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Azim Premji Foundation

The Foundation Newsletter

In This Issue: Editor‘s Page

- Nilanjan Choudhury

Feature Article/Like Leader, Like School

- Anurag Behar

Hi-Tech/Spreading Science in India’s Villages

- Roshin Varghese

Op-Ed/Analysis of State Education Budgets Changemakers/The Power of One

From the Field

From the Field/A Tale of Two Trainings

Editor’s Page:


- Avani Kapur

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- Fiona Fernandes & Leah Verghese

- Multiple contributors

- Razesh Kumar

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e are delighted to present the first issue of Kindle, a bi-monthly newsletter from the Azim Premji Foundation.

Kindle will offer compelling insights into key issues in the education sector and allied areas. It will also feature news stories, policy debates, innovations and updates of our work at the Foundation. We hope that Kindle becomes a medium for dissemination of information about education as well as a forum for engagement with the government, NGOs, teachers and multilateral agencies. In this issue our lead article is on the crucial role that effective leadership plays in schools. We examine trends in state education budgets through the lens of per-child expenditure. The use of mobile science laboratories by Agastya Foundation is featured as a unique innovation in bringing science to life for children. We also take a look at Dileep Revabhai Patel, the exceptional principal of Dantral Prathmik Shala at Khedbrahma, Gujarat. Finally we bring you a quick round-up of the activities of the Foundation. As we roll out Kindle we welcome your feedback, suggestions and comments. Please send us your views to If you would like to contribute any article to Kindle, please send a draft to: Look forward to hearing from you. Nilanjan Choudhury

Volume 01. Issue 1   

13 June, 2011

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Like leader, like school Anurag Behar


hen you meet someone after 30 odd years, and both your minds independently go back to the same images from the past, there must be something riveting about those memories. My school principal was the much respected educationist H.P. Rajaguru. There were principals before and after him, but no one else has mattered much to me. I met him last week in Bhopal, where I studied, and where he has settled down after an illustrious career. When principals meet their students after so many decades, they start with the past. Almost the first thing he said was:

parameters - simply because of the factory leader and the culture that he fosters. The school is a far more complex and sensitive organization than any factory, the proverbial chalk and cheese. A school’s work happens with children, each one different from the other. Even the same child is different at different times. For good education, these differences have to be recognized and worked with. This must happen at every level of interaction with the child, and with every facet of education. Machines don’t have their own minds, moods and motivations. This is not the only reason why the school is infinitely more complex than any factory, but it is a key one. In a complex system, local, onsite leadership matters even more. Ideally, leadership is a shared endeavour between the designated school leader, teachers and perhaps also the students.


wanted every child to go up on the stage and talk, to build her confidence.”

Like many of my fellow sufferers, this was a definitive point in my memories of childhood: the morning assembly at school, where as a sixth grade student trembling with stage fright I would go up in front of a 1,000 students to read the news. I remember my school, just another Kendriya Vidyalaya, but always abuzz. We knew it then, and in hindsight it’s even clearer, that it was all my principal’s influence. As he told me last week, he had had a plan, and had been willing to experiment. It envisioned 50% student-learning in the classroom and 50% outside it through a series of wellcoordinated activities. This led to an extraordinarily alive school despite the same curriculum, resources and constraints as all other schools. The leader makes a big difference in any organization. It’s perhaps more so for a school. Those of us who have seen factories will know how two that have the same process to make the same product can be completely different on all performance

But the influence of the individual school leader plays a large part in relative school performances in any education system.

The Indian school system has approximately 1.4 million school leaders. In most cases, and definitely in government schools, the school leader is a tenured teacher. The method of appointing the leader, which takes tenure and not ability as the key factor, and the almost complete absence of real capacity building for a leader once she is appointed are two of the key problems facing Indian education. These issues also present opportunities for driving improvement in the overall system. While the issues are as relevant for private schools, I will limit my comments to the government school system. In that context, appointment to positions (continued overleaf)

Volume 01. Issue 1   

13 June, 2011


Analysis of State Education Budgets Avani Kapur such as school leaders is so deeply rooted in the notion of tenure, and the possibility of a move to any competence and merit driven system is so politically and socially vexing, that it may not be worth attempting. What could be attempted is rigorous, sustained and comprehensive capacity development. It’s surprising that while the importance of school leaders and the need for their capacity development are so obvious, little thought and almost no action have gone into it.

