A year on since implementation, 'Illam Thedi Kalvi' comes knocking on private schoolchildren's doors

Fingers point to the activity-based learning, and the volunteers’ efforts to go beyond the syllabus to teach, as reasons for the feat.
Students attending Illam Thedi Kalvi classes in  Tiruchy | Express
Students attending Illam Thedi Kalvi classes in Tiruchy | Express

TIRUCHY: A year has passed by since Illam Thedi Kalvi, the School Education Department’s initiative to help close the learning gap brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic among students, was implemented in the district. The programme which primarily focused on government school students is now drawing those from private educational institutions as well.

Fingers point to the activity-based learning, and the volunteers’ efforts to go beyond the syllabus to teach, as reasons for the feat. While pointing the programme to be for students of Classes 1-8, SDG Ealanjjad Sinni, the District Coordinator for Illam Thedi Kalvi, said over one lakh students attend the after-school initiative at 6,533 centres in Tiruchy.

Mentioning there to be separate books for the programme, he said, “[Through this], students’ performance is developed in every aspect as they are trained to approach a topic in a different way, which reflects in their marks too." While the original intention for the programme was to help students overcome learning loss from the extended closure of schools during the pandemic, it now touches on topics beyond the prescribed syllabus, volunteers point out.

This includes teaching students the Constitution of India and how to fill bank and post office forms. One of the programme volunteers, S Sushmitha at Anbil centre, said she was teaching the basics of the Constitution and the fundamental rights bestowed by it, as such topics are hardly given any focus in schools. Most skip the lesson, she remarked.

Another teacher, Reynot J at Valavanthankottai centre in Thiruverambur, said while private school students would have access to various online resources, those in government schools are ignorant of the basics owing to their lifestyle and economic conditions. Reynot commands a considerable following on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, thanks to her tutorial videos.

A Priya, parent to three students at Valavanthankottai panchayat union middle school, said she witnessed change in her children after they began to attend Illam Thedi Kalvi classes. "Earlier, they never showed any interest towards studies, which only worsened during the lockdown. But now they read fluently and enjoy attending school," she said.

"Parents hesitated in the beginning, thinking it to be a tuition centre, but after witnessing results, more parents are eager to send their children for classes under Illam Thedi Kalvi.” K Sankari, mother to K Nivi who is in Class 1 at a private school, said her child through Illam Thedi Kalvi was learning many things outside the school syllabus.

The activity-based teaching is unique, she added. When contacted, K Elambahavath, the Project Director of Illam Thedi Kalvi, cited the findings of the research paper, ‘COVID-19 Learning Loss and Recovery: Panel Data Evidence from India’ that was published by an international research programme. Of the 67% learning recovery made possible by the reopening of schools, the researchers found out a significant 25% could be attributed to implementation of Illam Thedi Kalvi, he added.

Moreover, it has addressed the learning gap issues among the marginalised, Elambahavath said. While he mentioned students from a modest background as more likely to attend classes under Illam Thedi Kalvi, he added that no restrictions were imposed on private school students from attending them. In fact their participation could be considered as the programme’s success, he said.

When enquired about those volunteers who are being part of the programme for over a year, Elambahavath said the government would decide on it. In a few places some of the eligible volunteers were absorbed as teaching staff for LKG and UKG classes, he said. As for the programme’s prospects, Elambahavath said the government would decide on its continuity.

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