It’s one of those sweltering afternoons of Chennai, and as you walk past the corridors of Kendriya Vidyalaya, inside IIT Chennai Campus, you can see kids jostling outside their classrooms to go home. The school bell rings, signalling the end of the day. In some classes, however, we observe something different. A bunch of kids from 8th and 9th grade are interacting with some junior students with enthusiasm, and are getting ready to teach them. Wait! Did I just say that a 9th-grade student is preparing to teach his/her juniors? Yes, you heard it right. When you observe the nearby classrooms, you can see senior students, teaching their juniors. Students are excited to learn from them as they participate together in the learning process. Their peer teachers not just teach, but also engage their juniors in activities to make learning all the way more engaging.
Will you be amazed if we told you that in this process of teaching and learning, the senior students are learning collaboration and teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking, leadership and communication, which are the essential 21st-century skills?
Out of curiosity, when we looked inside the classrooms, we found Awnish and Ashwini, two youngsters in their early twenties, observing the senior students who are teaching their juniors. They are the team of Involve, a Chennai based organisation founded by current students of IIT Madras. The mission of ‘Involve’ is to empower school students towards self-driven learning and personal growth.
“Today more than 47% of youth are unemployable because they lack soft skills that a specific job demands, in spite of being technically proficient. If you go deeper, you identify that right from the school days, our children are never taught about these skills. Teamwork, communication, problem-solving and dealing with failure are some of the most important skills required in today’s world, and yet most of us are caught up in the vicious loop of cramming lessons and reproducing information in exams. Rote learning is rampant, and by the time they graduate, most of them are clueless about what they learnt all those years. This needs to change! And we think peer teaching can be one of the best ways to solve this problem.” says Divanshu Kumar, founder of Involve.
How it is done
The concept of “Involve” originated two years back when Divanshu realised that being good in academics is just one aspect of a good education. There were a lot of his peers who struggled to speak in front of people and lacked the confidence since they got zero exposure during their school days. If this is the case with students from IIT Madras, one of the best institutions in the country, he imagined what would it be with the students from other schools and colleges. It was at the same time while he was working with Avanti fellows that he understood the potential of peer-driven learning.
Along with Samyak, Content Development lead, and Awnish, Divanshu brainstormed a lot on the possibility for peer teaching/learning in school premises and the huge impact it could make. A lot of research has already been carried out by foreign universities like Duke and some in Australia about the implementation of the same.They piloted this model in ASN senior secondary school in Delhi, in the summer of 2016, and were surprised to see the results. Within six weeks of the pilot project, the educators (Peer Teachers) improved significantly in their confidence and communication skills, learnt behavioural and management skills, while also developing in their academics. They also saw that the average academic scores of the students being taught went up by 20% in just six weeks. This is where they knew this would work!
“I have seen the transformation of the Peer Educators in less than 20 days. It was truly innovative and very impactful where the educators have developed into leaders in the classrooms and the unwilling learners have become joyful. Involve has taken all those backbenchers and turned them into enthusiastic learners.”, says Mrs Vedapathi, the school coordinator of Kendriya Vidyalaya, one of the partner School where Involve works.
As they are progressing, they are refining their model, developing more immersive and engagement sessions for the students and are making the classrooms even more interesting to learn.
“In the beginning, educators came to us saying that the kids were not able to understand. Our team guided them through the process of problem-solving and asked them to look for solutions. In the second day of his class itself, one of our educators, Nishanth, created a game on his own for his students. The snake and ladder game was designed to practice mensuration, one of the most challenging topics of school mathematics, and was playing along with his students towards the end of the class. When asked, Nishanth said that he always wanted to learn mathematics in a fun way. And when he saw his learners struggling to practice mensuration, he came up with this.“
“Involve” wants the students to know their potential and empower them enough so that they aren’t dependent on external resources apart from schools for learning. “Our students are more capable than we think. Today, as we expand to more schools in next academic year, we also plan to raise awareness about the importance of 21st-century schools among parents and school leaders. The age of automation has come, and unless our students are equipped with these skills and are aware of their capabilities, it’s going to be a hard road ahead”, says Awnish.
“Involve” is a not-for-profit organisation founded by students of IIT Madras working for students transformation. Their vision is to create an affordable and accessible ecosystem when students are empowered towards self-driven learning and personal growth. “Involve” works with affordable private schools and provides after-school classes through peer teaching which ensures the development of 21st-century skills and a strong learning ecosystem.
They have worked with three schools so far, impacting more than 400 students. They are also in the process of developing a 9-month fellowship program for students of the 8-11th standard which will ensure the development of these skills in students via peer teaching sessions, mentoring, workshops and a design project.
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