It was March 17th 2018. In my capacity as Secretary, School Education, Government of India I visited Agra to launch Innovative Pathshaala- a series of booklets for the teachers comprising experiential and activity-based lesson plans mapped with the State Board. The event was organized by Sri Aurobindo Society and HDFC Bank’s initiative, ‘Zero-Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives’ (ZIIEI). There were education officers and teachers from many districts of Uttar Pradesh and I could sense a lot of positive energy and the collective zeal to bring about a transformation in school education. ‘Rupantar’, a nation-wide education transformation programme of Sri Aurobindo Society was on show.
What I saw was just a glimpse of a bigger change that was being attempted through the power of zero-investment innovations in education. These were innovations developed and contributed by the teachers from length and breadth of the country as a part of the ‘Zero-Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives’ (ZIIEI) under inspired leadership of Sambhrant Sharma.
ZIIEI started its journey from Uttar Pradesh in the year 2015-16. The aim was to bring the best practices and zero-investment innovative ideas of the teachers to the forefront. Since then, ZIIEI has travelled a long distance. With more than 20 lakh teachers oriented towards zero-investment innovation ecosystem, accessing experiential-activity based teaching content digitally and impacting around 2 crore students with innovative and best teaching practices, ZIIEI has moved beyond the peripheries of an initiative, it has become a mass movement in education.
The movement has been acknowledged and appreciated by the President of India. The Vice President of India too went on to state, “Teachers lead students on the path of becoming self-reliant. I am glad to know that Sri Aurobindo Society’s education initiative ZIIEI is giving the confidence to the teachers to experiment with new ideas.”
In early 2016 when the teacher started attending the one-day training session in all the 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, they assumed that another long-drawn lecture would be delivered to them. However, to their surprise, instead of telling the teachers what to do, ZIIEI team members asked for inputs and zero-investment innovations from them to improve the quality of education. When there’s no cost involved there is no barter, no favours, only free flow of optimism and collective efforts takes place. As mentioned in the Process Monitoring Report on ZIIEI submitted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), ZIIEI reflects an approach where engagement with all stakeholders in planning, strategizing and implementation process, has resulted in better outcomes
ZIIEI aims to develop joyful, engaging and experiential teaching- learning environment in classrooms. Teacher training sessions ZIIEI programme provided the much need platform and support for innovation in education but there still remained a gap in regular practice of zero-investment innovations. To bridge this gap and make everyday teaching – learning a joyful process, ZIIEI programme developed “Innovative Pathshaala”- the teaching tool for teachers. Each subject specific book, mapped with the respective State board, is a repository of innovative teaching methods based on zero-investment ideas published in the state specific Innovations Handbook/Navachar Pustika. These books give teacher the choice to deliver any topic using different types of activities. Innovative Pathshaala booklets have been distributed in more than 5,000 schools, and more than 20 lakh users access experiential teaching content in Innovative Pathshaala App.
ZIIEI has emerged as the largest programme in terms of the number of teachers receiving support and the number of States in India in which the programme directly operates.
The assessment report submitted by KPMG (India) on ZIIEI programme states that ZIIEI has successfully instilled high motivation in teachers, empowered them to become torch-bearers of transformation in education and enabled them to change their roles from ‘passive’ followers to ‘active’ contributors.
Boosted with high motivation and realization of their true potentials, lakhs of teachers share their innovative ideas with ZIIEI team members. All the ideas are evaluated by following a stringent, transparent and rigorous process. The potential ones are short-listed, and compiled in State specific Innovation Handbook/Navachar Pustika. The ideas in Navachar Pustika aim at creating a holistic environment for students, with equal emphasis on New-Age Teaching Techniques, Community Participation, Simplified Language Learning to Nation Building, and Health-Sanitation-Nutrition of the Students.
In 2016, the first Innovation Handbook/Navachar Pustika was launched. The growth, acceptance and significance of the programme is evident from the fact that 53 Innovations Handbooks/Navachar Pustika have been launched so far. Thus, for most of the States/UT’s at least two editions have been released.
The teachers look up to Navachar Pustika as the testimony of their efforts and significant contribution in making education better. Teachers whose ideas are selected in Navachar Pustika are recognized and felicitated at the National Conference & Workshop organised by Sri Aurobindo Society and HDFC Bank. Around 1,500 innovative teachers from all the States/UT’s and numerous education officers have received award from top leadership at the Central government. These annual events have become an integral part of bringing all the stakeholders in education and policy-makers at a common platform
The Covid-19 global pandemic has changed the way we used to perceive teaching and learning. The world is swiftly moving to digital platforms and our teachers need to acquire the skills to make their online classes as engaging and experiential as their physical classrooms. Aligning with the new needs, Innovative Pathshaala has developed teaching material for the teachers which can be used online and offline in classrooms. With the focus on learning outcomes, online training sessions are being organized for the teachers of 300 districts. These 300 districts will soon have Role-Model Schools which will be center of excellence and inspiration for others.
The efforts under ZIIEI and Innovative Pathshaala are in alignment with the vision of National Education Policy -2020. Through ZIIEI, Rupanatar is playing contributing role as a catalyst in bringing a positive change in education.
Aurobindo Society has demonstrated that even in the complex terrain of school education, impact can be created and that impact can be scaled through public-private partnership. They have made-it-happen and the impact what they have managed through Rupantar is clearly visible.