantilal Muttha, a social entrepreneur (and founder – Shantilal Muttha Foundation, Pune), was greatly disturbed by the rising incidence of violence and disruptive behaviour among children. Excessive exposure to media, overuse of technology and shaky societal values were seen as the major contributors to this undesirable scenario. It was this burning problem that led him to conceptualize a school-based programme called ‘Mulyavardhan’, designed with a strong focus on nurturing values for democratic, responsible citizenship among children, right from their formative years of schooling. This programme was initially implemented in around 450 ZP primary schools in the Beed district of Maharashtra and enriched by the recommendations of successive impact assessment studies by institutions of national and international repute including the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi.

Today, Mulyavardhan (MV) adopts a ‘whole-school approach’, enabling schools to provide child-friendly, valuebased education in their efforts to nurture caring, responsible, productive and democratic citizens. Under this approach, values are not ‘taught’, but absorbed by students from the school ethos, processes and practices.

The Mulyavardhan framework
MV is based on the four constitutional values highlighted in the Preamble: justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Bearing these core values in mind, eight MV values have been defined, aligned to the school-education context: respect for human dignity, responsibility, autonomy, creative and critical thinking, harmonious living, valuing diversity, concern for others and active contribution. To internalize these values, five competency clusters of socialemotional learning for children have been identified: selfawareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness. These values and competencies are reflected in the MV educational materials, enabling children to learn and discover through various activities in a child-centred, child-friendly classroom environment, as well as through the whole school (see pyramid).

How is Mulyavardhan implemented?
The Shantilal Muttha Foundation (SMF) introduces MV to schools in a phased manner. In the first phase, primary teachers from Standard 1-4 go through MV training, after which they are provided with all the educational materials to start implementing MV in their classes. The trained teachers also get access to the Mulyavardhan mobile app which has self-learning A/V content on MV and all other related educational material.

In the second phase, about a year later, the heads and the management of the school undergo a 3-day workshop on the whole-school approach to support them in incorporating MV values throughout the school processes and practices and not just in the classrooms. Finally, in the third phase, schools are encouraged to integrate MV into the teaching-learning of all their scholastic subjects. MV is currently available for Standard 1-4, with content development for other levels in progress. MV educational material is available in English, Marathi, Urdu and Konkani with other regional languages coming soon.

How does the Mulyavardhan curriculum play out in classrooms?
The essence of the programme is to move away from rote learning and the traditional, didactic methods of teaching and learning to one where children themselves become explorers and discoverers of their learning. The classroom shifts from a teacher-centred one to a child-centred one, thus also shifting the role of the teacher to that of a facilitator with the help of simple-to- implement cooperative learning strategies.

MV activity books are composed of around 50 grade-wise activities covering roughly 35 hours of the academic year. The spiralling curriculum, with progression aligned to the development stages of the child, ensures the internalization of the values by the children.

The activities are arranged and designed in four units focusing initially on the self, then moving on to the family, and finally the world at large (see figure below). The scope of activities in each unit is aligned to this progression. In Unit 1, children introduce themselves and know other classmates, recognize likes and dislikes, express views, set goals, identify emotions, and get to know their home, school, village/city and surroundings. In Unit 2, they work on understanding rules and responsibilities at school and home, recognize appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, understand the importance of honesty and learn to make moral judgments.

In Unit 3, the activities guide children to respect everyone. They understand how others care for us, and how we care for others. They recognize the value of friendship and cooperation, identify causes of conflict and figure out ways to resolve them and learn to show empathy. Unit 4 focuses on the world at large, and children recognize diversity, challenges of disability, and ways to save the environment. They learn to value interdependence, manual labour and the contributions of women. They also work on a project for the benefit of others.

The Mulyavardhan books provide a wide variety in the delivery of activities, such as songs, storytelling, role play, skit, art and craft, and poems. Furthermore, group discussions, pair-work and presentations enhance children’s ability to think independently, express views, engage in dialogue with others, listen actively, and summarize and present views. This diversity in learning ensures student engagement and motivation.

For instance, one activity that can be found in each standard’s book is ‘My Vote’. Teachers use this activity to select class monitors. The learning outcome for this activity is that children practise voting, and explain the reasons for their choice. Students follow all the steps, right from selecting candidates and preparing the ballot box to voting, vote counting, identifying the winner and finally sharing the reasons for their choice. This is an important learning activity for understanding the democratic electoral system. It also teaches children to queue up to vote and wait for the results patiently. They learn to accept the democratic principles of secret ballots and majority victory. Emotionally, it strengthens them to accept defeat gracefully and learn through the reasons given by others how they can improve for future elections.

