Teacher Training is key: Mohandas Pai, SquarePanda India, Global Teacher Prize winner Ranjit Disale, Sunisha Ahuja, UNICEF

Foundational literacy and numeracy is the ability of a child to read and comprehend basic text and to carry out some basic arithmetic operation with Indian numerals.  In India, a majority of third standard students, can neither read a second standard level text nor solve questions on subtraction.

Captains of Indian industry are concerned. TV Mohandas Pai – Chairman, Manipal Global Education says, “I strongly believe that digital technology is the solution to handle the quality and access problems and the equity problem in india. We are creating a digital country but there’s a digital divide. That’s because for education you require video content and to play that you require a tablet or a smartphone. through the digital medium every child can get good content and good video every child’s curiosity can be appreciated. The teachers can also learn a lot because they don’t have access to much content either as they’re also not trained.”

Square Panda India provides exactly these services. Their early learning initiative, Aarambh focusses on Holistically training and elevating the entire Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) ecosystem- including the Anganwadi workers and the ECCE teachers.

Providing a holistic foundational learning program for the children, which opens up to higher levels as the children learn.

Ashish Jhalani , Managing Director, Square Panda India says, “If a child is unable to reach a certain degree of grade-level competency by the end of the third standard, the learning gap will only further deepen, perpetuating inequity and economic loss.”

During the pandemic, they took their teacher training program online, for the state of Uttar Pradesh. They provided technological know-how for educators equipping them to use various tools & platforms effectively. However, several teachers in India are not trained to take classes online.

Ranjitsinh Disale, renowned educator and winner, Global Teacher Prize 2020 said,” We need teachers of the 21st century. During the pandemic we saw that teachers were not prepared for online teaching, just because our teacher’s training programs are designed for face to face teaching. When told to teach online, teachers put a blackboard at the backside and the camera in the front and started explaining. This is not online teaching! For online teaching you need to engage with the classroom.” 

On the ground, it is important to separate anganwadi workers from teachers. Sunisha Ahuja, Education Specialist, Early Childhood Education, UNICEF India shares that “the anganwadi worker is a multi-tasker.” 

Between ensuring cleanliness, food for the children, working with pregnant and lactating mothers, adolescent girls etc. across a spectrum of stakeholders! 

“The anganwadi workers’ time for early childhood education activities does get affected. In fact, certain surveys have shown that the average time that is spent on early childhood education is less than two hours at an Anganwadi Centre which is not adequate. The Govt mandates a minimum four hours of an early childhood education program and that’s a goal to work towards,” explains Sunisha Ahuja.

Given that both quality and delivery is the issue, a synergy between private players and the Government is beneficial for development at large. Disale too highlights the need for the private sector to join hands with the government and start building professional development courses for the teachers. “Technology plays a vital role in enhancing the performance of the teachers. But we need to train them on how to use this technology in a meaningful way so that it could lead to authentic learning,” he added. 

In order to facilitate this, Square Panda India is partnering with several state governments to impact 500K Educators and 5Mn Children in India in 2021.

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