Box 4.4. The Prashika Project - Eklavya Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India
Eklavya was established by a small group of highly educated people who believe that education is critical for social change and should be available to all. Instead of setting up an alternative system, parallel to the public schools, they chose to work through government schools to help make education more dynamic and meaningful. The programme initially focused on improving the science education programme in middle school classes in urban and rural communities. From 16 classes in one district in 1972 the programme has expanded to 14 districts covering 450 schools and 50,000 students.
Science education was improved through the introduction of more active, experiential learning methods and learning-by-doing techniques such as experiments, field trips and group discussions. Eklavya trained teachers to be facilitators in their work with children, to unlearn teaching methods that emphasize passive rote learning with a heavy reliance on textbooks and to shift to more cooperative forms of working in small groups, encouraging questions and discussion. Children, teachers and other resource persons participated in the development of the curriculum. Eklavya was able to help teachers and children relate the content of science education to the children's own lives and environment.
From the initial focus on science education, Eklavya expanded to other curriculum areas such as the social sciences. An integrated approach was introduced to organize the curriculum by thematic units of study which linked different content areas. Emphasis was given to developing children's self-expression and critical thinking. After-school activities were introduced such as activity centres and libraries, a children's magazine called Chakmak, a children's club, children's fairs, contests and exhibitions. These are now considered to be integral parts of the educational programme.