The Karnataka government has committed to a continuing cycle of capacity development for the state’s 56,000 school, cluster and block level leaders. This long-term and high-intensity programme, on which the Azim Premji Foundation is collaborating with the state government, will complete the first cycle in five years. While it’s too early to talk of any impact, initial signs are promising.

Our experience and that of many others has validated the key dimensions of capacity building for school leaders. This includes perspectives on the purpose of education and on what makes good education, basic people management, planning and personal effectiveness skills, and an understanding of stakeholder engagement methods and of organizations and systems. Doing this at a large scale requires resources and sustained commitment.

Capacity building cannot address all the issues of school leaders, including ones that the larger system burdens them with, but it can make a substantial difference. It can catalyse out-of-place school leaders to find purpose and methods to affect what is in their circle of influence instead of being hobbled by what is outside it. And that can make the difference between a school that improves and one that drifts in the general quagmire. Anurag Behar is CEO, Azim Premji Foundation (Reprinted from Mint)


ndia’s education budget has more than doubled in the last five years increasing from Rs. 83,564 crores in 2004-05 to Rs.1,91,946 crore in 2009-10. This increase is largely due to increases in central government expenditure for education, which saw a near 3-fold increase in allocations during this period. GOI expenditure as a percentage of GDP has risen from 0.67 percent in 2001-02 to 0.94 percent in 200809 (provisional). Education is a concurrent subject under the Constitution with states holding the primary responsibility for implementation. State governments thus contribute the majority share of India’s education budget.

[According to Government of India

estimates for 2009-10, 74 percent of total education expenditure was incurred by state governments.]

Despite the increase in absolute terms, as a percentage of total GDP, expenditure on education has actually fallen from 3.13% to 2.84% during this period.

Analysis of state-wide SSA expenditures indicates that educationally backward states have prioritised implementing SSA. This is evidenced in the sharp increases in annual allocations (both GOI and state share) for Bihar, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. For instance, Bihar nearly doubled its SSA budget from Rs. 2,414 crores in 2006-07 to Rs. 4,295 crores in 2009-10. Similarly, Rajasthan increased its budget from Rs. 1,253 crores to Rs. 2241 crores and West Bengal increased from Rs. 1,465 crores to Rs. 2,194 crores during the same period. State trends in education expenditures can best be understood when examined on the basis of per child education expenditures (total expenditure on elementary education over the total enrolment in government educational institutions). Per child education expenditures can be computed at two levels. First, an analysis of funds released by Government of India for SSA. On average, GOI releases Rs. 950 per child per year under SSA.

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13 June, 2011

OP ED Analysis of State Education Budgets There are however some variations. Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are amongst the higher spenders at approximately Rs. 1,300 per child, while Gujarat and West Bengal are low spenders at Rs. 423 and Rs. 575 per child per year respectively.

The second unit of analysis is state government expenditures. State level analysis reveals significant variations even after taking into account differences in enrolment within states. States have been classified according to the proportion of enrolled children in a particular state to the total enrolments in India for this study. Accordingly, states where the proportion is below 5 percent, have been classified as ‘category 1’ (low share of enrolled children in India), 5-10 percent as ‘category 2’ (intermediate share of enrolled children in India) and above 10 percent as ‘category 3’(highest share of enrolled children in India). This is in a way a proxy also for state size and enables comparison of states similar to each other in terms of population. There is a difference of Rs. 14,000 per child amongst category 1 states. Kerala spends the most, at nearly Rs. 19,000 per child and Jharkhand spends the least at under Rs. 4,000 per child on education. Amongst category 2 states, there is a difference of Rs. 6,596 per child per year with West Bengal spending the Rs. 3,029 and Maharashtra spending under Rs. 10,000 per year.

