Since 1990, Kalpana Vilasam has helped our teachers transform the Katha Lab School into a quality school for children coming from non-literate, economically poor communities/families through research, development of teaching learning materials and training the teachers – both in service and pre-service. We realize that schools for children living in economic poverty rarely have good, strong teachers. And the Lab School has systematically tried to change this for our children, so we can grow their innate potential and help them grow into responsible, responsive citizens. Hence, Katha has been at the forefront of teacher education for our growing number of teachers in Delhi, in an effort to reduce the teacher quality gap.
Kalpana Vilasam has helped hone teaching skills and the abilities to make low-cost teaching/learning materials since 1991. It has, through its KADEM programme honed school administration skills in young teachers who aspire to be change agents in education. And has helped measuring the performance of the students through the PAR system (Performance, Attendance, Retention), special to Katha. This uses value-added data to improve the performance of the students.
As the programme started in the Katha School in 1990, the passionate, competent and fun-loving teachers soon flourished with the unique curriculum and syllabus into an alternative certification programme. Its goals were clear: To provide quality and relevant skills to teachers aspiring to teach in nonprofit schools. To get smart young people who were languishing in slums after a class 8 pass certificate to a college degree into classrooms and into creative teaching. Since most of them were women who did not have a formal degree or its equivalent.
Katha started a process of funding further studies for our teachers, and helping them acquire a diploma ― the K.B.Ed. Career changers and retired professionals have been encouraged to enter the programme.
The Katha teacher training structure has been honed and has subjects since 1991 that are not seen in any other teacher training programme in the world. They try to bring the best hands-on training, even as they continue to hold teachers’ hands through faculty club meetings and other innovative practices. This, we have found, is essential since we maintain great flexibility in choosing our trainees ― both in terms of formal education, experience and expertise ― training their heart and mind to become teachers of class and passion!
Katha has developed a special curriculum for this course which combines hands-on learning with special emphasis on “The Teacher as the Centre of Community Action and Educational Leadership.” This is appropriate, relevant, integrated. These foster and encourage lifelong learnings in school management and in ethical, empathetic work that defines the word “voluntary” in India.
Today, the programme is strengthened by KHEL, Katha’s Holistic Early Learning Centre.
The focus of KADEM is on training young Katha B.Ed graduates in modern and proactive management practices in the field of non-formal education. The total programme consists of a two-year course with a total of 1, 400 hours of work per year, which is divided into three semesters. Each semester has a component of study and hands-on work. The semesters follow the same pattern as does Kathashala.
Since 1992, this has been an ongoing process. Present research topics over the last two years have been: A study of Early Childhood Education in Delhi to understand how ECE helps in retaining children till high school. This will move in tandem with a study for the Government of India on elementary education and poverty issues.
To take forward the research activities into the public sphere, Kalpana Vilasam organizes regular lectures and discussions on various topics which help us think deeper into improving the quality of schools. The endevour has been supported by various experts and professionals since the last decade at least. These discussions are held in association with NUEPA. They help teachers and educators zero in on multi-pronged ways and tactics to help schools improve their standards in self-propelled, sustainable ways. Some questions we have asked ourselves through these years include:
- How do we help teachers to constantly develop their values, knowledge and skills?
- How do we assess teachers to fit the task of improving classroom life and bringing students out of the low performance/low expectations syndrome?
- How do we lessen dependency of the teachers on outside props and increase her ability to create her own lesson plans, and her own T/L materials using existing good practices from across the globe ― thus making time for reflection and planning?
Teachers Alliance for Quality Education was established in 1998 to sustain the work of our teachers through mass collaborations from teachers worldwide who would like to share their skills and expertise through e-learning processes. Its aim has been to involve people from the Diaspora, especially those who know Hindi. TAQeED is working now on having a one-time fee that will guarantee a place for member in the friends of Katha network, for life.
Pedagogical strategies and ways to bring integrated learning to students through teacher involvement and creativity. Through the internet and web-based activities amongst teachers. Kathapedia hopes to have the support of an international community of teachers, the Indian academic diaspora.