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Breaking the deadlock

Educational Resilience in Mawsynram

By Reem Ashraf

While on my way to explore one of the wettest regions on Earth, I had an experience that took my understanding for a toss. The educational landscape in the hilly terrain looked challenging, obviously. On my visit to a government-aided school in Mawsynram, I encountered living example of the fact that ‘If you believe, you can bring about change’. Despite the odds that the terrain brings with it, students and teachers are thriving by marching ahead to make transformations in the teaching-learning process.
Intrigued by the cultural processes and atmosphere of teaching-learning in the school, I wondered what makes this school advance with true spirit of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005, when the rest of the country is grappling with the meaning and implementation of the NCF. To serve my curiosity better, I asked the teachers and the head teacher to help me understand how they are bringing about change in the culture of learning, constructing knowledge, developing professional teachers and creating an atmosphere of inclusive learning.
In response to my questions, I was told that intervention by the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Meghalaya to improve quality of education has been instrumental to this change. Implementing organisation, IPE Global Ltd, has designed and developed Teachers’ Professional Development Programme, which was the medium through which teachers were trained for developing critical competencies which have consequences on learning and quality of education. The combination of institutional synergies has induced change that will revolutionise landscape of school education.
At Mawsynram Higher Secondary School, one of the oldest schools, unfolds the story of reviving quality of education by means of redefining pathways to traverse and achieve what actually learning must look like! As reported by a schoolteacher, children travel from distant places, traversing terrains and the weather to come to this school to pursue education. On being asked about the role of schooling, it is worthy to know that teachers talk about the conduciveness of school and classrooms to foster learning which is the basis of positive student engagement in the lessons.
Teachers’ concerns before the intervention seemed to be limited around low quality, low learning outcomes and poor performance. This was a deadlock, which seemed to be unbreakable besides commitment, subject expertise and hard work. Lacking in training, teachers struggled hard to remain motivated and confident to bring about change in learning levels of students. The Professional Development Programme has helped teachers to unearth their potentials by well contextualised approach to training and handholding in the form of ‘on-the-job training’.
The teachers now have clear understanding of student-centered learning; their implementation of culturally responsive teaching-learning methods, collaborated learning, efficient instruction and assessment strategies have propelled the culture of inclusive quality education. This is further strengthened by means of continuous professional development; teachers are involved extensively in practices such as drafting integrated lesson plans and addressing issues concerning students’ learning by forming professional learning communities or communities of learning as they call it. In the whole process of the transformational change, ICT has been seamlessly intertwined.
The foremost challenge to the transformational process is to ensure sustainability. The potential sustainability of this intervention looks positive; attitudinal change, handholding support and cultural shift in the professional development are in place.
However, for the process to continue and flourish, it is important that the school gets regular support, mentoring and handholding to advance to the fullest.

(The author is a researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

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