In contrast, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh which have the highest share of enrolled children spend Rs. 2,746 per child and Rs 4,155 per child respectively.

These wide variations can also be seen in the ‘special category’ states. Himachal Pradesh despite having higher share of enrolment rates as a share of total enrolments in India, spends over Rs. 15,000 per child per year, while Tripura spends Rs. 3,766 per child per year. Enrolment rates are an important proxy indicator of education needs in a state. Increased enrolments would imply that states need to enhance school infrastructure, particularly teachers to meet pupil-teacher norms which would therefore mean increased budgets. Analysis of enrolment rates and budget trends reveals that there is in fact no clear correlation. Uttar Pradesh which has had the largest o v e r a l l increase in education expenditures has also witnessed one of the highest decreases in enrolments. West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh whose enrolment rates have been more or less static witnessed significant increases in their budgets. Bihar and Orissa on the other hand, increased their budgets and their enrolments during this period. Similarly another important indicator of school needs is access to schools. State-wide access trends suggest that there are correlations with budget increases. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa all have access deficits and all these states have increased their budgets significantly. Avani Kapur is a Senior Research and Programme Analyst at Accountability Initiative, New Delhi

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13 June, 2011

CHANGE MAKERS The Power of One Fiona Fernandes & Leah Verghese He began visiting children’s homes and urged parents to send their children to school every day. He recognised the importance of mid-day meals in improving attendance and made it a priority. Dileep made sure that all children who attended school received nutritious food regularly. This improved attendance.


n the foothills of the mineral-rich Aravalli mountain range in Gujarat is nestled the tribal-dominated area of Khedbrahma. The tribals of Khedbrahma do not have access to basic amenities like electricity, clean drinking water and medical assistance. Most of them are engaged in hunting, collecting honey, minor lumbering and farming small plots of land. As a young twenty five year old principal of Dantral Prathmik Shala at Khedbrahma, Dileep Revabhai Patel observed the development deficit, low educational standards and people’s apathy towards government services in the area, first hand. Dileep was born into an affluent family living in Bhanpur village of Idar in Sabarkantha District. After finishing school he completed a Primary Teachers Certificate Course and got a job as a government teacher. His first posting was in a government school at Jamnagar. He worked there for three years and then was posted as the head teacher of Dantral Prathmik Shala.

Adjusting to life in Khedbrahma was not easy for Dileep; he faced a language barrier and had to get used to the austere lifestyle. Apart from this, he had to deal with a community that was uninterested in education, having become indifferent to exploitation and government apathy.

Dileep decided to tackle problem of absenteeism first. For this, he increased community involvement in the school. He held meetings with the village panchayat, explaining to them the importance of sending children to school.

Dileep tried to inculcate a scientific temperament in his students. They were encouraged to be curious and ask questions. The school now has a Science Club where Dileep encourages children to conduct experiments independently. The Club also invites students to collect articles related to scientific development, inventions etc and circulate it amongst the members for knowledge sharing. In 2009 Dantral Prathmik Shala participated in a State Level Science Festival. The students made an overhead projector, which was a prize winning entry at the district level science fair in 2009. This victory boosted Dileep’s morale and since he had already developed a rapport with the community, he encouraged the well off residents to financially support further development of the school.

[He built a science laboratory and bought computers for the schools using funds received from SSA grants supplemented by funds donated by the community.] Most children of Dantral Prathmik Shala now work on the computers with ease and also perform science experiments on their own. His efforts do not end here. He organizes school Safai Abhiyaans for a week periodically, where small groups of students are assigned the task of cleaning up their classrooms and campus. His good work has been acknowledged by SSA and he is now a Cluster level resource person for various developmental activities. Fiona was part of the Learning Guarantee Programe Team at the Foundation. Leah Verghese is a member of the Communication & Engagement Team, Bangalore

Volume 01. Issue 1   

13 June, 2011


Spreading Science in India’s Villages Roshin Varghese


welve-year-old Sujatha sits riveted under a tree in a village in India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh as a teacher explains the complex concept of refraction to her and a gaggle of equally enthralled children with the help of a simple, everyday prop like a rolled up newspaper. Like her classmates, she is disappointed when the 45-minute lesson on this somewhat esoteric concept in physics ends.

