As Ark Lajpat Nagar’s first school year comes to a close, Principal Urmila Chowdhury reflects on the progress the students have made and the lessons learned along the way.
In just one year, our students have shown tremendous growth. When they first came to school, most had vocabulary levels which were much lower in comparison to children from affluent backgrounds. Many had never even played with toys, which is crucial for cognitive development. We had a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time.
Now, our students can sort and name colours, identify and name shapes, create patterns, compare sizes, and are beginning to develop number sense and a broader vocabulary. Our teachers use colourful, interesting learning materials to ensure children are truly engaged.
Jasmine, one of my year one teachers, says, ‘it is heartening to see the everyday growth in the pupils, how some pupils who were struggling in the initial days have now turned out to be the best performers…these successes make my day.”
Another huge success in our first year has been pupil behaviour. When the children began in July 2015, few had any understanding of expected classroom behaviour. Now, with a lot of support from the Ark team, we have developed strong school routines and students know how to listen to instructions, pay attention, participate, work with their peers, and are truly getting the most out of the school day.
It takes a village...
These successes would not have been possible without the support of the parents. Many of our parents were initially a little nervous about our approach. Being used to rote learning as the only method of teaching and notebooks being filled as a matter of course, many worried that their child was spending their time at school simply playing.
However, after two rounds of orientations and very well-attended parent workshops, and also seeing their children actually coming home with knowledge that they have gained in school, parents have now started to change their minds.
To help further strengthen the relationship between parents and the school, we have established regular chai per charcha (‘a conversation over tea’) mornings and ‘bring your parent to school’ days.
Lajpat Nagar has also benefitted greatly from the strength of the Ark network. Ark Fellows, seasoned teachers from three different Ark schools in the UK, came here during their summer vacation to lend a helping hand. My teachers have been enriched by this interaction. The school has been formally linked with Ark Atwood Primary Academy in London. The schools have held a live link up assembly and are currently undertaking parallel art projects to share with each other.
Thanks to all of these efforts, we are already establishing our credibility as an international operator. The South Delhi Director of Education commented, “the way Ark is teaching the students is an inspiration to all of us. All our schools should follow the same teaching methods.”
Pupil Spotlight: Ravi
Ravi is a kindergarten student who lives with his parents at a nearby settlement camp. For the first two and a half months of school, he suffered from severe separation anxiety and refused to enter his classroom. He spoke only Tamil (the school is run in Hindi with English taught as a second language) and this language barrier undoubtedly contributed to his anxiety.
Now, he is an active participant both inside of class and with the other children during play time. He now speaks and understands quite a lot of Hindi and continues to progress in basic English. His results on his English phonics assessments have increased dramatically and his attendance rate is 100%.
It is transformation stories like Ravi's that make the work at Lajpat Nagar so rewarding and so important.
If you would like to learn more about our future plans in India and how you can support our work, please contact Sarah Harwood, Head of Major Gifts.