Education, in India, especially school education is a fundamental right and has funding coming through the state governments and the central government, with an equally strong presence in the private sector. With an enrollment that stands at 18% in pre-schooling, there is an alarming 48% drop-out rate in elementary education in Indian elementary education. The factors that contribute to this are far too many, and inspired individuals and organisations have been attempting to bridge this divide with innovative , custom – programs that is designed to keep the young wards interested in the program and motivated to learn more.
In most cases, the organisations or the individuals take the onus of building and providing the necessary infrastructure for their programs. In a marked and interesting departure from the existing methods, Binu Verma, co-founder of CEFI, based out of Bangalore, set out to use the existing infrastructure, equal or more interesting than customary education aids – the city’s Museums. The first Museum school for Bangalore, was launched on on April 21, 2012 through Bal Utsav, an initiative of Child Empowerment Foundation India (CEFI), focusing on educating non-school going children, thus plugging the rising number of dropouts. The school offers a hands-on, project-based, student-centered, interactive and collaborative learning experience — inspiring and preparing students for the real world.
Currently with 100 non-school going children from the slums of Bangalore, the Musuem School concept and operates at the at the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum (VITM), in the heart of Bangalore, 5 days a week and 4 hours everyday. Completely run by women, it has five qualified teachers, and another five program assistants, helping with free pickup and drop facility and nutritious snacks. Having helped develop a curriculum that covers values, life skills, literacy, academics, arts, sports, adolescent and vocational education.
Her Museum school, though based out of the VITM, pro-actively involves other learning institutions to provide real-life experiences with topics. According to Binu Verma, “ These learning expeditions offer students a chance to ask questions, make observations, reflect on experiences and draw their own conclusions. The Museum School’s core programs require teachers to identify students’ skills, interests and needs and tailor lessons to meet each child at his or her level. Students work in differentiated reading and math groups, and teachers help each child set achievement goals. These core programs strengthen children’s skills and build self-confidence. In gaining knowledge and seeing what they already can do, children learn to believe there’s nothing they cannot do.”
Five months on, the results have been phenomenal, watching the initiative take off, set sail and even out on cruise mode, encouraging her to replicate the model across other parts of the city and in the main metros of the country once the final wrinkles have been smoothened out for the rollout. The resource base for the initiative, through her foundation CEFI, mainly involves inviting the active participation of corporates in the city who have been overwhelmingly supportive of the concept.
The Museum school concept for India, designed as a neighborhood school, according to Binu Verma, has the simple objective of bringing together children from diverse backgrounds within the same community, and through it inspire excellence, in both faculty and students, ultimately helping A Child Celebrate, their inspiring motto.