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Assessment of our Education work


Wipro Applying Thought in Schools Since its initiation in January 2001, Wipro Applying Thought in Schools has evolved significantly in philosophy, strategy and action. This paper presents an overview of our work and the progress made so far. In summary,

  • Ours is a network of over 30 partner organizations reaching out to 17 states in the country.
  • We have 2 kinds of interventions in schools
    • Holistic school engagement [Whole School Transformation (WST) and Holistic Interventions in government school systems]
    • Incisive engagements [Training programs for teachers and school leaders, curriculum development, assessment, research, curricular research]
  • We support a teacher magazine reaching out to around 2000 teachers every month.
  • Our other advocacy initiatives reach out to a wider audience across the country through popular magazines and newspapers.(The Metro Study published in India Today last November has a readership of 15+ million)

Strategy

Over the past few years there has been resurgence in the education sector across the country and an important need was to bring together these discrete initiatives and create collective momentum for the cause of good education. As a corporate, our leverage is in networking and advocacy and we need to use this actively in our initiative and not restrict our participation to monetary help. There is a need to encourage diverse initiatives and experiments in education reform and create a mentoring and confidence building framework for social organizations working towards good education. By creating a cohesive network while allowing each organization the space and flexibility to work independently we have progressed in this direction. This approach has been well received and helped us immensely in establishing ourselves as an organization really committed to social change. Our strategy has been three-pronged.

  1. Build eco-system: Expanding and strengthening our network of partners engaging in education reform. Build upon the collective capabilities of the network to support new social organizations. Create platforms to realise the synergy of learning from each other, and to jointly advocate. (Wipro and its partner network provides organizations with program support, confidence, trust and a platform to share collective learnings and experiences.)
  2. Experiment and learn: Support diverse and holistic experiments in education reform. Build a mechanism to consolidate our learnings and knowledge sharing. In the process, deepen the collective understanding of what it takes to change the fundamental character (philosophy, culture and competence) of schools.
  3. Advocate: Use documented experiences and learnings, partner eco-system and Wipro’s strong brand to advocate through policy and media.

In our assessment, we have crossed one important milestone. In India, serious social action by corporations has been few and far between. Through our work, we have demonstrated our commitment, and are today considered a serious player in education – a recognition accorded to few.

Experiment: Teacher ProgramObjective: The Teacher Program (also known as Teacher Empowerment Program or TEP) is a comprehensive development program for in-service teachers. It is our oldest engagement, and has 3 objectives:

  • To help the teacher become a reflective practitioner who will care for the development of every child.
  • To equip the teacher with curricular and pedagogic skills necessary for creating child-centric and experiential classrooms.
  • Through the teacher, to trigger change in the entire school.

Scope

  • Initial success, driven by teacher feedback and school demand, encouraged us to push for program expansion.
  • 8 partners have taken the program (in various avatars) to 6,505 teachers and 244 schools in over 25 cities.

Summary of assessment

  • The program seems to have made headway in equipping teachers with relevant work-skills. This has helped make classrooms more collaborative and enjoyable for children.
  • Given hierarchical school structures, if the program is to have any success, it must be run in schools where the leadership is committed and willing to support such teaching-learning. Hence, we should explore setting pre-conditions (that test the leadership’s intent) before enrolment.
  • We are exploring, keeping the network of teachers alive beyond the life of the program. Teachers coming together to share and learn can provide a good platform to sustain and encourage progressive practices.

Experiment: Leadership Program Objective: The Leadership Program is a comprehensive development program for school leaders, and has 3 objectives:

  • To make the leader see a larger purpose for and alternative methods of education. To inspire the leader to create a worthy institution. To propel the leader to explore the power of leadership in creating a learning organisation.
  • To empower the leader to feel confident in truly exploring education, and in building competence to provide academic leadership to the school.
  • To equip the leader with managerial skills necessary to establish processes, and to de-centralise decision making – so that the leader stops being an administrator.

