Ark has supported the launch of two new schools in Delhi, India. The schools follow the same template as the flagship school, Lajpat Nagar III, which opened in July 2015 and has seen great success in its results and attendance figures.
The two new schools represent the second wave of Ark-supported schools to launch in the South Delhi area. The aim is to open one or two schools a year for the next ten years, creating a network of non-selective, fee-free schools. Ark is working in partnership with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), which is keen to improve the performance of failing public schools, and re-engage parents and the community with the education system.
The programme is a collaborative one, built to strengthen and improve education systems outside the existing three schools. Teaching and training practices are shared, and we have created a replicable and scalable curriculum that can be adopted by other government schools.
The new schools, based in Amar Colony and Jeevan Nagar, each have an opening roll of 95 Kindergarten and Grade 1 pupils from local communities. Over half of these children have an annual family income of less than Rs.100,000 (equivalent to £1,200), and most will be the first generation in their household to attend school.
Learning from international best practices and with guidance from experts in India, Ark has developed a strong curriculum for the schools, with a focus on mastery of maths, English and Hindi.
Formerly dilapidated classrooms have been renovated to create an environment appropriate for early years learning at the new schools. Colourful and interesting teaching materials are used to ensure children have plenty of opportunities to play collaboratively. Pupils are engaged in a variety of captivating learning activities, including sensory and motor tasks. Many have not had access to toys or books of their own and so the schools consequently provide many exciting opportunities for them to explore and develop cognitively.
In India, where the majority of lessons rely on dictation, repetition and memorisation, this innovative approach is very rare; however, the impact of the new model can be seen in the flagship school Lajpat Nagar III’s attendance and results.
Persistent absence is common in SDMC schools, yet at Lajpat Nagar III pupil attendance has been high at 83% compared with the local average of 70%. During the in-year assessments held at the end of 2016, 76% of the school’s pupils either met or exceeded their targets across English, Hindi and maths. The school was even recently profiled in an article in The Times of India, which described it as 'a tiny oasis of learning in the otherwise patchy education system'.
Teachers at Lajpat Nagar have seen dramatic improvements in many of the students over the past two years.
Alok* joined Lajpat Nagar III last year, in April 2016. From initial interactions his teachers suspected that there was a certain amount of neglect at home. At one point, he was found outside a mall, begging. His parents were unaware of this, and often did not know what he was doing. He found it difficult to stay in class, and did not enjoy having to follow rules and having his freedom curtailed.
It took a lot of hard work from the teachers, principal and his parents, but soon Alok began making progress. His parents became more vigilant, and made sure they were involved in the education process. Alok’s behaviour showed great improvement, and he now respects and obeys the rules. He pays attention in class and works hard academically. A student of Grade 1 now, Alok has a bright future ahead of him.
Anand* is in his second year at Lajpat Nagar III, and enjoys going to school to play, learn and see his friends. However this was not always the case.
Anand joined the school in July 2015, having been excluded from three others, including a private school. With a history of misbehaviour, it was hard for Anand’s family and teachers to ensure he attended and stayed in school. His fear of punishment coupled with severe separation anxiety often led to him running away and avoiding school altogether.
The school’s principal, Urmila Chowdhury, arranged a meeting with Anand’s parents. They discussed his history and the best methods to deal with his behaviour. Things slowly began to improve for Anand. Once his fear of punishment eased, his anxiety subsided and he was able to trust his family and teachers once more. With his attendance improving, Anand started to enjoy going to school. He became an active participant in class discussions and performed much better academically. His favourite subject is Mathematics, and he has made great progress in English and Hindi.
Lajpat Nagar III was visited last year by the former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Najeeb Jung, who commented “I am inspired by this school. There are a lot of good private schools which cater to the educational needs of children from affluent backgrounds, but there are very few good government schools to serve children from poor backgrounds.”
We are on a growth path to continue to build scalable and replicable models of high-quality education in India and plan to open a total of 10 schools, teaching 3,000 pupils by 2022. We will stagger the opening of the remaining seven schools, with two opening in 2018, three in 2019 and the final two in 2020. We can only achieve this projected growth with the support and backing from individuals and organisations who share our ambition of addressing educational disadvantage and inequality in India. Such support will have a tangible impact on our students and will ensure that these children continue to receive high quality inspirational teaching, regardless of their background.
For more information about our schools in India, please contact Cordelia Harwood.
*names changed for privacy purposes.