Gyan Shala – Lower Primary
Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Teacher Preparation
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.
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.
The class processes and schedules are based on following criteria.
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.