ISHA VIDHYA: Educating the underprivileged

ISHA VIDHYA: Educating the underprivileged
Photo Credit: Isha Vidhya Aeshwarya Tiwari | Nov 21, 2019 - 12:20 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: In the remote parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, a group of teachers wake up very early for the sake of underprivileged children. They form the core of the unconventional Isha Vidyha schools run by the Isha Foundation. The best part of this schooling system is that it uses modern teaching methods and best-in-class tools to educate the children from rural areas.

All the Isha Vidhya schools have classes up to matriculation with English as the medium of instruction and are affiliated to the respective state Boards. Most of the students are from economically weak sections of the society or from tribal communities. Except for a few students, most of the children study on scholarships or get sponsored.

Growth of Isha Vidhya schools

The first school was founded at Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu in 2006 on the land donated by an Isha volunteer. It had classes only from the LKG to second standard. The next year three more schools came up in Erode, Nagercoil and Tuticorin, followed by schools at Villupuram and Cuddalore in 2009-10. After starting one more at Salem in Tamil Nadu in 2010-11, the Isha Foundation expanded its activities to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh by starting a school in Aragonda in 2012-13. The Foundation strengthened its presence with two more schools in Tamil Nadu, one in Dharmapuri (2013-14) and the latest one in Karur (2019-20).

Blended learning

The Isha Vidhya schools don’t instil fear in children. Corporal punishment is unheard of here. When a child commits a mistake, no punishment is given. A teacher sits with him to understand the problem and give a solution. The uniqueness doesn’t end here. All the classrooms are digitally equipped and use modern technology tools. “Isha Vidyha schools have come up with an objective to provide quality education to the rural underprivileged children who form the bulk of the students, and the government schools do not serve that purpose,” says Vinod Hari, Projector Director, Isha Vidhya Schools.

Learning environment & teaching methodology

To make the underprivileged children at par with the best in the world, the foundation uses state-of-the- art technology. Learning in classrooms takes place with latest ICT tools like projectors, multi-lingual audio-visual products, storybooks, flashcards and number games etc. All this creates a very lively atmosphere of learning among students. The teaching methodology lays emphasis on learning by doing. “From language practice, function of languages, we give students tasks like dialogue practising, journal writing for language aspects. We are providing everything in the way how we learn our mother tongue. Our emphasis is on the first listing, reading and then speaking of language,” says Savithari A, principal of Isha Vidyha School, Coimbatore.

Be it learning English to understanding the concept of mathematics in the math labs or science practical to social science theories, the content is delivered through the audio-visuals methods which give a rich learning experience to children. This has helped in making most of the students from primary to senior secondary level fluent in spoken English. The learning methodology is more advanced in comparison with other urban schools. Students above 3rd grade also get project and activity-based homework.

Peer learning in schools

Apart from the common teacher-students learning in the schools, Isha Vidhya Schools follow peer-to-peer learning concept. It begins from the standard eight. Students of eighth class teach class six students and also help them in clearing their doubts in a very friendly manner. The school believes that it will improve the fundamentals of both levels of students. “Eighth standard students teaching the sixth standard students is a very unique method which I feel only we follow in our schools,” says the Principal.

In-house content development

As all schools are affiliated to respective state boards, they follow the state board curriculum. However, the school follows its own study materials and its teaching methodology. The school has an in-house content development team which takes care of the students’ training programmes as well as teachers’ training. This team comprises 15 full-time experienced professionals from India and abroad.

Maa Vidya Devi, who hails from the United States, heads the content-generating team for all the Isha Schools. She shares, “As all the students are from rural background and have no exposure, we generate the content according to the need of the hour and based on the requirements. We train teachers on how to interact with students without resorting to any punishment or instilling any kind of fear and also how to motivate the students. This is our key objective.”

The Foundation also has a monitoring team. Each of the members sits for around 3-4 hours in the classrooms and evaluates the teachers’ teaching there and assesses if they need improvement in skills. Accordingly, they develop content for the students and the teachers. “We do not need any specific qualification for our content development team. We only recruit persons who are passionate about education and have good communication skills and a little bit experience in computer science,” explains Sushil Kumar, who leads the content development team.

Finances

As these are private schools, they are not eligible to get funds from the state government. The schools are run with donation from volunteers and social responsibility funding by corporates. As far as infrastructure is concerned, from land to the development of sports facilities or modern equipment for classrooms, everything is sponsored. Volunteers and other individual donors complete the funding requirements for Isha Vidhya schools.

Fee structure

The fee structure varies from class to class. The annual fee of a 10+2 student is close to Rs. 20,000 per annum excluding transportation which is very nominal. However, the fee structure does not burden students as most of them study on scholarships provided by the foundation while some of them are sponsored by individuals.

Who can get admission?

Entry to the school is open to all students from rural areas. Usually, the school gives preference to children who are staying within the radius of 5-10 kilometres. Students join schools at the beginning level from LKG to KG classes till 12th standard.

The blended learning experience makes the children shine in board exams. In the 2018 board examinations, the school’s pass percentage was 100 percent in secondary and senior secondary level. All credit for this wonderful performance goes to the unique system of education that the foundation has put in practice.

We are providing everything in the way how we learn our mother tongue. Our emphasis is on the first listing, reading and then speaking of language

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