A great many students in the Adivasi community, as well as others in India, are failed--both literally and figuratively--by government schools, which are heavily test-centered and do not invest in relatively underprivileged youth. Adharshila is forging a new paradigm in the area by operating an experiential learning model. Rather than fearing failure and competing with their peers, Adharshila students thrive as they integrate their learning, take initiative, and synthesize class material in an array of projects.
Conversely, the quality education that students receive at Adharshila reveals itself when the students do compete with those in other schools in the district. For instance, Kamal, a 10th grader and student math teacher, topped the district level of the International Astronomy Olympiad; Geeta, a student of the 8th class, came 2nd.
This year a new scheme was introduced: to admit children whom the government school system had declared as "failed." The criteria given was to search for children who had opted out of the school after failing twice or thrice in the 8th or 10th exams. Children who had lost hope in school.
Eight children were admitted in this scheme. They were told that:
• In two years they will be trained to become primary level teachers.
• They will devote at least four hours in the school in teaching, farming, administrative work.
• Their basic language and comprehension and math skills will be upgraded.
• After two years they will sit for the 10th school from open school.
• There is a lot of potential in this scheme if the selection is proper.
• At the end of the year, two of the three students who remained were taking full classes. They were taking other responsibilities in the school too.
• One child started developing a keen interest in learning drawing but was constantly sick and left.
The reason for such a big dropout rate was that many of the students had come with an agenda that diverged from Adharshila's. Some parents lied about the results of their children just to get them admitted here; rather than remaining at the school, the children wanted merely to ensure that they would pass standardized exams. Only those stayed who got convinced by our scheme.
Lessons for the next year:
• Selection has to be proper. Students must abandon all hope in the government school system before coming here. They need to be convinced about what they are coming here for.
• Their parents and any other advisors of their families need to be convinced before admission.
The academic qualification of these children is very low. A drastic training will have to be given to them.
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