23 Jan, 2023

Assam Development Initiative ADI - the pioneer of Value based Education in Assam

Assam Development Initiative (ADI)

the Pioneer of Value-based Education in Assam

 

Hiren Sarma

Houston, Texas

 

ADI at a glance:

 

Assam Development Initiative, ADI is a non-profit trust, registered in Guwahati and has been engaged in educational activities in the rural areas in and around Guwahati since 2009. ADI supported and managed several rural schools in Khetri area for under privileged children, with financial support from an organization called ASHA for Education. In 2021, most of the schools were handed over to AB Educational Trust (and Priyobandhu). These schools are now flourishing with complete management and financial support from ABET. ADI continues to manage the school in Basistha Guwahati, while switching its focus to their flagship project, Value based Education & Child Development.

 

What is Value-based Education?

 

Value based Education (VbE) may be better defined if I explain the difference between traditionally practiced Value or Moral Education and Value based Education.

 

Traditional Value Education refers to teaching a set of given positive values to a group of students or adults. Value based Education, on the other hand, refers to the functioning of a school or an institution in accordance with a set of positive values chosen by the stakeholders. According to Dr. Pradeep Borthakur, former advisor for ADI it is not about teaching students values, it is about the school itself living by a set of values. The project is based on the belief that unless the school itself lives by the positive values, it has no right to preach them to the students; it would be futile to do so.

 

Value based Education & Child Development Project:

 

Inspired by the work in England, Australia and in many Scandinavian countries, I studied about the importance and impact of Value based Education in the development of children and put a proposal to the then ADI Board in 2016. We conducted two workshops, one in Jorhat and the other in Guwahati, inviting several schools involving the teachers, school managements, and the parents. Many local educationists actively participated in the workshops. Based on the overwhelming response from all involved, ADI decided to launch a 3-year pilot project in 2017. It was really gratifying for me and our VbE team to see that the new Education Policy of Government of India has emphasized so much on Value based Education.

 

Much credit goes to Oil India Ltd., Delhi for funding the project for the initial years. However, like everything else in the world, the Coronavirus pandemic severely disrupted the project during 2019 and 2020. I recall my 2018 TV interview with renowned TV journalist Mrinal Talukdar about this project following which he advised me to create a Corpus Fund to ensure sustainability of the project. With that in mind, ADI established a Family Fund in early 2023, which now meets part of the recurring expenditures of the project.

 

The project:

 

Thanks to the support from the District School Authorities, the respective school Managing Committees, the Principals and the teachers, the project is currently at various stages of implementation in three (3) schools in Kamrup Metro and two (2) schools in Golaghat district. The project plan is presented to the schools, either through an invitation from a school or through a request from the local Inspector of schools office. The two basic tenets of the project are that a) the school needs to be committed (deliberate) to the project and b) agrees to follow the project methodology (methodic). The success of the project depends on active engagement of all members of the school community (managing committee, the principal, all teachers and the staff, the parents, and the students). The activities of the 3-year pilot project are accomplished using the following steps:


# ADI project team makes a presentation to the teachers and leaves behind the reading materials on the project objectives, methodology and the plan.

# The school creates a school level VbE team who works with the teachers, coordinate with the ADI team members, and present their understanding of the project in their own words.

# ADI organizes a parent meeting / workshop and communicates with teachers and the parents together, provides clarification, and answers questions.

# With support from the project team, the school selects a list of 8-10 Values which the teachers/ parents consider as important and necessary for their children. The standard published list of Universal Values is consulted during the process.

# Each selected Value is practiced for at least 2 months in order of priority. During this process, the teachers are encouraged to:

o Attending to the needs of ALL the children rather than a vocal few in a classroom. This is the first principle            of a %u201CQuality School". 

o Tell some anecdotal short stories to capture Children's attention in the classroom.

o Engage children in small group activities.

o Hold essay competitions, drawing competitions in the classrooms based on the Value practiced during the            months.


Introduction of Mindfulness program is a key part of the project. This is a 10-15-minute meditation program, performed at the beginning of the school day, and/or at any opportune time during the day without interfering with the school's academic instructions. It is introduced at the school assembly by an ADI appointed, trained Mindfulness instructor, followed by several days of training to the teachers. The intent is to train all the class teachers to conduct their own sessions in each classroom. ADI Field Coordinators encourage and help the teachers/students where necessary.


 

Measurement of progress and the Measurement Tool:

 

The adage, if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it is true for this project as well, although Value is not a tangible parameter. The project has adopted a two-tier methodical survey system, which will qualitatively and periodically measure the general overview status of the school. At the same time, when a specific Value is implemented, a base line survey will be made at the beginning. Then the same survey will be continued periodically. These surveys will be carried out by the SMDC members, the principal, the teachers, parents, and the students. Occasionally, external educators/ educational officers will be invited to take a similar survey to authenticate the process.

 

Our Experience, Success, and Learnings:

 

As the pioneer of introducing Value based Education in Assam, particularly among the school children, the experience, thus far had been mixed. Success in specific areas have been achieved, although the long disruption due to Covid endemic reversed some of the early gains. Besides, the requirements at each school have been very different.

 

The engagement of all the teachers and most of the parents is a matter of concern in some of the schools. A Team building and Ethical leadership workshop has been recently conducted in a Guwahati school, which was considered as a huge success, particularly due to active participations by several progressive members of the local educational authorities at the State level. ADI intends to replicate similar workshops in all the current schools engaged in the project.

 

Daily participation of the ADI Field Coordinators in the schools has created a much positive interest among the children and the teachers' participation in discussing various issues seems to be improving. This is a key area, which ADI intends to focus on with active support from the school community, specifically from the principal.

 

Going Forward:

 

The experience gained by the project team over the last few years has been invaluable. At the time of writing this article, it is our understanding that the Government of Assam is also contemplating implementation of Value based Education on a much larger scale. ADI would be happy to share their experience as well as join hands with the authorities in advising/guiding in this endeavor.

 

As many other schools across Assam are expressing interest in our Value based Education & Child Development project, ADI is contemplating expanding their activities in the future. Currently, the project expenses are primarily met with the income from an ADI Corpus Fund. ADI is seriously looking into the possibilities of external financial support from private/public donors, individual or corporate, domestically as well as overseas.

 

 

My dreams:

 

When I first talked about the project in 2017/2018, my extendd dreams included the following:


%u2022 One day, all schools across Assam (may be across India) will be governed by the principle of Value based Education.

%u2022 The communities will talk about Values more often, more publicly, and make them a part of daily discourse.

%u2022 The media, newspapers, radio stations, the TV stations will have the courage to talk more about Values, create meaningful programs, for which the children and the parents will be eagerly waiting every week.

%u2022 There will be higher institutes where Values will be taught to the participants.  



I am convinced, maybe beyond my lifetime, those days will come. It just needs some willingness and commitment from all of us, individually and collectively.

 

Introduction of the author:

Hiren Sarma is a retired project manager for Shell Oil Company in Houston. Sarma, co-founder of ADI, is currently the Chairman and Trustee of the institute. In the past decade, he has published two collections of Assamese stories and two detective novels, as well as acted in several plays and an Assamese film. The project Value Based Education and Child Development launched under Sarma's patronage in 2017/18 and is currently in various stages of implementation in several schools in Assam. At Houston, Sarma serves as a Director of the Foundation for India Studies FIS Board, a no-profit 501 (c-3) Texas organization.

hiren_sarma2000@yshoo.com Tel. +1-832-925-1147.

 

 

 

 

September 3, 2023

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