From ‘snakes and ladders’ and group games to writing on the sand, the air is filled with fun in the schools run by the Delhi government and MCD. Aimed at bridging the pandemic-induced learning gap in students, Mission Buniyaad — in its current avatar — has turned learning into fun and play.
The mission, originally launched in 2018, had an aim to ensure that students of classes 3 to 8 studying in government or MCD schools were able to fluently read letters and solve basic mathematical problems. The move came after the National Achievement Survey (NAS) found that a majority of students performed abysmally in various subjects.
Initially, it was a three-month programme, however, the Covid-19 pandemic led to closure of schools. After a gap of two years, the campaign has started again with a new aim of bridging the learning gap and help children improve their reading, writing and basic mathematical abilities. Currently, the mission is under the second phase, which is termed as a ‘summer camp’.
It focuses on strengthening foundation and basics, instead of burdening the kids with syllabus and periodic assessments. From learning mathematics tables through the game ‘Tippi tippi tap, which colour you want’, to learning about angles by flexing one’s biceps, to teachers helping students solve sums through the game of snakes and ladders, the schools are involving kids in different activities to make learning fun.
Students of Class 3 are using sands to make Hindi alphabets, Class 5 students are being taught Hindi Matras through visual stories and hand activities, some classes are organising mind mapping games while others have dance floors for the children to perform.As no government official was available to give permit to visit schools where the classes were happening, The Morning Standard visited a Municipal Corporation school to see how the programme works.
One of the educationists, Meeta Sengupta said, “Foundational skills are essential because any gap compounds the learning loss in future years. Rebuilding foundational skills lost during Covid needs a combination of old and new approaches. The new version has to account for the changes in our students. Engagement, focus and progress require stronger tools now.”
The government provided books including a Hindi story book having 25 stories and 50 paragraphs with Barahkhadi card along with number cards and charts for students of classes 3 to 5. Whereas, for classes 6-9, the Hindi story book includes all of the above along with 45 texts (narrative and informative) with worksheets, a maths booklet, worksheets, among others.
The classes take place from 7:30 am till 10 am from Monday to Saturday. Teachers wait in their respective classrooms, prepared with activities lined up for the individual groups. The children are put into groups on the basis of the learning they require. For example, some children who face difficulty in reading and writing are grouped in classes where basics are taught.
Kids say they are happy
Sonalika, a class 5 student from MCD primary in Mahila Colony, Gandhi Nagar said, “These classes are nothing like the usual ones. I feel we are learning way more with new activities. In one of the class, our teacher drew a scenic view on the board and we had to describe it in our words. It was fun to see how students came up with different views.”Khushi Chaurasiya, another student said, “We get so excited to come to class every day. Our teachers put us in real life situations to solve sums instead of the usual teaching. Last week, we learned addition and subtraction while running a small confectionery shop. Every Saturday, we have a different activity planned such as dance.”
Challenge for teachers
One of the teachers said that though it has been fun to teach children with activities, it’s a challenge to bridge the gap in the learning process. “Even when we try to involve kids in activities so that they grasp things faster, we see them lose interest very soon and they often fail to cope up with what is being taught. Another challenge is to assess the kids first and then put them in groups on the basis of their learning ability,” said a teacher.
Meanwhile, one of them complained that the MCD has not been cooperative. “Although we have prescribed books to teach the students, there is no set syllabus or any standard guidelines on how to go about it. It is up to the teachers on how creative they can be with the learning process. The MCD schools do not teach English, even then MCD officials issued show cause notices to the teachers for the unavailability of the kids to read English letters.”
She added, “Even if we categorise students on the basis of their learning capabilities, we get a show cause notice for having only a handful of students. Either, give us standard guidelines or give us freedom to teach the kids on our own. There was a 100% gap in learning as many students could not even attend online classes.”
Parents point of view
The parents are happy that their children are learning even during the summer vacation. Kaveri, a parent whose three-year-old daughter studies in a MCD school said, “It’s a relief to see that my daughter is learning new things at a time when usually children pack their bags and go out for vacation. There is no burden on the students and they are going to the schools voluntarily.”Another parent, Inderpal, who lost his job during Covid-19 and is a father of three Autistic kids said, “My triplets- Drishti, Divyash and Divya are special children and I feel happy when they attend classes with interest. The programme is an opportunity for my kids to spend good time with the teachers. ”The government in order to appreciate the hard work of the teachers, awards them every week on the basis of observations.
How did the campaign start?
In the final assessment during January- February 2018, it was seen that about 75,000 students were able to read textbooks fluently and 90,000 of them learnt basic maths in the current academic year. However, there were still about 2.5 lakh students who needed help in fluently reading grade level texts and about 2.2 lakh students needed focussed practice to solve basic maths. In order to bring alive the vision, the “Mission Buniyaad” was launched on April 2, 2018.Although, the three Municipal Corporations also started with the campaign in their schools, the progress of the children was not tracked regularly and consistently.Therefore, a case study conducted by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) and District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) in 2019 recommended that a structured approach to the programme be followed for students of classes 3 to 5 in all MCD run schools.