OELP began as an exploratory search drivenby our belief that a meaningful school experience can play a major role in transforming the lives of young children and is in fact the inalienable right of every child. We wanted to look for ways in which the experience of schooling can be made more meaningful, especially for children who come from homes in which they do not have support for school based learning.Our earlier experiences with schools, in various capacities, had generated a serious concern that schooling was in fact not translating into learning for many children that we had encountered inside classrooms in different locations of our country. This fact of non learning inside classrooms was supported by recently available documentation and large-scale studies. We therefore decided to engage with children and teachers inside classroom to seek answers to some questions.
Some questions that have propelled us:
- 1 ) How can children’s’ natural ways of learning be supported inside classrooms in ways that are doable on a large scale?
- 2 ) How can classroom learning environments and teacher agency be enhanced to facilitate meaningful and purposeful learning in ways that honour learner diversity?
- 3 ) What are the connections between ways of reading and writing and ways of talking, thinking, interacting, valuing, and being in the world? How can these connections be enhanced to build strong foundations for meaningful learning inside early grade classrooms?
- 4 ) What are the notions of success that exist inside classrooms?
- 5 ) How can purposeful and meaningful learning be made achievable for each child?
Our journey began in 2006, in a few Municipal Corporation (MCD) schools located in a semi-urban area on the outskirts of South West Delhi. Most children in these schools are children of migrant workers who are engaged in daily wage work, menial jobs or petty commercial activity. In 2008 OELP was relocated to rural Rajasthan, where we began work inside some State run primary schools, as well as with out of school children and village communities. Most of the young children that OELP currently works with grow up within oral traditions which are socially entrenched within highly stratified caste based kinship patterns. Migration is rampant, especially during the harvest and sowing seasons when entire families shift to neighbouring states to provide the daily wage agricultural or construction work force or other forms of temporary contract labour.
OELP’s interventions have evolved organically through our intensive and sustained engagement inside classrooms, through which new understanding and approaches replaced earlier ones as we learnt, reflected and gained new insights. These interventions have been built around the ideas of Equity and Social Justice. They aim to go beyond the concerns of access and outcomes to concerns which lay emphasis on what educational experiences mean for each young child’s identity, self worth and lifelong learning.
OELP supports work inside the early grades of State run schools through a two years Foundation Programme for Early Literacy and Learning Enrichment. We are also supporting remedial programmes for Literacy and Language within Classes 2 to 5 which are being implemented through our partner organisations in other locations in four States of India. In addition we run a community based library programme to promote an engaged involvement with books and with reading and writing, as well as, to enhance the participation of village youth, especially adolescent girls and adults in processes of their learning and development. Building meaningful connections with local knowledge and traditions is a part of this process. We have recently piloted a women’s literacy programme, which was fuelled, to some extent, by mothers who were keen to participate in their children’s learning.
OELP understands literacy as:
- 1) Being able to think independently.
- 2 ) Being able to make sense of what one sees, hears or reads.
- 3) Being able to share one’s ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions clearly through spoken, pictorial or written communication.
Simple and accessible framework with a focus on “thinking”
Teachers, education workers and parents are helped to understand the ways in which “thinking” can be woven into each of the four modes of learning i.e. listening, speaking, reading and writing. Parallels are drawn between the pivotal role that a thumb plays for increasing the functionality and efficacy of each of the four fingers in a hand; and the role of thinking as the key factor for meaningful learning.