Gyan Shala Lower Primary Program
Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Teacher Preparation

I. Curriculum

Gyan Shala sets up learning attainment targets for various stages/grades on the basis of Indian National Curriculum Framework of India up to grade III; while the phasing of learning goals is kept flexible for grades I and II, as long as the children are progressing to attain the terminal goals for grade III.

Gyan Shala's curriculum is composed of three major subject streams, namely the first language (Gujarati), math and project work. The last covers the social/environmental studies module of the national curriculum, but more important, it helps the children learn how to learn. The children practice and experience the 'process of knowledge acquisition', as distinct from acquiring knowledge as a 'product'. This module also gives opportunities to practice, refine and further develop some skills that Howard Gardner terms as Multiple Intelligences. The detailed curriculum for the three subject streams is described in the following documents but this can be fully understood only with reference to the design of each day's worksheet and schedule of group activities in these subject streams that provide to children a carefully chosen sequence of learning tasks. 

Gyan Shala integrates extra-curricular activities within the daily schedule by providing it a space in the daily class-schedule comparable to that allocated to the individual math, language or project module. The starting session of each class of around 15 minutes is used for reciting prayer, poems and songs, and for some physical activities. The choice of these is carefully made with expert consultation and all the teachers are formally trained to handle this module well. The prayer, songs and poems are chosen to reflect the local culture, children's interest and enlightened values. These are printed as a small booklet and supplied in multiple copies in each class that are kept in the class library. In addition, a module of 15 minutes has been kept in the daily schedule for games and creative activities. Gyan Shala has carefully chosen the material for this module that include such toys and games for indoor activities that do not entail mindless activities and are not typically available to children coming from poor or lower middle income households. These include various types of blocks-building sets; sets of dominoes for color, shapes, numbers and object matching; plasticine clay for model making, illustrated story-books and Tangram. The only major aspect of extra-curricular activities missing in Gyan Shala is outdoor sports for which there is simply no physical space in urban slums where the bulk ofGyan Shala classes operate. We understand that the Gyan Shala children get plenty of time and opportunity for context-appropriate outdoor sports in their neighborhood life, as the classes are held for only three hours a day. In principle, Gyan Shala is open to supplying sports goods even for outdoor sports to the children if an institutional mechanism could be found enable Gyan Shala children to access that, but this has not been feasible so far. Once every year, children in one class location stage a 2-3 hour cultural event for which they formally invite elders from their community, with each child given four invitation slips. 

II. Pedagogy

Gyan Shala aims to generate a class environment and processes that are pleasant to children, free from threat, and conducive to activity-based learning.

Gyan Shala takes note of and assists children in employing all the following three learning approaches, with an appropriate mix of all.

  1. Learning as storing knowledge (Memorizing, becoming knowledge bank)
  2. Learning by knowing the program/ process to find solution (procedural)
  3. Learning as concept formation (Constructivist Learning)

The class processes and schedules are based on following criteria.

  1. No single module should be so long that it exceeds typical attention-span of small children. Each class module is kept around 15 minutes long.
  2. Different subject modules should alternate to avoid monotony and mental stress.
  3. The class schedule must include daily whole class teaching, group work among 6-8 children that is supervised by the teacher, and feedback and supervision for each child individually. The class is supplied adequate amount of carefully designed and chosen learning aids for each subject stream. Gyan Shala spends more on learning material than on teachers.
  4. Each child should get to work on one worksheet each for each of three subject streams in the class that enables the child to complete the work on the just taught concept or subject. A child thus gets to complete around 650 worksheets each year.
  5. Teachers are trained to use carefully chosen examples and learning aids supplied while explaining the day's topic.
  6. For group work, the children are provided adequate learning material, typically in eight sets, so each child in a group has his/her material set to work upon. The daily teaching plan, worksheets and group activities are designed to complement and reinforce each other, and are decided by the Core design-cum-management team. The core team supplies teacher guides for each day, covering each of these components, for each subject stream.

III. Teacher Selection and Preparation

Gyan Shala requires teachers to have a minimum of 7-10 years of additional years of formal education compared to the highest grades in which they would teach. Only such people are selected as teachers who are comfortable in working in neighborhoods where poor people live. Unlike the conventional approach a long, typically one-two year, teacher education before the start of one's career as a teacher, Gyan Shalabelieves in the value of ongoing training and support to teachers, that has annual, mid-year, monthly, weekly and even daily components. The cost of teacher training exceeds 20 per cent of teacher salary, and the cost of support system comes close to 50 per cent of teacher salary. Details of teacher training are given below.

         Class schedule and structure

         Design of Language module

         Design of Math module

         Design of Project module

         Teacher training