“It is fun,”

says Sujatha simply, already looking forward to the class next week in Kuppam, about 250 km from India’s IT hub of Bangalore. The simple statement from the farmer’s daughter is just the certificate that the Agastya International Foundation is looking for as it goes about the task of popularising science in India’s vast hinterland.

Agastya’s mobile science laboratories crisscross the dirt roads and highways of the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, triggering curiosity and the itch to learn, in over two million rural schoolchildren. Some 30 minibuses equipped with folding tables, projection screens and experimental models christened the ‘Mobile Lab’ by the Agastya team travel hundreds of kilometres each week across the three states, teaching science to the children of farmers, contract labourers and quarry workers. Erecting their many props under trees, in dilapidated school buildings or simply in the open during good weather, these classes have increasingly attracted not only children but also their illiterate parents, conscious of their ignorance and keen to learn more. Specially designed equipment and imported teaching aids are housed in three separate science labs at the Agastya campus in Kuppam where some 5 lakh children from neighbouring government schools arrive in to a fascinating, almost magical world where liquids change colour, smoke emanates from thin air and objects mysteriously levitate.

The Indian reality is a rural landscape where infrastructure facilities are minimal and finances scarce, where primary and secondary students remain dependent on text books to learn concepts like refraction, optics, plant germination and photosynthesis. This linear and dreary approach not only kills enthusiasm but also deprives an entire generation of essential knowledge and understanding of concepts largely related to everyday living. It is this shortcoming that Agastya seeks to overcome. With its dedicated and qualified pool of educators and innovators, Agastya has developed over 120 enjoyable models to both explain and demonstrate varied scientific principles. A peep into a typical biology class for 10-year-olds by Agastya students is illustrative. Each child is blindfolded and given a tumbler full of water to taste, to distinguish between plain, salty and sweet liquids. On the face of it seems an unnecessary, almost stupid experiment. But the excited giggles that begin with the blindfolding and continue as the child licks the tip of the liquid-filled glass are just the tip of the learning curve, activating the link between the brain and the senses.

“When these children first start attending our classes they are shy and reticent. But within a couple of sessions they become engrossed, participatory and questioning,” says instructor Chaaya Devi. For the children, the shift in focus from rote-based learning to critical and independent thinking generates an attitudinal change that soon becomes apparent, she adds. A change that is already being seen in children like Sujatha, and her eagerness to learn more. (Reprinted with permission from IANS)

Volume 01. Issue 1   

13 June, 2011


Mainstreaming Migrant Labour Children

Azim Premji Foundation, in partnership with two builders/developers, has set up two experimental schools on construction sites for children of migrant labourers employed on such sites. The main purpose of this project is to build a replicable and sustainable model of quality education for primary schooling of children of migratory profile and to capacitate them to join the mainstream school later. The curriculum modules of these schools take into account multi-grade and multi-level teaching learning methods / practices, which cater to the needs of children who have not had prior exposure to a formal school education. A set of 5 modules each running for a time span ranging from 5 to 10 weeks, is transacted at the project schools. Each module caters to language learning (Kannada and English), mathematical ability and environmental studies. The children who exhibit ‘learning readiness’ required for a regular mainstream school undergo a specially designed transitional module for two months, which prepares them for regular schooling process. The children who are mainstreamed to the government school are in regular touch with the team and get proper guidance and support from the team, as and when needed. The school coordinator visits the government school regularly to follow up on their performance and teachers send progress reports to the coordinators. Thirty-four children have been mainstreamed in nearby government schools, since the inception of the curricular module structure. 90 more children from both the schools have joined mainstream schools at their native villages.