Scope The Teacher Program highlighted the importance of supportive leadership, and this led us to the Leadership Program. We support 3 partners in the program, and have worked with 492 leaders in 277 schools from across the country.

Summary of assessment

  • The program has acted as a strong trigger for school leaders in driving them to initiate change efforts in their school. However, leaders too are constrained by systemic inertia inherent in every school. Often, this puts a stop to many well-intentioned forays.
  • Leaders with the fortitude to keep fighting often lack the academic or managerial depth required to carry it through. Any external support, such as the Teacher Program, then becomes a welcome scaffold to take the next big step forward.
  • The program needs to spotlight successes – of leaders who have used the program as a launch pad to fundamentally change course in their schools. This can be an effective advocacy tool.
  • We are continuing to work with 2 partners in leadership programs with the added objective of using the leadership program as a trigger for a holistic engagement with schools and to create networks of schools in various districts across the country. This initiative is in its inception now.

Experiment: Curricular Research Objective: Research has been initiated whenever curricular gaps have become apparent. The 3 efforts so far have been:

  • Learning Standards: To develop internationally bench-marked learning objectives for children across grades and disciplines.
  • Curricular Mapping: To stitch disjoint threads from the syllabus into one integrated fabric to show curricular linkages, thus aiding teachers in lesson planning.
  • Participative Action Research: We are supporting an action research experiment with one organization that has created an alternative ICT curriculum. They are using this as a means to influence overall pedagogical and classroom practices in the school.

Experiment: Holistic School/System Engagement Objective: As we engaged with schools though various efforts, it became clearer that we needed to see the school as the basic unit of change. This led us to initiate holistic school engagements with the following objectives:

  • To help the project school initiate and sustain efforts to transform school philosophy, culture and competence so that all children develop into critical, creative and caring citizens.
  • To help us understand what it takes for schools to change.
  • To create a spectrum of mainstream schools that can act as beacons of inspiration for other schools.
  • To give our partner organizations an opportunity to engage with an entire school as a system. This we believe helps them engage with an entire system and the learnings for the organization are significant.

Scope The WST (Whole School Transformation) program is a little more than 4 years old. Here, we have engaged with around 750 schools through 10 partner efforts. The program covers a spectrum of schools – from government schools to high-end private schools. It also covers a spectrum of approaches to school change. We have also engaged in holistic engagements with systems of government schools like clusters, blocks within a district. The intent is to engage deeply with a well defined government system to understand the issues related to initiating change in a government system. The objective is similar to the WST program in that we want to understand what it takes for a system to change.
Summary of assessment: We are seeing varying degrees of success in the Whole School Transformation projects. It is early to form an opinion, but the broad trends visible are:

  • There is direct correlation between buy-in of school management and efficacy of our effort. This means a greater difficulty when dealing with government schools and school chains where decision-making rests in some external body.
  • Whatever the window we use to enter and engage the school, the nature of effort needs to spread to all areas of school work – academic, administrative and managerial.
  • If we hope the school as an institution believes in the basic principles of equity, democracy and respect for diversity these would reflect in the way the staff, school leaders and the parent community engage with each other too. So a ‘changed school’ would have naturally changed in all respects not just the nature of the classroom engagement. Any change that is not holistic in this sense can not be sustained.
  • School transformation is an extremely intensive effort. It requires high-quality resources, and a constantly evolving engagement.
  • The process of engaging intensely with a school system makes the intervening organization aware of the complexity of the education system as well as the attitudes and perceptions towards education which need to be considered. We believe this process helps in bettering our understanding of the education system and the various socio-economic and political factors that influence popular perception of education.
  • We are in the process of documenting our efforts in Holistic School Engagement and analyzing the work we have done and the progress made in each intervention. We believe this documentation will be of great value in education reform considerations.

