CBSE school stands up for underprivileged children, with BBMP support

At a time when the poor cannot afford to dream of quality education, here's a model school that's silently changing the lives of many poor children in Srirampur in Bangalore. It has proved that children can change a family.

It was a slum, known for notorious rowdies like Kotwal, Kitty and others, filled with uneducated, poverty-ridden families, struggling to make the ends meet. Even today, with no proper drainage system or well-planned civic amenities, many areas in Srirampuram can be rated just a little more than slums. In such a scenario has come up this school, which is trying to light the lives of many underprivileged children from the area.

Children being trained in dance and prayers. Pic courtesy:

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan – Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Public School, located in Srirampuram, aims at providing holistic education to children belonging to economically weaker sections of the society. With BBMP as the public partner and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan as the private partner, the school is a joint project with Rotary Bangalore, Indiranagar and Suprajit Foundation. The content and curriculum for the school is designed by Brindavan Education Trust, Bangalore.

As H N Suresh, Director, BVB and Member-Secretary, Bhavan-BBMP School puts it, the school is the result of “the combination of many agencies brought under one roof with a sole intention of providing good education.”

Started in June 2011, the school has CBSE syllabus and is the only English medium school that the BBMP is involved with. The school is an attempt to bring underprivileged children into the mainstream society and to make education accessible to all irrespective of class, caste and religion.

So, why was the administration specific about the CBSE syllabus? Shubha Madan, Administrator, Bhavan-BBMP Public School explains: “CBSE syllabus is certainly more difficult. If we have prepared them for that, then we have prepared them for most of the All-India exams that they may have to take up later on. And BVB is known to run CBSE schools all around India.”

H N Suresh tells how the idea of this school took birth. “Bhavan was looking for adopting some school.  We saw about a dozen schools. We weren’t happy though because the teachers and the administrative staff of the school had to be taken in too. But if the teachers weren’t up to the mark and did not meet our requirements then what’s the point adopting the school? So we told the Corporation that if they could give us an empty plot, then we’ll give the architectural plan for the building.” The BBMP then zeroed in on a building in the Shrirampuram area.

The building was an old abandoned school that was being apparently used for illegal activities. So the BBMP bought the land, razed down the building and invested on the new school building that was built according to the architectural plan given by Bhavan. What also attracted BVB was the huge playground adjacent to the building.

The admission of children is a 50-50 affair here. The BBMP takes in 50% of the children and the BVB takes in the other 50%. The children chosen by BBMP get completely free education. Those children who come under BVB have to pay a nominal amount. The fee starts from Rs. 11,500 per annum for Nuresry and increases by 500 rupees per class.

The Bhavan-BBMP School Building in Srirampuram. Pic: Kedar Nadella

Presently the school has from nursery to class III. “This was intentional because we did not want to take in a huge crowd at once. We wanted the same kids to graduate from one class to the other as it would make it easier for them to imbibe the culture,” explains Shubha. The school has around 240 children at the moment with about 40 children in each class. There are eight teachers currently employed, with one main teacher for each class and separate teachers for art-craft and dance-music class. All the teachers have been freshly recruited and are B.Ed-trained as per BBMP specifications.

Teaching the teachers

Vijaya Mahadevan, Coordinator, Brindavan Education trust – along with her team of resource persons which includes Rajani Padmanabhan, Janaki Narendra and Shweta – visits the school 3-4 days a week. They conduct remedial classes for children and train teachers to implement novel and interactive modes of teaching methods that make learning more enjoyable.

Brindavan became a part of the school a month after it was started i.e. in July, 2011 when BVB approached them. Then the school only had Nursery, LKG, UKG and class I. They initially started by working on the children’s vocabulary development, listening skills thereby enabling them to have a general conversation in English. By end of first year they got into designing the curriculum too.

For the 20 seats of BBMP quota, the children are selected based on a small test as well as the quotas reserved for various castes. The Bhavan’s quota is filled up with oral tests for lower classes, but for classes I, II and III a prior background in English and Mathematics is expected. “They need to be able to meet at least the minimum standard of the class and if we see that they are capable of coping, we take them in,” Shubha clarifies. The family should be residing in the area for at least 10 years; hence all the kids in the school are from Srirampuram.

For those who display strength in one aspect but weakness in other, the school has the Brindavan Education Trust for help. Located in JP Nagar, Brindavan deals with children who have specific learning disabilities like dyslexia. Set up in 1993, with more than 20 years of experience, they teach kids through Open Schooling as prescribed by the NIOL –National Institute of Open schooling. They conduct regular counseling and remedial education classes for children. They train teachers in various schools through workshops. But the Bhavan-BBMP Public School is the only one where they are actively involved in making the curriculum.

The school makes use of the NCERT textbooks. The curriculum involves incorporating innovative teaching models. “It is completely integrated. We look through all the textbooks and analyse the contents and chalk out lessons that go with each other and bring them together and teach it. So lessons in the text are not taught sequentially. This is called interdisciplinary approach,” Shubha informs.