Bal Shodh Mela - extending the boundaries of school and education

Most of us would agree that soon after they are born, children begin to make an effort to learn more about their environment. This innate inquisitiveness results in so much learning that can never be taught in any other way. Somehow this natural ability of children gets ignored and schools tend to provide knowledge as a readymade ‘product’ to children. Azim Premji Foundation has made an attempt to establish this connection between the child’s context and knowledge and his/her school education through Bal Shodh Melas. Bal Shodh Melas bring together education functionaries, teachers, children and the community. Organising these melas is voluntary and there is no obligation on any school to compulsorily participate. The teachers and education functionaries meet and decide on why they want to be part of a Bal Shodh Mela. Thereafter, sharing and discussion with children is initiated to jointly decide topics or areas for ‘shodh’. Children have about a month’s time to plan and prepare. Preparations entail making questionnaires, surveying local geography, interacting with community members, recording findings, analysing and categorising all the data and finally putting it all together for presentation. The ‘Mela’ is the day when children from all participating schools come together at a venue and display all the work done by them. After the Mela, children as well as teachers record their experiences. A feedback session is also organized with community members to get their feedback on the entire activity. Till date, 70 Bal Shodh Melas have been organized in Uttarkashi and Udhamsingh Nagar districts of Uttarakhand.

Volume 01. Issue 1   

13 June, 2011


A Tale of Two Trainings Razesh Kumar


onsider the following scenarios observed during the course of our work in Tonk and Sirohi districts of Rajasthan.

Scenario 2:

to sued orders is e r a s r e h r nt teac a particula in 60 governme m a r g o r aining p attend a tr subject. to 2 PM)




Day (sc Training

A voluntary meeting of government school teachers is called on a relevant subject. 24 teachers agree to come without any TA/DA.

M from 8 A

Training Day (scheduled from 4 PM to 6:30 PM)

chers arrive lears his a e t 1 1 : M c 8:25 A ter Trainer s a M e h T : ome speech lc e w 8.30 AM e t u in ers a 2-m throat, deliv r. er a lecture v li e d s and a praye T M o 1 PM: The ory style. t a ip ic t r 8.30 AM t a p nts in a non ts are present. to participa participan l 7 ly n O : M trees, severa e h t 1:15 P r e d n u e loitering The rest ar ady home... e lr a m e h t of

4.10 PM: 22 teachers arrive 4.15 PM to 7 PM: An interactive session facilitated by the Master Trainer commences. The topic is relevant and refreshing. Everyone participates enthusiastically; many seem to have prepared themselves beforehand. 7:00 PM: Teachers leave with happy faces with a commitment to attend the next meeting.

The first scenario is a wearingly familiar one and typical of the many government teachers’ training programmes conducted across the country. The second seems to be refreshingly different and raises some interesting questions. Are these not the same government teachers? Why then do they seem more interested, concerned and willing? In other words, what is working and why?

The second scenario describes what typically happens at the Voluntary Teacher Forums (VTFs), which have been facilitated by Azim Premji Foundation in the Tonk and Sirohi districts of Rajasthan. These are informal teacher groups of 12-30 teachers each, set up at the block level. The VTFs conduct voluntary meetings where teachers meet and discuss their experiences, problems, and successes in classrooms. The group decides when to meet, where to meet, what to discuss, and how to strengthen and expand the forum. These forums meet for approximately 3-4 hours with a group after school hours or during holidays. These meetings occur once or twice a month. 17 such VTFs are spread across 11 Blocks of Tonk and Sirohi districts, where around 250 government teachers participate. Such forums reflect the inner motivation of teachers to improve their performance. In the context of the usual criticisms accompanying the in-service training programs of government agencies (low attendance, low participation, quality of content and processes etc), the VTFs provide interesting insights into the critical issues of teacher motivation and teacher development.

Voluntary Teachers Forum

A group of likeminded teachers who come together to learn and seek solutions to their academic challenges, from each other. No top down government directives. No TA/DA. Norms and rules are decided by the forum.

Razesh Kumar is a Ford Foundation International Fellow and works with the Foundation’s field initiatives at the Azim Premji Institute at Tonk, Rajasthan. Azim Premji Foundation, 134, Doddakannelli, Next to Wipro Corporate Office, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore 560 035 Phone : 55144900 / 01 / 02



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