To Adress the problem of deteriorating quality of education in UT schools and prepare them for PIS(Programme for International Student Assessment) which will be held in Chandigarh in 2021, the UT Administration’s ambitious project Phoenix seems to be the remedy. UT Education Secretary B L Sharma, who introduced this project to improve quality at elementary level, speaks to Hina Rohtaki about the project and how it addresses the problems of students whose basics remained poor till they reached Class X boards.
What was the genesis of Project Phoenix?
The genesis of Phoenix Project was poor quality of education, particularly at the primary and upper primary level in government schools, which also impacted the learning capabilities of students at the secondary and senior secondary level. Huge learning gaps were observed among the students at different levels. In a number of cases students who had reached higher standards did not possess the knowledge and skills required to be achieved at the lower level. This phenomenon was prevalent across all the classes and across all the subjects. Consequently, teachers imparting education to students at secondary and senior secondary level were feeling handicapped against an uphill task of teaching students at secondary and senior secondary level when the latter did not have the knowledge and skills which the students ought to have attained at much lower level. For such students too, it used to be a very difficult task to grasp and comprehend knowledge and skills being imparted at higher level when their fundamentals were very weak. Even remedial teaching for plugging the learning gaps used to be an arduous task in such cases.
It was necessary to devise a system under which it could be ensured that each and every teacher undertakes/imparts prescribed knowledge/skills to the students and students too acquire the requisite knowledge and skills appropriate to their class in an academic environment which is conducive to learning. The Project Phoenix ensures proper/prescribed teaching by the teachers and requisite learning by the students in a safe, secure, child-friendly and congenial environment.
How does Phoenix address this problem?
Under the Project Phoenix, if there is any deficiency or shortcoming in the learning process, the teacher is required to address it by devoting special attention to the child and by suitably modifying his process/methodology of teaching; by resorting to experiential learning or self-learning and/or by using different tools as may be required so that the child can be assisted and enabled to learn what he or she is intended to learn. In other words, whatever form/nature of remediation is required, the teacher has to undertake the same. Since the learning levels under Phoenix are being prescribed in terms of grades, the moment remediation takes place and the student acquires the requisite knowledge and the skill, the teacher has to upgrade the attainment (grade) of the students with regard to a specific learning outcome.
How has the project impacted the students?
Under this project, it is incumbent on the teacher to focus on each and every child. The involvement of the teacher in the teaching/learning process is almost complete. This has evoked the interest of the student in what is being taught and what is to be learned. Teaching-learning has become participative and interesting and not one-way traffic of teacher imparting teaching without the involvement of students in the process.
Who were the officers/experts involved in the formulation of this project?
The project was conceived at the level of secretary (education). Mission coordinator, her pedagogy team and 68 teachers of different teachers are actively involved in the formulation of the project. Director (Education) also played a key role in the entire exercise. The experts of education department devised the progress sheet which is the bedrock of the project and 33 handbooks for all subjects for all elementary classes. These handbooks are sort of guide books for teachers which describe/illustrate the processes/methodologies to be followed by teachers of specific subjects and for specific topics.
Are you able to track the performance of teachers and fix up their responsibility?
Yes, it does. Under the project, we also track the performance of each and every teacher, each and every school and each and every cluster. Implementation of the project predicates full (100%) involvement of teachers in the project. Since learning levels of each and every child/student have to be assessed on a regular basis, a teacher becomes a great enabler in the learning process of the students (which ordinarily he ought to be, but quite often he is not). Nine inspection teams have been constituted to supervise the implementation of the project and to ensure that the project is implemented in letter and spirit by the principals and teachers concerned.
How is the monitoring of the project being carried out?
After the launch in October 2018, we were able to hold a test on January 30 in all the schools for classes 3rd, 5th, and 8th (for 32,875 students) whereby we were able to assess the success of the implementation of the project. At the same time, we were able to see as to how many students had performed well and how many had performed not so well. Further, we could also identify the learning outcomes (LO) in respect of which the students had faced difficulty in learning and then performing. Teachers were called upon to devise better methodologies/processes for teaching the LOs which posed difficulty for the students. Remedial classes for the students who had attained lower grades were carried out in the month of April. Thereafter, the process is being carried out on a regular basis.
What has been done to facilitate the implementation of the project effectively and efficiently?
We had tied up with Society for Promotion of IT In Chandigarh (SPIC) for developing an IT software for implementation of the project. IT experts of the SPIC in collaboration with pedagogy coordinators and teachers have developed a software which enables us to see each and every learning attainment; of each and every subject; of each and every student by a click of the button. The software provides us micro-level data (of each LO of each student) as well as macro-level data of the entire UT student-wise, class-wise, section-wise, subject-wise, teacher-wise, cluster-wise as well as LO-wise. The entire hierarchy of education department ranging from principals/heads up to secretary level can monitor the progress/work being undertaken under the project on a day-to-day basis. Access to the dashboard can also be provided to other stakeholders as and when required.
How was the project implemented?
On the ground level, the project was implemented by the teachers. The Director (Education), District Education Officer, mission coordinator and the principals played an important role in the execution of the project. The overall supervision was provided by me.
What shall be the impact of this project on the education system of the UT?
Implementation of the project shall have a huge impact on the quality of education of the children of government schools, especially from class I to VIII. It will help us in bringing about transformation in the teaching-learning system/environment and raising the quality/standard of education.