Children of Class II during class hour. Also seen is Shubha Madan, Administrator. Pic: Kedar Nadella

Different lesson plans for all types of learners

When making the lesson plan, every child’s natural ability is kept in mind. Some children are visual learners; some are auditory learners while others are kinesthetic learners. So when a lesson plan is made, a PPT is made to go along with it for visual kids. Games are devised for kinesthetic kids. So every lesson plan has detailed objectives. When preparing objectives teachers are also expected to find out which part of the lesson is knowledge-oriented, which is understanding-oriented, which is application-oriented and which is based on judgment and evaluation.

Once the plan is made it is distributed on a day-to-day basis over the week. What are the introductory activities, what are the keywords that are going to be used that day, which part of objectives are being fulfilled for this class today, what class work has been given, what has been the learning outcome and has the class fulfilled that and at the end, what reinforcement has been derived from what was taught; all these are planned with extreme detail by the teachers.

There are about 8-10 students on an average in every class who need remedial classes, states Shubha.“The remedial part is strong here and goes parallel with other classes during school hours. Our remedial classes are not the reinforcement of the previous teaching. Usually when teachers are sent for training, they end up not knowing how to apply or implement what they have learnt. But Brindavan has perfected the art of teaching children who have problem with learning,” she explains.

Vijaya Mahadevan from Brindavan says, “The forty children in the class have different abilities and come from different backgrounds. Some children have had previous school experience. One or two of them have never gone to school and are directly coming to 1st standard. There are also students who have done the lower classes in Kannada or Tamil medium and now are switching to English.”

So the language development is at three levels – oral level, reading level and writing level. They also teach the first-time students to get acclimatised to a classroom environment. While the Montessori teachers in the school are NTT (Nursery Teacher’s Training) trained, the teachers for the lower primary classes have finished B.Ed. Brindavan also additionally trains these teachers to include the students who have all kinds of learning difficulty. “We have audio (learning words through their phonetic pronunciation) and visual aids (flash-cards) to help the children remember the subjects,” Vijaya shows demonstrating the flash cards. “Not just blind memorization or learning by rote but through proper mind mapping and use of a lot of colours we help retention of what is taught,” she adds.

Unique visual exam pattern

‘Children change the family’

Revealing the ideology behind the school, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Director Suresh says, “Earlier the notion was that the elders in the family should direct the children. The parents of these children, however, are not educated. So a reverse process has begun taking place. Our belief now is that the child is changing the family. This area was also chosen deliberately for the school, so we could curb the high crime rate by educating the children. Instead of just talking about it, we wanted to build model schools. If we succeed we can replicate this formula in other places where Bhavan need not invest on land and the building but we can still educate people in a different way. And this has worked out really well for us!”

Commenting on the examination pattern, Shubha says, “Exams are very visual here. 3/4th of the paper is visual and the other quarter, as per board requirement is verbal. Most schools don’t follow this because it’s too much work to prepare a visual paper. But here it is done because BVB has the money to spend on paper and Brindavan is game to a format like this.” Every child is put through what is called Comprehensive Continuous Evaluation or CCE. This includes formative assessment that analyses a child’s learning after every lesson and summative assessment that looks at their mid-term and final performance. From this year there are plans to keep a tab on the individual learning curves of each child.

Shubha mentions that the parents are very happy with this schooling system. “Their only request is that we don’t give the children any homework. But homework need not necessarily be written. Homework may include finding the cost of a vegetable or finding out which things in the kitchen are circular in shape. So the idea is to make the children think,” she says. Starting this year, the school intends to increase the number of PTA meetings. “Between every summative evaluation, we want to have a meeting. So, that way each class would have met us about 6 times a year,” Shubha states.

The teachers seem to be excited to meet this challenge too. Sushma who has a Master’s degree in Political Science is the class teacher of standard III and has been teaching for 4 years now. “The teaching methodology is different here. The techniques taught are very useful. It’s easy for the children to pick up and it’s a learning experience for me too,” she says. Shridhar, a B.Ed trained Kannada teacher, has one year experience in teaching higher primary children. “Not all children are from Kannada background in the class. Some are from Tamil, Telugu and even Hindi speaking homes. So it’s a little difficult to teach them.”

Funding the school

Most of the school’s expenses are covered by using the sponsorships, funds or donations given by various individuals and organisations. While the Suprajit Foundations takes care of the recurring costs and routine expenditures of the school, Rotary Bangalore, Indiranagar pays for the furniture which includes classroom furnishings, lab furnishings and equipment, etc. The mid-day meals is provided by ISKON’s Akshaya Patra Food Scheme. While BVB bears the cost of the uniform, it is sometimes shared by other individual sponsors too.

For some of the children who come in through payment seats, the fee is paid by the sponsors. Under the school’s Sponsor a Child for Education-Donation Plan, private sponsors can educate a child by paying Rs.25,000 per annum. “Most children who come in through payment seats actually deserve to be in non-payment seats but because of the quota system they lose out. However, almost all children are economically challenged. So sponsors look into the children’s background and decide who they want to pay for,” says Shubha.

For the school website, click here.

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