ASER – Shifting the narrative from schooling to learning

Vignesh Krishnan, Ngawang Lhakey and Isha Thakur
The Annual State of Education Report (ASER) is a nationwide household survey conducted to assess the reading and arithmetic levels of children from over 15000 villages across the country. Started and led by Pratham, a non-governmental organisation over two decades ago, it is one of the most significant initiatives ever carried out to assess the learning levels of children. Over time, it has shaped the nationwide discourse on learning outcomes and the impact on children in India. ASER’s assessment and sampling tools are reliable and scientific and hold a mirror to the learning levels of children. The Cover Story in this issue is based on ASER’s journey over the years as well as an interview with Dr. Rukmini Banerji who was instrumental in shaping and setting up the ASER centre.

The Everything School

Sheela Ramakrishnan
Once upon a time, it was the role of the home to nurture social and emotional skills in children. Today schools are offering curriculums to teach these skills. Are societies and homes no longer places to imbibe these qualities? Won’t adding these curriculums increase the school’s workload? We take a closer look at SEL, why we need it and how teachers can incorporate it in their classrooms.

Two teacher friends and a visionary principal

Sheela Ramakrishnan
Can working professionals ever be friends in the true sense of the word? Most would agree that this could be next to impossible. However, the education space begs to be different. In a school, when colleagues become friends, the relationship moves to a new level, bringing with it a sense of satisfaction and achievement that would not have been possible otherwise. Our September special issue in view of Teacher’s Day unfolds many such stories of friendships. From experimenting with pedagogies to putting together fresh material for textbooks that are still going strong, to sharing ideas that work and also being role models in collaboration rather than competition, there is much to read and learn.

The power of words in the primary classroom

Yukti Lao
When we think of language in a school setting, we only think of it in terms of a subject or subjects to be learnt. But language is also used to transact lessons. As teachers we aim to deliver the perfect lesson but don’t give much thought to the vocabulary we use to deliver those lessons. We are also caregivers, guides, and counsellors to our students but may not always be mindful of what we say to them. Spoken words have the power to make or break the listener. Even seemingly harmless words such as ‘easy’, ‘simple’, and ‘straightforward’ can cause damage and that is why we have to be watchful of the words we use both to instruct and interact with our students.

All eyes on the teacher

Simran Luthra
How do schools measure the capabilities of their most crucial employees — the teachers? There are complex interactions at every level, so what practices do the schools adopt to evaluate their teachers? And can teaching be truly measured? The emotional labour that goes into teaching or the time and effort put into preparation cannot just be wished away based on someone else’s judgment. The growth of this ‘performance culture’ will only suppress creativity and innovation in teaching. Teachers tend to bring in their own imagination and creativity into the classroom. So, assessing teachers or teaching has to be holistic and conversation-driven built on mutual trust.

Teaching science as a way of thinking

Neeraja Raghavan
Science pedagogy should involve exploration, experimentation, analysis, observation and questioning. But is this a reality in the classroom? With a vast syllabus to complete and examinations being the end, teachers are either not inclined or don’t have the time to ignite curiosity in children. Learning science has to be an active process and for that the way we teach science must change.

Back to the classroom: what needs to change?

Neha Pradhan Arora
In the last two years our notion of the classroom has changed. There has been a considerable loss of teaching and learning time and there is likely to be a long term impact on learners’ educational outcomes. However, with some schools opening up and others adopting various models of online or hybrid teaching, it is critical for educators to build and gauge their readiness to adapt to physical classrooms again. Moving away from the current text-based learning to an activity-based curriculum can be a first step.

A teacher’s right to disconnect

Anuradha C
An increase in work on both the domestic front and from school is already encroaching on personal time. The proliferation of computers and cell phones is compelling teachers to spend more time outside of school hours planning tech-enriched lessons while responding to emails and text messages whatever time of day it is. What is the outcome of this constant pressure to be available and on the job?

When improvisation is key

Gopal Midha
The pandemic has been difficult, challenging and tough for the world. People have had to find new ways of functioning and surviving. Educational institutions that were so firmly entrenched and comfortable in the old ways of learning and doing, like everyone and everything else, were also shaken out of their inertia. This was an opportunity for them to stop, reflect and rethink their ways of working. Sad as it may be that not many have been able to shed their old beliefs to think anew, there have been stories of ingenuity, innovation and individual brilliance in the world of education. Teacher Plus takes a look at how school leaders have steered their institutions through this pandemic.

Welcoming the whys

Simran Luthra
Homework and assignments are part of every child’s school routine and every teacher’s responsibility. While they are a means to enrich learning, are homework and assignments really serving this purpose? The homework given is so uninspiring that almost always, students end up doing them like a chore. When they don’t know the objectives behind an assignment, they don’t learn anything either. As teachers our job is not merely to give our students homework. If learning is to take place, we have to design creative and thought-provoking assignments and we will have fulfilled our responsibilities only if we ourselves are clear about the ‘why’ of an assignment and are willing to share that ‘why’ with our students. For, the implications of not sharing that why are not small.