Several independent studies, including the nationwide rural survey Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), have been repeatedly highlighting the poor quality of education and pointing out serious gaps even in basic foundational skills like reading and arithmetic in schools in rural Tamil Nadu (both Government and private).
Aid India's Eureka village centers were started in 2010 as part of the vision to solve this learning quality problem. Solving a problem of this magnitude is only possible by the convergence of aligned efforts that focus on learning outcomes, continually measureprogress, and most importantly, ensuring accountability by involving parents in their children's education.
Today, the Eureka Village centers are being run in 1063 villages of Tamilnadu.In each village, local youth from the communities are identified, appointed and trained as Eureka tutors.Eureka tutors conduct daily evening classes in the village throughout the year. In some villages, tutors focus on Math, English and Tamil skills for Std. 1-8 children, while in others village tutors have started the program with a focus on English alone. As part of the daily 'English Walk 'n' Talk' sessions, children are encouraged not only to learn English in the class, but also go around the village and teach their family members and elders how to ask and answer simple questions in English. This creates a buzz of excitement and a sense of achievement in the entire village. In Science, children learn about the world around them through fun and exciting experiments. With weekends filled with learning events where children put up role plays in English and demonstrate science experiments, the Eureka program build not just their skills, but also boosts their self-confidence.
The key elements of the Eureka program in each village:
Strong Outcome Focus:
Every child's progress is tracked using a simple visual aid called the skill chart, which also helps the parents and the community members understand the learning progress of every child.
Eureka tutors provideadditional one-one attention for children lagging in a particular skill to help them achieve their learning goals.
To motivate children to learn faster and better, certificates and 'skill stickers' are awarded to them at the end of each learning goal.
Specially Researched Methodology
Attractive individual /group activity learning kits, games and workbooks specifically designed to make classes fun, learning-focused and effective for children from marginalized backgrounds.
Parent Engagement and Community Participation
Eureka tutors discuss children's progress regularly with parents using the skill chart.
Community involvement is encouraged through 'Skill Declaration'events in each village, where the entire village comes together to measure children's learning progress and celebrate their successes.
The significant improvement in the learning levels of the children that has been seen in the Eureka village centers program since its inception has reinforced our belief that Every Child Can Learn if there are clearly defined goals and a focus on measurable outcomes.
Alapakkam is a small village in Kaveripakkam block in Vellore district. As you walk into the village, you see small groups of children running excitedly from one house to another. It is English Walk 'n' Talk time at the Eureka center in Alapakkam. Every evening, children go on 'house visits' to teach their parents and grandparents the simple English conversations they have learnt in class. "What is your favourite fruit, Paati?" asks 10-year old Abhinaya. As the amused Paati shakes her head in incomprehension, the children teach her the meaning and how to answer the question in English. She patiently repeats after them and awards them with a sticker from a reward sheet that is stuck in every house in the village.
During the weekends, the village gathers together to see children perform role plays and songs. Children demonstrate the conversations they have learnt in class. Fear of English is replaced by the confidence that they can learn it easily. Abhinaya's mother works as a farm labourer. "Abhinaya was good at other subjects. But I wanted her to learn English. Seeing her speak English now, I am really proud and happy. I am confident she will do very well in life," she says.
Eureka Nursery and Primary Schools were founded in 2006 by Aid India and Banca Sella, with the vision of providing high quality affordable education to rural children. These two schools are located at Parameswaramangalam and Venkatrayanpettai villages of Kanchipuram and Tiruvannamalai district respectively. They cater to more than 300 children each year, mostly first-generation learners residing in villages around the schools. Parents of these children are predominantly agricultural or daily wage labourers.
At Eureka School, teachers and children learn together. In a child-centric environment, dedicated teachers ensure the best for every child. With a strong focus on outcomes, teachers ensure that children learn by understanding and doing, rather than by rote memorization. Help is always given to children who need extra support. Each child's unique talents and achievements are showcased in events through the year. Through regular coaching in sports like juggling and football, children gain a large amount of self-confidence. Eureka Schools help build and nurture dreams and provide children a strong foundation to achieve them.
