When asked to share her thoughts regarding the National Education Policy 2020, Geeta Dharmarajan, the founder and president of KATHA, said that most of its ‘reforms’ have not only been ideated and developed by Katha but also implemented in its publishing and education programmes. “This is like a national endorsement of Katha’s work and gives us added strength to go forward boldly to scale and partner with the government and other partners in the education sector,” she tells ScooNews.
Katha is a registered non-profit and non-governmental organisation that was founded in Delhi in the year 1988. It works in teacher training, children's education and literature, especially those who belong to the underprivileged sections across India. Geeta, a Padma Shri awardee, discovered a teaching/learning tool called "story pedagogy" (story-based education), that is now followed in all Katha's learning centres.
Geeta says, “I started my work with children in 1988 to enhance the joy of reading and foster lifelong learning through stories. Katha was formally registered in 1989, and the Katha Lab School founded in 1990. Since then Katha has focused on the special requirements of first-generation school-goers and children from poorer communities. And at each stage, when I encountered an issue or problem, I ideated a solution relevant to the local need of the child and came up with an innovation. It is this ‘being present in the moment,’ creativity, design thinking and continuing innovativeness that has made the KREAD – the Katha system of Relevant Education for All-round Development – so robust, effective and impactful. It has been shown that this system can be successfully implemented in the government school system and among communities.”
Read our conversation with the prominent educationist discussing the possible ways in which the new policy can help her realize her dream for the future of this country. Excerpts:
How much does the new policy, according to you, seem to benefit the children of underprivileged background and eventually help Katha’s cause?
One of the paras in the NEP states – “Afford the opportunity to all children to obtain quality holistic education including vocational education from pre-school to grade 12. Alternative and innovative education centres will be put in place in cooperation with civil society.” The Katha Lab School has been providing quality education to all children from the adjoining slums. This is holistic, from crèche to grade 12; triple-braided – Academic, Vocational and IT; this model has been implemented successfully in 5 SQEP schools and has led to a dramatic impact on attendance and dropout rates.
The NEP also mentions – “Counsellors and social workers will work with parents, and engage with communities to ensure that all school-age children are attending and learning in school.” Community linkages are one of the four pillars of the Katha Education System. Teachers are required to spend some time in the community under SACH (Social Action for Change) and KASM (Katha All in School Mission) implemented by community women.
What development do you see in the Katha Lab Schools due to NEP?
I was very happy to see that the NEP recognises the importance of alternative pedagogies. Para 6.15 states: “Alternative forms of schools will be encouraged to preserve their alternative pedagogical styles. They will be supported to integrate the subject and learning prescribed in NCFSE into their curriculum.”
The Katha Lab School is one successful alternative model implemented with significant measurable impact for the last 30 years. The Katha curriculum following Story Pedagogy has an NCERT plus curriculum. Lesson plans link to NCERT syllabus and curriculum. So we have the hope that govt. will support the Katha Lab School as a Model School implementing NEP, and as a training centre for teachers.
Since Katha works for girl child education & inclusion, what sort of improvement are you expecting with respect to NEP 2020?
The gender ratio in Katha Lab School is around 50:50. The NEP stresses on equitable and inclusive education, addressing also children with special needs. Phoolwadi, the special section for children with special needs is serviced by especially teachers trained for this. To the extent possible, differently-abled children are integrated into school activities. This is exactly what the NEP also suggests – “Additional educators for children with special needs; ensuring inclusion and equal participation of children with disabilities in ECCE.”
On this teachers’ day, being an educator yourself, what message would you want to give to the rule-makers of the education sector in India?
More than the rule-makers, teachers are the pillars of the education sector, as they are the ones delivering education. My message for them is simple - teachers should nurture compassion and loving-kindness for children – and for each child. It is extremely important that teachers communicate with children in a way that is not dismissive or hurtful or disrespectful. It is also important that teachers do not mollycoddle children. Children have minds, hearts and spirits just like teachers do – and it is vital that teachers teach by example. Treating others with respect, kindness and courtesy begin in the classroom. Thus, it is from their teachers that children learn the art, craft and science of both independence and interdependence.
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