Changing Educational Paradigms

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html

as i just wrote on facebook…

this was being sent around a while back, and i looked it up since it touches on lots of salient issues for my current work project. interesting, because india is attempting to bring in a massive national standardized test, even as their guidelines for curriculum changes are pushing towards being increasingly “child-centred” and “constructivist”. hope i get to see some of that tension play out…

Settling in…

Two weeks since my arrival here in Delhi.  I’ve been enjoying many things here, especially the ultra-quiet life in my apartment. And the fact that, even though traffic is utterly insane, it’s not me behind the wheel!

Work is going well, though I am discovering just how difficult it is to be in the role of “consultant” and responsible for “capacity-building” and therefore not completely in control of a project.  I ended the first half-week here almost manic in my excitement of all the things I will do to steer the project in the right direction this year.  I still intend to aim for that, but in any setting it is important to sit back, listen and learn, before attempting to steer anything.

Regardless, I am still very happy to be involved in the project.  I spent a lot of time reading about education in India, the changes made in the last decade or so with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program, the caste system, and the attempts to integrate Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes into mainstream society (essentially through affirmative action, just as controversial here as in North America from what I can tell).

A lovely weekend as well… after doing some work on Saturday, me and my current housemate Dougal ventured out to our favourite market, the Dilli Haat. We’ve been informed by our coworkers that it is a tourist trap and overpriced, but we can’t seem to find the same quality and type of things in any other market. I picked up a great bracelet and a beautiful silk bedspread. We also got to see a Saudi Arabian band, part of Saudi Cultural week in Delhi, and some kind of anti-corruption theatre performance (in Hindi, but still entertaining for us).

On Sunday, we headed to the centre of town.  On the way there, we somehow found ourselves in the middle of a large group of people walking with luggage on their heads. One man managed to stop traffic by holding up a large flag. Not an easy feat in Delhi.

There is a booksale in this part of town every Sunday. Booksellers lay out books of every type imaginable, for very reasonable prices. I bought a favourite Tom Robbins in hardcover, an APA style manual to give as a gift to the office (the research officer I share an office with was quite excited), and a Carl Hiaason novel, all for about $10.  Halfway through, we sought refuge in an old imperial-style hotel with lots of air-conditioning, good snacks and coffee, and some funny eastern-european tourists that were taking pictures of everything – including the bathroom.  Not that I’ve never done that 😉

Day 4 in Delhi

Okay, it’s early Thursday morning. I’ve been struggling quite a bit with jet lag since arriving, more so than last time. Part of it is that I’m prone to early morning-wake-up-and-overthink sessions as it is, so the new environment and 12 hour time difference isn’t helping.

I took off from Calgary Sunday morning, was in transit for about 24 hours, and arrived here Monday evening Delhi time. I had good flights, including the luck of having 3 seats to myself to lay down. Thanks Jeff for suggesting to pick a seat with that potential.

Spent all day Tuesday going back and forth between sleeping and trying not to sleep, so yesterday was my first day at work. It was really nice to be there, since I have worked here before for about 2 months and knew many of the people. Of course, I felt like I was swimming through molasses since I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  This morning, I think I made it until 4, so hopefully by next week I’ll be able to sleep in like a normal person.

Some more background about the work: I am here to help build the capacity of a department to carry out evaluations in the primary/elementary school system.  In terms of actual tasks, this means:

1. Learn about and describe the programs

2. Design an evaluation to assess whether and why they “worked” (i.e. whether the programs did what they were intended).  This means working with those involved with or interested in the program to identify questions of interest, and designing data collection tools to answer those questions.

3. Collect data, for example questionnaires and interviews with children, teachers, school administration, community members, etc., and achievement tests with children.

4. Analyse data, summarise and report to those who are interested (i.e. those delivering the program, those making decisions, those funding, etc)

When I came last year, I was brought in with 4 other Canadian evaluators to help work on data analysis and reports.  This year, I’ll be here from the beginning.  I am quite excited about this, because a well-designed evaluation can be extremely helpful to programmers and decision makers…  Not to mention that the subject matter is fascinating – education is such a powerful tool for social change, and there is a huge movement here to improve it.  It’s a fairly new content area for me, so I can’t wait to learn more about it.

Lots more to follow!

Welcome and background

I am an evaluator from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, about to start a year-long contract in India.   I started this blog as a way to share my experiences with capacity building, doing evaluation work in India, and living in a new and very different culture.  I will also be writing about my time travelling during this year… I share my contract with another Canadian (an evaluator from the Ottawa region), which means I work just over half of the year, and get three periods of vacation of about 6 weeks each.  The first one I will spend in Southeast Asia, the second is yet to be decided, and the third will home in Canada enjoying the summer without the daily 9 to 5 grind.  My main man Jeff will be meeting up with me in time for my first vacation – in early December – so he has a few months to finish renovating (well, finish some of it anyway), and save some dough.

My position in India is based in Delhi.  I will be helping to build evaluation capacity with members of the Department of Elementary Education of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Building capacity within this arms-length government organization is one objective of a comprehensive government scheme started in 2002 to improve access and quality of education for those 6 to 14 – see Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), http://ssa.nic.in/.

The aspect I work for specifically is the Technical Cooperation Fund, an agency funded  by the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom – see http://www.ssatcfund.org/index/programme.  In addition to the evaluation component that I am a part of, the agency also supports building capacity of the NCERT to do standardized testing, or learning assessment systems.

I worked in Delhi before in this same job for about 2 months, from September to November 2010.  I came back pretty shell shocked, due to both the vast difference of the culture and the stress of the work to be done.  This year should also be challenging, but not to the same extent.  More details on that in later posts.

If all goes well, I will be leaving on September 16th – just over one week!  However, I am currently waiting with bated breath for my passport to be sent to me with my business visa for India so my flight has not yet been booked(!).  It’s my first full day at home since finishing my job and returning from a few days away visiting my family and friends in Edmonton and Kinuso…  so I have to start organizing and packing!   Jeff and I will be renting out rooms in our house to various friends through the year, including our own bedroom possibly, so in addition to getting ready for the year abroad I’ll have to make sure my stuff is out of the way in our bedroom.  Good thing I just spent a few hours getting this blog set up 😉