Technology is an enabler. When technology is combined with well-designed self-learning content, the potential to create an impact in education quality expands tremendously. Aid India, in partnership with content providers, has been piloting Eureka Tab Labs - Tech enabled classes for children to learn English, Math and Science. The tab lab classes offer children advanced skills in English, Math, Science and Tamil.
Using technology (video lessons and mobile apps), these 'Tab Labs' provide a high-quality learning environment for children. Children learn from concept videos, practice on apps that cater to their level, and take assessments on tabs that help them determine how well they have progressed.
Volunteers from Chennai, and from the US, have been participating in online live virtual classes in these centers, where they directly teach children in remote areas without having to travel there. Eureka Tab Labs redefine the access to good quality education for children in villages.
With many years of direct implementation experience, Aid Indiaworks as a resource group for several grass-root organizations and schools all over the State. The objective is to leverage the work of several of these organizations and schools and catalyzetheir efforts to achieve better learning outcomes. With a focus on basic skills, Aid India has been training more than 1000 schoolteachers and village tutors on innovative techniques, learning methodologies and classroom management to ensure better results for children.
At the end of each term, the training team visits the school or after-school center, assesses the children and awards certificates for children and tutors who have achieved their goal.
Plans are discussed with the teachers for remedial action to help the children who have not yet acquired the targeted skills.
In Tamilnadu, most children are enrolled in schools today, but the quality of education is an area of serious concern. Children face severe problems in English and Math.
The quality of education for English and Math is very poor. Only 24.5% students (as per ASER 2016 report) in Class 5 are able to read simple sentences in English. In our country, English is not just another language; the inability to read and speak fluently affects childrens confidence and self-esteem. The ability to read and speak English remains the biggest dividing factor between the rich and the poor. Many poor parents aspire for their children to learn English, but most children in villages feel that they cannot.
In math, a mere 24.6% of high school students aged 14-18 years are able to carry out subtraction, while only 47% can solve division problems and 28.4% are able to recognise numbers (10-99), as per the findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER Jan 2018 report) . Due to lack of good teachers and quality inouts children start doing badly in Math resulting in a fear and hatred for the subject. It is necessary to break this mindset and help them to become confident in Math.
These children are first generation learners who have no academic support or exposure to English or Math at home. This disadvantage affects them throughout their education and also limits their opportunities when they seek employment.
The Eureka Walk ‘n’ Talk Program
The Eureka Walk ‘n’ Talk Program is an after-school program implemented in villages, that aims to improve children’s fluency in English, and improve their skills in mental maths so that they acquire confidence and the belief that they can read and speak in English and work out maths mentally. The program currently impacts close to 50,000 children in 1000 villages of Tamilnadu.
In each village, a locally appointed and trained tutor takes daily classes for children from Class 3-8. This tutor will be teaching English and Math to the children.
For English words, sentences, and ability to respond to common conversation is the goal of the program. For Math the children will be able to do mental arithmetic operations for addition, subtraction and multiplication. Attractive charts, workbooks, incentive cards, stickers and small gifts are provided to each village to encourage children to learn better and faster. For ensuring audio inputs a speaker is also provided so that children can listen to songs and role plays and practice repeating them. Learning goals fixed for each month are tracked with the help of a Skill Chart. Children who don’t acquire the month’s skills are given special attention and help.
It is not enough that children learn within the walls of a center or a classroom. To encourage them to speak more and help them lose their inhibition, the Eureka Walk ‘n’ Talk program is designed to get children to go around the village and talk to their parents, elders and others in English. The children are encouraged to ‘teach’ their parents and grandparents at home the sentences and conversations they learnt in their Eureka class. The children will use the community to build their skills in mental math and showcase what they have learnt. Weekly role plays and events held in the community give them an opportunity to lose their fear and enjoy showcasing their skills.
