Development of Non-Formal Education Centres
Seva Mandir’s education program initially focused on adult learning with literacy centres set up in remote villages so adults could study for a few hours in the evening. In 1974, in partnership with the Government, 10 Non-Formal Education (NFE) centres for children who could not easily access a local school were opened.
They offered provision for 3 hours in the evening and followed the government curriculum. Children who reached an appropriate ability could progress into Class 5 at a government school. It was clear this model of education was not ideal as children were tired at night, it was too dark to see properly and there was fear of snake bites. In response, over the next twenty years, Seva Mandir worked with village communities to negotiate attendance at school during the day. This was challenging as-
(i) children are expected to perform a range of domestic and agricultural duties in order to contribute to the family income and
(ii) the community did not yet recognise the potential value of education as a tool for economic and social empowerment. By 1996 there were 115 NFE centres across Udaipur district and the focus of the education program was confirmed as children rather than adults.
Between 1996 and 1999 a major study was undertaken by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which identified the learning levels of children enrolled in NFEs and how the employment of additional teaching staff did not appear to make a difference to learning outcomes. Vidya Bhawan, a nationally respected educational consortium in Udaipur, was asked to review classroom practice.
They made a series of recommendations which have shaped the current ethos and quality standards of what was re-named the Shiksha Kendra (SK). The same study by MIT identified seasonal migration for work as the cause of drop-out from many SK.
In response, Seva Mandir has held Residential Learning Camps since 2002. These complement the work of the SK by offering an intensive curriculum introduced in three 50-55 day periods in a year. This enables out-of-school working children to develop basic literacy and maths skills and some, with the help of the Pilot Scholarship Programme, progress to attendance at government school.
Assessment for learning
To identify the progress of a child Seva Mandir has categorized four learning levels from 0 to 3. The levels are roughly equivalent to government classes. Level 0 is when a child enters the SK and can barely read or write. The child has attained Level 1 when she or he can read and write small words, do simple counting and identify some numbers.
When a child can start reading, understand simple sentences, write small/incomplete sentences, undertake basic counting and simple operations like addition and subtraction with two digit numbers, she or he is placed in Level 2. At level 3 a child can read and understand simple texts, articulate themselves by writing a group of sentences and understand the concepts of multiplication, division, etc.
This is an excerpt from Seva Mandir’s report on Jhadol. For more information read Jhadol Report FINAL 21.3