Build Eco-system Objective: Educational change is a large agenda. It is beyond any organisation’s individual capacity. To be able to make any impact, a critical mass of social endeavours need to get infected by and act on this agenda. Further, these efforts will need to be synergised before we can witness any impact. This forms the basis for our choosing to work through and with a partner network rather than creating in-house capacity. Broadly, objectives for this strategy are:

  • To create capacity on the ground for working on educational change, and to build mainstream acceptability and demand for such work.
  • To bring together various efforts and organisations and create synergy.
  • Help individuals build new organizations and provide support in the form of capability building, financial support and engagements that help the organization get credibility and build a deeper understanding of the education space. In that sense we act like Angel Investors.

Scope Today, our partner eco-system is almost 30 organisations. See http://wiproapplyingthoughtinschools.com/?q=node/25. All of them are social organisations – whether they are a voluntary organization or follow a for-profit.
Summary of assessment

  • We have built sufficient credibility to be able to engage with a diverse crew of institutions. It is not common to find organisations with such diversity in one network.
  • In some cases, we have helped to create these organisations (or their capacity for work in education) from scratch.
  • We plan to reach out to more fledgling organizations and engage them in this larger eco-system. We believe feeling part of a larger community and learning from diverse experiences will help new organizations widen their perspective to educational reform issues.

Advocate Objective: Use groundwork, partner eco-system and Wipro’s strong brand to advocate through policy and media to:

  • Provide radical stimulus to influence the macro system.
  • Show “what can be” and “how to change”.
  • Cascade desire for change.
  • Provide a platform for individuals to engage with work in education reform (through the Wipro Education Fellowship)
  • Create good children’s literature and a build a platform to advocate
  • Create good shareable learning from our experiments contribute to practice driven qualitative research

Summary of assessment

  • Our grassroots work over the past seven years has given a strong basis for advocacy.
  • We are beginning with small efforts. This includes the engagement with Teacher Plus, a professional magazine for teachers. It includes the consistent use of Azim Premji as an advocate through media. It includes how we have indirectly influenced the National Curricular Framework, 2005.
  • We engage in research studies to understand the education situation in India. Our study jointly conducted with Educational Initiatives of the learning levels in popular and aspirational schools in 5 metros. We popularised the findings of this study in India Today with the intent of disturbing the inertia inherent in urban communities about the state of education. We hope this will create wider awareness to the need for change and generate momentum for the same.
  • Advocacy is inherently ad-hoc. However, one large opportunity is presenting itself when the current set of Whole School Transformations bear fruit. A focussed and high-quality effort to document and publish these stories is in progress as part of the efforts of the Wipro Fellows.

Some overall comments What it takes

  • We have learnt that external, top-down, pre-meditated and large-scale engagements will not change the education system. It is easy to get caught up and carried away by some irrelevant measures of success – such as the demand from the system. But the system has a legacy of co-opting such interventions, thus rendering them sterile.
  • The key question we must ask is: Is there even one school or a well defined sub-system (cluster or group of schools) where we have made a sustainable difference… in making school culture more democratic, in making classroom practices more participatory and constructivist, and in helping every child realise his/her potential? If our programs do not pass this muster, they are an irrelevant effort.
  • The kind of fundamental change we envision is related to attitudes, perceptions and hence it has to be organic and from within the system. That is why our objective is to work with mainstream schools, urban and rural, economically and otherwise privileged as well as the marginalised to continue to influence and impact the current education system. Concerted advocacy and dissemination to a larger audience is important. And that will over time continue to influence the system.
  • Various organizations are engaged in diverse efforts towards education reform and it is important to have a platform for them to engage with each other towards building synergy. New organizations and individuals need to get support, not just programmatic or financial but also the confidence and trust of a larger network of like minded organizations. We believe the work in nurturing this eco-system in itself is important and needs to be broadened and strengthened.
  • To build capacity (and capabilities) in the space of education reform there is also a need to develop more research led documentation on the experiments. These will help deepen the understanding of good education and encourage more organizations and individuals to engage in education work. As part of this initiative we plan to create this framework that will help create shareable learning.