Key Aspects of the Program
Learning through Community interactions
The program has been designed to build the confidence of children with a lot of community participation. Children go around their village in groups and ask questions in English to their parents and grandparents. They also teach them the right responses and ensure that the elders learn these simple sentences. This only ensures regular practice but also builds their confidence. The entire community contributes to their children’s learning process.
Learning through Songs and Role plays
Easy-to-sing songs set to interesting beats are loaded on speakers and given to each village. Children enjoy singing these songs and repeating after them. The children are also trained on simple role plays that they can perform in front of their parents, teachers and the whole community.
Children are divided into groups at the beginning of the term. The teachers assess the skills of the children at the end of each week. Each group leader takes the responsibility of making sure that all the children in the group achieve their learning goals for the month and get ‘tick marks’ in the skill chart.
Attractive learning materials
Colourful posters and word charts, children’ workbooks and diaries, stickers, badges and skill tickets for children – all these make the English classes fun, enjoyable easy for children.
Celebrating achievements through skill fests
Every small step must be celebrated to help children achieve greater success. The Eureka Skill Fest in each village is an event that showcases what children have learnt that term. Volunteers from corporates and colleges visit the Eureka villages, assess learning levels and distribute certificates and gifts to the children.
Main Activities of the Program
Step 1: Identification and training of local volunteer tutors to conduct regular classes
Step 2: On-field (monthly) training for tutors on content, methodology, learning goals and assessment
Step 3: Provision of learning resources - audio content, charts, posters and per-child workbooks, diaries and skill tickets
Step 4: Definition of Learning goals for each term, assessment tools and skill charts to measure progress
Step 5: Daily classes, weekly role-play and showcase activities, and Walk ‘n’ talk rounds in the village to interact and showcase in the community
Step 6: End-of-term Validation events and skill fests to provide certificates to children and tutors
Step 7: Quarterly incentives and awards to tutors who have helped children acquire the targeted skills
Equity in education is the basic need for a balanced society and for a secure future. Good quality education can make a huge difference in the lives of poor children and it can decisively break their cycle of poverty. However, several of our villages are way behind the expected levels in education quality. School curriculum’s pace and the number of topics covered does not allow for conceptual and deeper understanding of the critical basic techniques. .
Eureka Quality Improvement Program
Eureka Education Quality Improvement Program focuses on strengthening of select critical skills among the expectations set by NCERT/SCERT for that particular grade level. It aims to create an effective and sustainable model through deeper engagement with the children. The programs are conducted simultaneously as in-school programs in Govt schools and after school Intervention programs at the village centers. After school centers are important to bring in parent and community participation to motivate children, especially those who are lagging behind in critical skills and improve quality of education.
During the first year we focus on the prerequisite critical skills required for the current curriculum.
Following are the pre-requisite critical skills for primary students:
a. Tamil Reading – Word, Sentence and Story levels
b. English Reading – Phonic sounds, 3 letter words, sight words and sentences
c. Basic arithmetic – Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division skills based on their classes.
Based on student’s skill levels, they are divided into groups for effective learning.
In the subsequent years we focus on the select expected skills for the current class levels.
Following are the sample expected skills for the current class levels:
a. During first year, most of the class 4 students who are at class 2 or class 3 levels learn remedial skills such as simple 3 digit addition and 3 digit subtraction.
b. During subsequent year class 4 students move onto 4 digit addition & subtraction during 1st term and 2 digit * 2 digit multiplication and 3 digit / 1 digit division during 2nd term and fraction introduction during 3rd term as aligned to their syllabus..
Aid India has developed workbooks and learning materials to teach the concepts easily to students, which is leveraged by the government school teachers to impart learning. Tamil reading includes comprehension skills and English reading includes Spoken English modules.
