Learning from Others

Hello All! Abby and I would both like to apologize from being so absent from the blog for so long. We’ve been in Rishikesh over our break from Chintan, and totally disconnected from technology, which if I might add was a very nice break. We are back to work today! I haven’t updated in a while, so I’ll tell you a bit about how my projects have progressed.

I’m currently meeting with as many NGOs as will have me to discuss their successes in educating underprivileged children in Delhi. Chintan wants to improve its NCiT program, and in order to do that they’ve enlisted me to study the work of other NGOs who are more focused only on informal education. I’ve spoken with the directors of 2 NGOs thus far and have 3 more meetings lined up for this week. Although it is early there are three themes that seem to connect all of the most successful informal education programs.

1.  Individualization: each child who enters one of these programs is at a different age, maturity level and educational level. Some of the 10 year olds have never seen a school before and some of the 6 year olds can already speak and read a bit of English, it truly depends on how much formal schooling the child has been lucky enough to receive. Therefore, each child must be assessed and placed into a class where his or her specific needs can be addressed. This is work that requires huge investments of resources and time for each child making it very difficult for small starting NGOs, or for a firm like Chintan, whose main focus is not education, to implement.
2. Parental Involvement: Perhaps the most important factor in the decision for a child to work or go to school is how the parent’s value education. Successful NGOs have incorporated the parents into the process fully and given them some emotional or, even better, financial stake in the matter. All the NGOs, including Chintan, have staff that visit homes and ask about children who have not been attending class. They try to stress the importance of education to the parents who sometimes find it hard to believe that anything will break the cycle of poverty to which they have tragically become accustomed. One of the most innovative methods I’ve seen is a nominal fee which the parents pay to the NGO, which gives the organization legitimacy in the parent’s eyes. The fees are saved and if a child goes on to graduate from 12th standard all of the fees are returned along with a small payment of interest, which gives a financial incentive for the child to graduate.
3. Vocational Training: not all children are made for school. Many have difficulties in the classroom, or have simply become too old to successfully mainstream into a government school. These children deserve the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty some other way, so many NGOs will give these children vocational training in fields like beauty and domestic work all well as classes in English and math. They are then able to get jobs that pay steady and reliable wages, and can contribute to their family, or stand on their own.

There are honestly hundreds of organizations working to break children out of the cycle of poverty in Delhi, and each has its own unique approach. I hope I can synthesize some of the best ideas and help Chintan to improve its program, so that they can achieve the lofty goal of having “no next generation of wastepickers.”

Even though my post was about work I thought I'd share some pictures from vacation! Enjoy the Ganga and the Himalayan foothills!

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One thought on “Learning from Others

  1. Laura, great photos and post. Have you had any discussions with education professionals about the challenges of the multi-grade level classroom? Also, where are the teachers coming from? Have you spoken to Sudeep at all about what Muktanga has done to professionalize teacher training? Could this be relevant to your work as well?

  2. I haven't had the opportunity to speak with any educational professionals, only the directors of Shine, Hope Project, Jamghat and the Delhi Council for Child Welfare. They have all been great resources and have been working in the field of informal education for many years. It would be interesting to get an educational professional's perspective though. All Chintan's teachers come from the community. They prefer high school graduates, but that is not necessarily a strict qualification. Chintan, and the other NGOs I've spoken with, have found that the people in the community do not trust an outsider to come in and teach their kids. Most of the teachers are my age or slightly older and are given training by Chintan, but professionalizing their teaching staff is definitely a major concern, and one of the issues I will be addressing in my recommendations to Chintan.

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About Laura

Wharton Class of 2013 with concentrations in Business and Public Policy and Operations and Information Management. I was a 2011 CASI Intern at Chintan in New Delhi. Now I am an Economic Consultant at Berkeley Research Group in Washington, DC.