Range Management and the RTE

22 Apr

Range management

Meeta Sengupta

17 April 2012, 11:18 PM IST

Every teacher’s nightmare is a classroom where different students are pulling the session in different directions. And yet, in every classroom one notices multiple interests and a range of ability levels. For a lesson to proceed smoothly, it must proceed to a common goal, often known only to the teacher. For this, the teacher needs to have quite a few tools under her (his) belt – and one of these is to manage the diverse range in the class.

Some schools of study try to limit the range of students who enter the class either by creating hurdles such as examinations or though years of training – often both. Early schooling years are often about classroom behaviour, striving for the median and building shared knowledge bases to build on so that the range in later years is limited. This could even be said to be the purpose of early schooling or preschooling.

Even so, all classes have a range to manage and this is a challenge for all teachers. Over years one accumulates a number of tools and exercises to manage for this. Some teachers ensure that everything is repeated in the classroom and that their words can be lip read by those who cannot hear very well (including disability, infection or visual learners). Many ensure that their rapid learners get more information and exercises via discussion while the slower learners are supported by blackboard writing, exercise sheets and work in the notebook. Still others simply set a detailed task that is often finished by the fast learners while the slow learners may finish it in their own time. A classic technique is to divide the class up into ability sets or sections and set different levels of work for each set.

This challenge has become more real for primary school teachers in private schools all over India this week with the Supreme Court upholding the Right to Education Act – which is to be implemented this year. 25% of all seats are now reserved for the disadvantaged and backward students.

The new intake will be more of a mixed bag than they are used to and will have to be managed very intelligently. The situation is not as straightforward as the proponents of the act seem to say – all the children will need to be more sensitive in their dealings with each other. And this to will have to be taught. It will of course be good for the children in the long run, but in the initial stages it will take hard work and patience. It may be a good thing for children to learn that their behaviours must come from their own thinking and circumstances rather than to mindlessly repeat the behaviours they have seen before.

And therein lies the true flaw in the act – the sheer difficulty of its implementation. For it was not thought through to the level of the individual student. And does not resonate with the other policies being simultaneously implemented by the government. A key example is the new assessment framework that emphasises Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE)  and regulates that this must be integral to the student’s assessments. The government has made these an integral part of assessments. And the implementation is at the same time as that of the RTE. Now these CCE activities are often expensive and need the student to go online or to distant libraries to research the projects. They also need to purchase various kinds of paper, pens and accessories. Some of course outsource this work for a price and turn in very professional projects. If the grades depend on this, parents will certainly put their weight behind it – but those from disadvantaged families will be unable to. This will further deepen the divide in the classroom.

This is either the lack of proper planning or faulty communication. But the act is certainly not going to be popular with teachers for a while. There are serious issues with discipline and ability in many government and municipal schools and these will certainly creep into the better schools. Many bright children, whether rich or poor will have to bear the over head of the undisciplined. The admission criteria are not clear, but what is clear is that no student can be failed till class 8. This is seriously damaging to schools that seek to improve quality as it completely removes any incentive to work hard towards a goal. Exams could be made more open and encourage lateral and critical thinking, thus giving a fairer chance to those who cannot spend so many hours cramming information. But automatic promotion takes power away from the school, which limits their ability to impose a school ethos and discipline.

But it is teachers who will now have to tighten the proverbial belt and come up with innovative ways of retaining (or not) the new entrants into their schools. They must devise ways of helping the old and the new adjust, share and learn from each other and create cohesion within the wider range in the classroom. Year one is likely to be particularly tough, with the teachers probably learning more about range management than they have had a chance to before. But the rewards are enormous – the chance to genuinely transform a life, the chance to discover and nurture talent and the chance to be the one who showed the light – truly the chance to be the teacher they set out to be.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: