In the face of a burgeoning educational crisis, there's an organization emerging as a beacon of hope, spearheading innovative initiatives to transform the landscape of learning for millions of young minds. We uncover some of these transformative solutions that hold the promise of creating a brighter and more equitable tomorrow for India's next generation.
The Reality of India's Education Landscape
Education is one of the most important factors in today's world. In India, getting quality education is costly and not every family can afford it . So, instead of educating the child in a school that could provide the 'best education', families send them to a school that's easier to access - a government school. The quality of education across government schools is not uniform. While most government schools provide a decent quality of education to their students, many can be plagued by problems like teachers that lack exposure and support, poor infrastructure, large teacher-student ratios and even a shortage of teachers. This furthers inequality in an already unequal system. To support the system and counter these problems, many organisations partner with schools to help and work with them. One of these organisations is Simple Education Foundation, or SEF.
A Tale of Two Friends
Simple Education Foundation (SEF), founded by Mainak Roy and Rahul Bhanot, is dedicated to transforming schools in underprivileged neighborhoods into innovative learning environments where students can pursue their passions and teachers can serve as role models. The name Simple Education Foundation originates from the founders' desire to do 'simple, meaningful work'.
This "simple work"? Various initiatives and programs to address the challenges faced by educators and the education system. One of their key focuses is on strengthening teachers by providing them with simple, contextual tools and methods to create engaging and inclusive learning environments.
To learn more about SEF and their work, we interviewed Srishti Chauhan, who is the Rural Centres of Excellence Lead at SEF. A Teach For India Alumnus, Srishti joined SEF to go back to her native place, Uttarakhand and teach kids from rural communities. Her role as part of SEF is to train the educators, design contextual tools, facilitate learning in the classroom through teacher trainings, and plan curriculum. When asked what she witnesses at work everyday, Srishti shared
"I remember there was a classroom that I was observing and a teacher was conducting morning meetings. (The class) had a feeling chart which helps students exchange and talk about their feelings. (When the teacher asked to students to share) initially, the students did not answer. But that day there was a kid who said, I am sad, my cow was killed by a lion. (My takeaway, in that moment, was that) the students were feeling safe and were comfortable with teachers to share."
Through intensive training, SEF aids teachers to obtain skills which help them support their students. Teachers move away from a redundant and traditional style of education, which in turn provides an opportunity for students to learn in a compassionate, supportive environment.
As Srishti puts it, "SEF aims to build powerful learning experiences for teachers, so that they, in turn can create powerful learning experiences for students, focused not just on academics, but also on a child's holistic development and well-being."
Around ⅓ of the government teachers who underwent trainings conducted by SEF reported experiencing tangible benefits from the programs. SEF stays robust with their programs by continuously refining them based on real-time feedback and insights gathered from their partner schools.
Called 'Centres of Excellence’ (COEs) or partner schools of SEF, these schools help SEF actively engage with school systems and stakeholders on a daily basis, as well as gain valuable insights. By maintaining strong relationships with these COE schools in Uttarakhand and Delhi, SEF can effectively shape and refine their statewide programs to "address real-time needs of teachers and students. Srishti also elaborated that the COEs also serve as
"key knowledge sources, providing detailed feedback on new products, tools, programs, and models that SEF aims to implement on a larger scale, with a focus on enhancing teacher development, principal leadership and community engagement."
The organization also collaborates closely with governmental training teams, teachers, and principals in partner states like Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Punjab. They have also developed a Teacher Competency Framework in collaboration with SCERT Delhi's In-Service Training Cell to enhance teacher skills and promote student-centered learning.
Is This Really Enough?
One of the key hurdles SEF faces is scalability. Though they have impacted a substantial number of teachers and students, reaching a broad audience remains challenging. SEF wishes to serve more teachers and children through their work. However, as Srishti shares, with the current bandwidth of the team, it has been a struggle.
Additionally, Srishti also brought to our attention that parent engagement presents a significant hurdle in SEF's mission. Parent illiteracy and a lack of understanding about the value of education can hinder parents' active participation in their children's learning journey.
The geography and topography that underprivileged communities are situated in also presents a unique challenge. These diverse geographical landscapes can hinder efficient delivery of educational resources and support.
Despite these challenges, SEF perseveres on. For us, perhaps the biggest indicators of SEF's successes were in the stories that Srishti narrated - the culture of fear that ruled schools before they entered, and the growth they see in students now. Smiling, curious, joyous students, eager to learn from their teachers. Students like Reban that moved from disinvestment to motivation and interest in classes - this is the 'simple work' we love and support!
This solutions focussed story has been written by students journalists of the Re-Imagining Media Program and edited by Team Via News Didi. We are thankful to Ms. Srishti Chauhan for her time and insights.
A Simple Message from Us to You:
Dear Ms. Srishti,
During the interview, you illuminated your significant contributions to Simple Education Foundation, an organization deeply rooted in your native village in Uttarakhand. Your personal connection and passion for giving back to your community shone through as you shared your experiences with us.
A memorable moment was when you described the foundation's journey from its humble beginnings to its current impactful state. Your determination and the foundation's transformative work stood out, emphasizing the importance of grassroots initiatives. Learning about your hands-on involvement in designing curriculum enhancements and spearheading infrastructure projects highlighted the foundation's commitment to holistic education.
We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to you for your dedication and vision. Your commitment to uplifting your village through education is truly inspiring. It serves as a reminder that even seemingly small efforts can lead to significant positive change. The insights gained from the interview and the touching stories shared have left a lasting impression, motivating us to contribute to similar causes and make a difference in our own communities.