This helps the children to build confidence to move on to middle school and curtail drop-out rates. Interested government school teachers are provided in total 4 person-days of training by Aid India on evaluation techniques, eureka methodology and know-how of how to use learning materials to impart quality learning to students. These trainings are spanned across 3 terms. The teachers use the materials and methodology learnt from the training in their class-rooms to teach Tamil, English and Math subjects.
Apart from training the school teachers, Aid India deploys expert subject teachers to focus on imparting English and Math through offline videos and app-based modules during their visits to the government schools. These expert teachers also provide additional support to government school teachers as and when appropriate.
Programs are taught by the expert subject teachers during the class hours in tandem with the government school teachers to provide them hands on experience of the teaching methodology.
Graded learning methodology through step by step process for gradual in depth understanding of the concept
Skill based assessment to ensure critical skills are learnt
Individual attention to make sure all the children achieve the critical skill sets.In-school English lesson learning will be practiced with village community during after school classes in villages. Aid India appoints local tutors who continue to impart English learning to children in their own villages.
EQUIP programs Skill based assessment method, graded learning methodology and parent empowerment are the components that will sustain even after our exit from the program.
Whenever there is a natural calamity, Aid India has always been at the forefront of relief and rehabilitation efforts. Through Aid Indias vast network of dedicated volunteers, immediate assistance is provided to people who need it the most. Aid India has always believed that immediate relief must be followed by long-term rehabilitation efforts. This belief gave rise to the Eureka Homes program in 2016, to identify the most vulnerable and needy families and give them a dignified living. In many villages, there are old people and families that literally live under plastic sheets or in a dilapidated house. Eureka Homes provide the much-needed shelter for these poorest families to live with dignity.
As part of its Eureka Homes initiative, Aid India has constructed 360 houses for the poorest families so far( as of March 2019). The whole village is involved in the decision of identifying the families. The family participates actively in the planning and construction of their home. Eureka Homes provides the much-needed shelter and security for the poorest families to live with dignity.
The homes have been designed with the ability to provide basic amenities with a special focus on providing heat insulation and the ability to withstand heavy rain.We have also started to use solar panels for electricity depending on the support received.
While many villages lack in basic needs, there are few villages where the deprivation is even greater. In settlements like Irular, Narikoravar and tribals, the issues are complex and inter-connected - low enrolment in schools, high drop-out rate in primary levels, low literacy rates, poor nutrition and health and so on. Many have moved away from their traditional livelihoods, which are no longer viable. There are several cultural and social barriers, which need to be overcome to make a difference to their lives.
Aid India works in these most backward villages, with the aim of improving the quality of life, mainly for women and children. We believe that an independent intervention in education alone is not adequate to make a lasting impact on the people and their lives. Given that the issues are inter-connected, a multi-pronged approach, which integrates solutions to the key issues like education and health becomes important.
Aid Indias integrated tribal development program is a long-term commitment to bring about significant change in tribal villages, over the next 5 years. To begin with, we are working on education and health awareness interventions in about 30 villages across 5 blocks of Tamilnadu.
The interventions include
Running Eureka after-school center in the villages
English intervention for spoken and reading skills and to build childrens confidence
Setting up a 'Learning Lab' or a tinkering lab, which will provide a non-traditional approach to learning. This component will be specific to each village. Children will be encouraged to work on local issues. There will be workshops on cycle repair, use of cell phones, use of computers, robotics etc. Through these workshops, we will also tap into their indigenous practices and traditional skills which are soon disappearing and get children to document the same. Children will do projects to document local knowledge like home remedies using herbs for which these communities are known for.
Health camps and awareness programs for adolescent girls
Nutrition interventions to improve their levels
Identify the most vulnerable like old couples, single women and build homes for them
The integrated village development program is a long-term effort, and it may take several years to make small improvements in the lives of these families. We know that we are in it for the long haul. However, when the changes come, and we are confident they will, we believe that they will make a significant difference to the quality of life for these families.