‘Toppers As Tutors’: Turn The Bus's 'Participation' in Education
Today, after over a century of Gandhi’s Satyagraha, the West Champaran district of Bihar is resounding with an echo of a revolution of a different kind. Bihari students battle against the repressive influence of inequity in education with our allyship.
Turn The Bus's 'Toppers As Tutors'
Turn The Bus's 'Toppers As Tutors' is leveraging technology and community- based teaching and learning in transforming education, to ultimately help eliminate intergenerational poverty in India. Its pilot program, ‘Toppers as Tutors’, is a testament to its commitment to a localised and ‘participative’ approach to development.
In this program, ‘toppers’ of state board exams are acting as digital ‘tutors’ to over 500 students from their own communities, who are appearing for their high-school finishing exams. This approach to ‘community- based learning’ is foremost motivated by the indispensable belief that ‘excellence’ is not an elite commodity and that it can be found inherent in all communities, in every part of the world.
What is Community 'Participation' in Turn The Bus?
The participative ‘community- based learning’ approach, as executed in Turn The Bus’s ‘Toppers as Tutors’ program for examination preparation, has seen proven merit among both development practitioners and beneficiaries for numerous reasons. Foremost, the ‘Toppers As Tutors’ program is one that ensures ‘citizen empowerment’ by ‘participation’, as advocated by development theorist Sherry Arnstein. ‘Power’ in our program is redistributed jointly between the community members and Turn The Bus through partnership and delegation, in the processes of planning and decision- making of the program curriculum. This approach ensures the relevance of both the educators and the educational content to the local context and also fosters a deeper level of motivation to succeed in high school education among students. Akin to this, a great advantage of having ‘toppers’ as ‘tutors’ is that the tutors themselves are thorough with the examination syllabus and pattern and thus, ensure quality content and teaching to their students. The direct outcomes of the program lie in improved examination results of matriculated students (who otherwise, would have had little to no guidance), who are better equipped for economic empowerment in their near future and the long term impact of the program being poverty alleviation in their communities.
Lessons & Opportunities for Solutions
However, our pilot program ‘Toppers As Tutors’ comes with its own challenges, as is true for every innovative initiative. First, the ‘toppers’ often lack the constant availability of physical infrastructure (like mobile phones, internet, video cameras, etc.) that is required for their teaching methods. Secondly, these ‘toppers’ are high achieving students who evidently have their own personal goals and activities they naturally hold in higher priority, so they cannot solely be held responsible forever for the education of thousands of other peers with the same unwavering level of commitment. The final and paramount challenge of this model lies in the fact that while it does a commendable job at being a supplement to public school teaching, ‘toppers as tutors’ still cannot replace the need for professionally trained contractual or retired teachers to deliver quality education and examination guidance to students in need.
Nevertheless, Turn The Bus’s ‘Toppers As Tutors’ program is dedicated to bringing about sweeping changes in the way education is imparted and received in India via technology and ‘participation’ of communities and we hope to move mountains in the undertaking of our mission.