Eight years after the launch of Pragna, an “activity-based learning”, in the government primary schools of Gujarat, the project has been considerably scaled down. After spending Rs 150 crore and conducting a series of training sessions for over 80,000 teachers till 2017, the project will be limited to only Class I and II from this year, instead of Class I to V as it was being executed till now.
The Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT) has termed the decision to scale down the project with an aim to universalise it.
“The move to remove Pragna from Class III to V, and scale it down to all Class I and II, is aimed at universalising it. This was necessary for its better implementation,” GCERT Director T S Joshi told The Indian Express, pointing to the project now being introduced in across 33,000-odd government primary schools. Till date, Pragna covered nearly 23,000 government primary schools.
However, primary teachers’ resentment against the “complicated teaching methodology” under Pragna cannot be ruled out for the decision to scale it down.
Teachers have resisted the project on several grounds, ranging from difficulty in “maintaining order” in classrooms, grouping of different classes in one room causing attention deficit, to “additional workload” on them.
This is clearly stated in the survey report prepared and submitted by the Gujarat Evaluation Department under General Administrative Department (GAD) in 2017. The teachers had said in their response, “It becomes difficult to assign different activities to children within the same group as students are at different milestones”.
Why Gujarat grapples with improving learning levels
The Gujarat government has been struggling to improve the learning levels of the children in its schools. It has rolled out several measures for it —from evaluation exercise like Gunotsav to enrolment drive Praveshotsav and Mission Vidya. Despite many quality improvement projects, the learning levels of students remains low as highlighted by the findings of the National Achievement Survey that was released by the Centre’s HRD Ministry earlier this year. One reason could be lack of consistency in implementing such schemes. For example, the evaluation part of Praveshotsav continued for only two years, while Mission Vidya ended abruptly despite initial plans to replicate it to lower classes.
A typical Pragna classroom has floor seating, instead of the row-column wise desk-chair seating arrangement. The children are divided into four groups and seated on dhurries encircling bright red coloured angular tables joined to make a small circle, doing their own activity.
“The previous traditional blackboard and desk-chair system was far better than this floor seating as now I alone have to handle nearly 40 students of both Class I and II where half the class has been taught as per the traditional teaching for a year and are now following this new one. Also, since the post of teacher for Class II is vacant I have to teach the entire class,” said one of the teachers of a municipal corporation school in Ahmedabad, on condition of anonymity.
Based on teachers’ complaints of “extra load”, the project has incorporated several major changes in its curriculum, methodology, thereby simplifying the process. The system had its own specially-designed curriculum and was followed for the last seven years. Now, it has been replaced by curriculum of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Moreover, the number of groups in which the students were categorised based on their learning levels have been reduced from six to four, and only two subjects — Gujarati and Mathematics — instead of existing four — language, EVS, mathematics and rainbow activities — will be taught now.
The six groups in which Class I and II students were initially categorised were teacher supported group, partially teacher supported group, peer support group, partial peer support group, self learning group and evaluation group. Now, partially teacher supported group and partial peer support group have been done away with.
The number of cards used to teach students has also been reduced as teachers complained that “students of Class I and II are young and it becomes difficult to select a card and divide in groups”.
Nearly 10,000 schools, where Pragna has been introduced for the first time, are struggling to catch up with the drastic change. Since both Class I and II are clubbed together under the project, Class II students have been made to shift to the new method of learning without studying in the same format in Class I.