Cooperative games are all-time favourites with children, one of them being ‘Up in the Air’. Here, groups of six-eight children form a circle. They hold hands and stand at a distance from one another. A balloon is thrown in the centre of the circle and the entire group has to ensure the balloon does not touch the ground, all the while holding their hands. To make it slightly more difficult, introduce two more balloons after the children manage to keep one balloon up in the air. (For more sample activities, visit: www.mutthafoundation.org/index.php/teacher-activity-book/)

How does Mulyavardhan empower teachers and school heads?
MV training empowers teachers to conduct activities using the constructivist approach, providing ample space for cooperative learning. Teachers are provided cooperative learning strategies like group work, pair work and community circle, as well as cooperative games to help them facilitate learning through sharing and teamwork. MV also provides tools to enhance the teachers’ questioning skills to support their transition from a conventional teacher to a facilitator of knowledge. Classroom management strategies like the ‘Quiet Signal’ help teachers manage a classroom heavily engaged in participatory activities and discussions. (The ‘Quiet Signal’ is a symbolic gesture given by the teacher by raising her right hand, which the students subsequently have to follow. This is done to gain the attention of the students, primarily before giving out instructions). MV training ensures that teachers are adequately equipped to create joyful, child-centric and childfriendly classes. As a result, the whole teaching and learning process becomes democratized.

The MV workshop for school heads aims at re-thinking how critical school processes are planned and carried out. It takes the school heads through a reflective and interactive process of infusing values in processes like decision-making, goal-setting, annual planning, execution of school-wide activities such as the school assembly and creation of a value-oriented, participatory school environment.

The essence of it all
Working towards creating a democratic educational system for our children is the premise on which the idea of Mulyavardhan rests. Such an education system will guide children away from a disciplinary approach that is based on reward and punishment, and hence on competitive values, to one that provides awareness on the natural and logical consequences of actions, thereby leading to the strengthening of cooperative values.

Ideas on democratizing the classroom or cooperative learning strategies are not new, and there are plenty of open sources for these strategies. Mulyavardhan’s uniqueness rests in using these strategies to inculcate in children democratic values as enshrined in our Constitution. To achieve this, the school, the classroom and the teacher have to transform as well, leading to the gradual democratization of the entire education system.

Testimonials

“…it is a beautiful programme. Things like thinking activities were not something that children were accustomed to doing. Initially, it was a little difficult, but now they are beginning to think rather than rote-learn. So, it won’t be limited to value education. They will also use this in other subjects.”
Teacher, Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, Arambol, Goa

“I have been associated with the program since 2016 when it was launched in one of the clusters. The response to the program has been great from parents and students alike. In fact, whenever there is a PTM, the parents always talk about how the program has brought a behavioural change in their kids. I have no doubt it is due to MV. I will be retiring this year and plan to join the program full-time.”
Cluster Officer, Sirsoli, Government of Maharashtra

“I always wanted to do something good for the school and this generation studying in the school. Mulyavardhan has given me a direction to think and act. Now, many students come and talk to me; earlier, they were hesitant. Some of the students have shown a drastic change in their behaviour. We cannot say that this is only due to Mulyavardhan, but it is for sure that Mulyavardhan has played an important role in bringing this change. One student had an anger issue; he was uncontrollable, and whenever he became angry he started running towards his home. He did this many times. Gradually, now, he is able to manage his anger, and also tells other students about managing anger and behaving properly.”
Head Master, Government Primary & Middle School, Pernem, Goa

“Initially, my daughter was never ready to help me even with small household chores. She was also reluctant to go to school and refused to do the day-to- day routine activities properly. One fine morning, I got up, and I was surprised to see my daughter sweeping the backyard of our home. Now, she does it daily without being told and also helps me in other household work. She listens carefully when I explain to her about the way to do something and then follows it properly. She also asks me whether she did it properly and if I require her help anywhere else. All these household chores don’t stop her from attending school; she has become enthusiastic about attending school. Her teacher told me that she now actively participates in class.”
Parent, Government Primary & Middle School, Pernem, Goa

For more information about Mulyavardhan, please visit www.mutthafoundation.org/

For enquiries, please write to [email protected].

Navjot Kohli has 30 years of international experience in training and education and curriculum development in secondary and tertiary levels. She is currently with Shantilal Muttha Foundation as the Mulyavardhan Programme Manager for English medium schools.

Meghana Desai has nine years of collective experience in programme design & strategy, training, assessments, teaching and content writing. She is currently heading Monitoring & Evaluation at Shantilal Muttha Foundation, Pune.

Deboshree Bhattacharjee is a writer, editor and content strategist. She specializes in producing multi-format content on women’s and children’s issues. She is currently working as Senior Manager – Communications with Shantilal Muttha Foundation.

You can reach the writers at [email protected].

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