Education in LadakhOperation New HopeVillage education committeesTeachers trainingNew textbooksOther initiatives
Education Reforms UnTil 2007
From the founding of SECMOL in 1988 one of our main objectives was to improve the educational system of Ladakh. In 1998, 95% of Ladakhi students failed the state 10th class exams every year, so we concluded that it was necessary to change the educational system. In 1994 SECMOL launched the Operation New Hope movement to improve education in Leh District, in collaboration with the Education Department, the local government and the village community members. In 2007, SECMOL had to pull out of school reform, and stopped working with the local government on it. Substantial improvements are visible, although more could still be done.
All teachers are now trained, primary level children have locally relevant textbooks, the language confusion has been reduced, teachers and administrators are more accountable, and village committees oversee and improve their schools. The number of student passing the matriculation exam increased, so that from 2003 to 2006 about 50% of government school students passed their matriculation exam in Leh District every year, but the number went down in 2007, and in 2008, only 28% passed.
The educational system in Ladakh
In the 1980s and 90s, some of the major problems in the education system in Ladakh were:
Operation New Hope
SECMOL launched Operation New Hope (ONH), in 1994 to overhaul the primary education system in the Government schools in Ladakh. This tried to tackle the very roots of the problem of educational failure and to reform the education system, especially in remote villages. The ONH movement had three arms working together: the Government, the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and the village communities.
ONH's aims and objectives:
Village Education Committees (VECs)
One of the main reasons for the failure of the education system in Ladakh was the lack of involvement of the families and village communities in schools and the support of teachers. The education system was in disarray, and parents, who didn't know they had the right to step in and demand proper functioning of the schools or contribute their own efforts, had given up hope in government schools. Under ONH we mobilised villagers to create VECs to raise a sense of community ownership of the government schools and to insure accountability. This has been one of the most important and effective components of ONH.
We started with educational campaigns in the villages about the importance of village schools. Then people elected VECs including at least one third women and two students. SECMOL ran more than 18 batches of intensive training for about 1000 VEC members, where they learnt how schools are supposed to run, and what their rights are. The trainings used group discussion, brainstorming and role-plays to develop problem solving and planning. The members learnt accounting and book-keeping to promote transparency and accountability. After the trainings, we organized intensive education campaigns again in the villages to raise educational awareness among the people and give status and credibility to the newly trained VEC leaders.
Brainstorming and discussions to solve education system problems
As many VEC members are illiterate, we used graphic illustrations.
Another campaign strategy was Village Education Festivals, with films about education made by our media section, and quiz and prizes, songs and dances.
The VECs have been very active in raising their own funds for their schools. Although a few VECs were very successful on this front from the beginning, fund-raising became a wider tradition after H. H. the Dalai Lama's contribution. In 1998, at the inauguration of SECMOL campus in Phey, H. H. the Dalai Lama made a special contribution of Rs. 150,000 to SECMOL for educational work. We decided that the best way to leverage this money would be to share it with each VEC, as precious seed money to inspire villagers to step forward with their own contributions. According to our VEC team, the 40 villages that sent reports collected around Rs. 500,000 on this basis for their own schools.
Under ONH, SECMOL trained over 700 teachers and education officials and administrators in 10-day intensive residential courses. Eventually, ONH training was taken over by the Education Department and the District Institute of Educational Training (DIET). They have been providing training every year during the winter vacation, to hundreds of in-service teachers. Now in any case, similar training, in child-friendly methods, is required under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme.
Apart from giving courses in Ladakh, another thing that proved very effective was taking teachers, educational officials, and leaders on tours to see successful models of education reform in other parts of India. We took about 100 teachers and officials to see Lok Jumbish in Rajasthan, Rishi Valley Rural Education Center and satellite schools in Andhra Paradesh, and the Nali-Kali reforms in the Mysore government schools, along with other smaller programs. A group of headmasters and officials was also taken for a training at the National Center for Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
The main components in ONH teacher trainings were:
As part of the Government collaboration in ONH, a team of five resource people was deputed by the government education department, to conduct follow-up visits to the schools to support the teachers on the spot.
Teachers learnt new methods and made cheap teaching aids
In the past, the government schools in Ladakh used Urdu medium for Ladakhi speaking children for all subjects up to 8th class, and then suddenly all subjects changed to English medium. Most students ended up semi-literate in both Urdu and English, and virtually illiterate in Ladakhi. Because the all-important matriculation 10th class exam is in English, students could not express their knowledge in the exam. The results of this policy were evident in the 95% of Ladakhi students from the government schools who used to fail the exam every year and were thus deemed uneducated, and denied higher education. Under ONH, primary school classes now start with English; but the available textbooks were still full of alien images (like ships, elephants and mango trees...), making it difficult for small children to learn a new language. Therefore ONH created new textbooks specifically designed for Ladakh.
A team of local government school teachers, SECMOL staff and experts from other parts of India, developed materials including textbooks, storybooks, games and charts. Eleven textbooks and four supplementary bilingual Ladakhi/English storybooks have been produced, along with a set of pre-primary material and many posters. The textbooks are now the standard syllabus in government schools accross Leh District.
The books produced under ONH have simpler English than the previous textbooks, which came from Delhi, and were meant for children living in tropical India. Although mother-tongue subject textbooks are not yet a viable option for several political and cultural reasons, at least children shoulc learn the necessary foreign language through familiar images. All these books depict Ladakhi children, culture and environment that students can identify with, and retain their confidence and interest. When children learn about unfamiliar places, it is in comparison to their existing knowledge.
Textbooks designed by our team are specifically designed for Ladakhi children emphasize the fun aspects of learning...
...and rely on images which are familiar to the Ladakhi children.
Other parts of ONH include:
Students protesting the high failure rate in the matriculation exam