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Bodhsalas: An Overview

A bodhshala is a community school initiated collectively by local communities and Bodh. Its origin lies in the institutional belief in community ownership in education processes. The first bodhshala was established at Gokulpuri slum in Jaipur, Rajasthan (India). Subsequently, five more bodhshalas were started in different deprived community settings in Jaipur. Rural bodhshalas have also grown in strength and numbers. Currently, there are 40 bodhshalas across the rural Thanagazi and Umrein blocks and select urban deprived localities in Alwar, Rajasthan. An overwhelming majority of these are primary schools (upto class V). With growing community demand, 12 bodhshalas have been upgraded to the upper primary level. In Jaipur, all the six urban bodhshalas have been upgraded to the upper primary level.

Significantly, the bodhshalas (urban and rural) have evolved into institutions with substantial community participation, high rates of enrolment and retention rates, contextual teaching learning processes, and increased confidence and articulation abilities in the children themselves. They are seen as Resource Schools that act as loci for academic and other support to neighbouring schools. The learnings are being utilised in developing specific government schools also as resource schools. This is being done through collaborative efforts with district authorities, local self government – urban and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), and the school staff.

The bodhshalas enduring importance stem from their potential as spaces for experimentation and innovation. These schools provide the opportunity for translating ideas and concepts into practice. Most importantly, they embody Bodh’s mission and approach.

While each of the bodhshalas is unique, there are certain cross cutting features. These are:

Community Linkages

  • The presence of a bodhshala signifies community participation as these are always established and built collectively by local communities, Bodh and programme partners.
  • Teachers undertake daily interactions with the families of students.
  • Parents and other community members are encouraged to visit the school at any time. They can observe classes, share their concerns or offer suggestions.
  • Teachers facilitate school-community meetings wherein various aspects are discussed. This includes children’s attendance and performance, school administration, collective efforts in running the School Corpus Fund etc.
  • Women from the communities are selected and trained as Mother Teachers. They handle the pre school group. They also provide another opportunity for facilitating integration of community contexts in the school environment. Educational Framework
  • Most bodhshalas began as primary schools (classes I-V). Pre school groups were subsequently started at the bodhshalas. These provide a smooth transition from home to this preparatory stage and then on to formal schooling.
  • In many places, adolescent girls’ groups have also been constituted. This provides the girls a chance to continue – and in some cases initiate – their educational growth.
  • Academics, arts and sports are encouraged equally. Increasingly, the vocational education component is being integrated.
  • Classes are organised into groups – Shala Poorv (pre school), Shala Arambh (classes 1-III), Shala Madhya (classes IV-V) and Shala Samooh (classes VI-VIII).
  • A multilevel approach of teaching is followed. Within the shalas, children are grouped together based on their pace of learning. With increasing familiarity and skill in subjects, children can switch from one sub group to another.
  • Teachers and children sit together in a circle. They encourage children to ask questions, comment and discuss. A class is not expected to be quiet and orderly. Punishment is discouraged.
  • Usually, a teacher pupil ratio of 1:30 is maintained.
  • Teachers make daily teaching plans. Consolidated monthly plans are also made. These are reviewed and finalised through special workshops where programme/component co-ordinators and academic support teams provide inputs.
  • There are no principals/head masters in bodhshalas. Teachers come together as a collective and take all key decisions.
  • There are strong community demands to upgrade the schools to upper primary/secondary levels. This has been done for some schools and is seen as an area of future growth.

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