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  • Writer's pictureMantra4Change

The Joy of Learning at the Centre of Education

Updated: May 6

To celebrate the stories of education leaders driving student outcomes, we present the story of Mr A. Krishna Mohan, a leader who believes that when children find joy in learning, it leads to enriched learning experiences. Here’s how he’s bridging the gap between the schools and the community and how it’s building a strong, confident army of students and parents.



For a leader who oversees 105 schools that have 35,000+ students, these words prove his humility and dedication towards the students. At Mantra, we strive to enable leaders to drive student outcomes sustainably and at scale. Working with Mr. Krishna Mohan for more than two years, we continue to be fascinated and inspired by his leadership style. On a recent visit to the MJP Society office and schools, we got to know him more, had an insightful conversation about his vision as an education leader, and saw it coming to life in schools!


Journey through welfare and education 


His leadership journey started as a District Welfare Officer in 1998. He came with a background in education, owing to his Post Graduate Diploma and two years of teaching English as a postgraduate teacher. From there to his current role as the Secretary of the MJP Society, his journey took him across different roles working with children, but a common thread ran through them all; he always made sure to pave the way for education that went beyond academics and textbooks and made learning enjoyable for students.



With a journey in education spanning over 25 years, he has witnessed education in India evolve significantly. “Intelligence in children has improved dramatically. 25 years ago, we wouldn’t have expected children to do so many tasks as easily as they are today”. He finds hope in the fact that government schools today are moving beyond traditional methods of learning and are enriching the quality of education through experiential and holistic learning. This is also reflected in his support and enthusiasm towards our programs like Bridge Course, Project-Based Learning, reading campaigns, and reinventing the Parent-Teacher Meetings (PTMs). Built on his insights and understanding of the unique challenges associated with the residential school system, all these programs go beyond academic fulfillment and focus on developing confidence, creativity and communication skills in students that holistically lead to better learning outcomes. 


The Challenge


However, this doesn’t come without its set of challenges. He identified a problem unique to the residential school system - a disconnect between the community and the school, and the lack of participation and engagement of parents in their child’s education. Parents in MJP schools visited the schools thrice a year primarily to pick up their children before vacations (in October and January) and on the last working day of the school in April. As shared by the Principal of MJP Sattenapalli, merely 30% of the parents were involved in the child’s activities in school or any of the school functions throughout the academic year. This is observable in various other schools, owing to the remoteness of the school locations, and distance between the schools and the community. The nature of occupation (daily wage earners) also restricted parents’ attendance in PTMs and school visits.


PTMs were conducted traditionally to share the students’ academic progress or discuss their disciplinary issues. The students perceived this to be a stressful and fear-inducing space. Additionally, students barely had any opportunities to showcase their talent and school work to parents, teachers and peers. Thus, at home,  students would not feel confident talking to their parents about school. At school, students frequently found themselves disturbed or distracted by family issues, which prevented them from being mentally present and productive in the classroom. The gap wasn’t just between the school and the parents, but also the parents and their children.


Parent-Teacher Meetings and Building Connections


Once this problem was identified, Mr Krishna Mohan and Mantra4Change co-created a solution to re-conceptualise PTMs as spaces to share information, celebrate student achievement, build a sense of community and promote positive relations amongst students, parents, and the school. To energise the parent community and foster a welcoming environment, the first PTM in April 2023 was organised as a Community Outreach event, aiming to bring together parents, students, and school members for information sharing, fun activities, and showcasing students' talents in art, craft, and Wealth out of Waste (WoW) models. 



Six months later, the first formal PTM in October 2023 aimed to strengthen parent-school relationships through a principal's address, communication of school activities and student progress, and a Project-Based Learning (PBL) Showcase to enable parents' understanding of the school experience. To enhance the parent experience, the leader introduced food stalls aligned with a PBL project on Profit and Loss in January 2023, allowing students to learn mathematical concepts by preparing and selling food items to parents.



Enabling School Leaders and Teachers to Drive PTMs


The PTMs were implemented thrice a year by leveraging the time when parents would come to pick up their children. To support the implementation, guidelines for conducting PTMs were co-created and disseminated to all schools.  These guidelines mandate a Principal's address during PTMs, sharing staff and student achievements, school activities, and parental contributions. They also stress one-on-one interactions between parents and teachers to discuss academic progress, behaviour, and achievements. This ensures the creation of a festive and celebratory atmosphere in the schools, enriched by the opportunities for parents, teachers and students to interact with each other. 


“For any residential school system, it is important to engage with the parents. Make the parents come to school, take them around and make them see what their child’s school is like. They should look at their children, their dormitories, classrooms, the way they sit and study, their bathrooms, whatever it is. This year we have made all the parents have food in the school, with the children. That will build more trust in the parent to get an experience of their child’s school.”


Orientation sessions and Learning Circles were set up for school leaders and teachers to communicate roles and responsibilities, align goals, and address implementation challenges. A single Point of Contact (POC) was appointed among all the teachers in each school to take ownership of planning and implementing the event. A WhatsApp group was created for school leaders and teachers to share updates and stories about the PTM event in their respective schools.



As a result of the leader's initiative school-level stakeholders undertook various actions to plan, execute as well as gather feedback on the event. Teacher PoCs meticulously planned events, logistics, delegating responsibilities among other teachers and preparing for their engagement with the parents. They campaigned for PTMs through various means, such as individual phone calls and parent Whatsapp groups, by circulating posters to ensure maximum parent participation. They organized activities like welcome boards, photo booths, and fun games facilitated by students, alongside school and PBL project walkthroughs for parents. Feedback collection from parents on both the school activities and PTM event was ensured, allowing for continuous improvement. 


The Impact


This new approach, started less than a year ago, saw an overwhelming response in parent engagement. The PTMs became a space for parents to unwind, engage, and bond with the children in newer ways, and had a significant impact on student experience and wellbeing. Students had the opportunity to showcase their skills to parents, teachers, and peers, fostering confidence and improving communication skills, particularly evident while presenting and sharing their PBL projects to parents and teachers in English and Telugu. Practical understanding of mathematical concepts such as profit and loss was enhanced through activities like managing food stalls during the January PTM. Moreover, the profits generated from food stalls were reinvested towards school improvement, such as procuring sports equipment, kitchen items and so on. 


The PTM in January saw high participation, with a nearly 46% increase from Community Outreach. Feedback received shows that around 95% of parents are satisfied with school activities, infrastructure and meals (Oct 2023 PTM Report). Nearly 100% satisfaction was reported regarding the PTM event itself.


The students feel less stressed and more joyful about having their parents visit their school. As students spend ten months away from home in residential schools, witnessing their parents being involved in their education has also helped them better connect with their parents, as evidenced by the testimonials below:



For Mr. Krishna Mohan, this has only been made possible by spending time with the children and understanding their needs and challenges.


“Since my journey as a welfare officer started 20 years ago, I have worked with children. And I have made it a point to visit each hostel and spend time with the children. I teach them grammar and engage in activities and games with them. It has been imperative for me to bring fun and enjoyment to the children in schools and hostels.”


His style of leadership drives student outcomes by making them strong and confident individuals through well-rounded, experiential learning practices. This also means providing a holistic support system for the students by strengthening community relationships and creating a joyful school environment, which is evident in his vision and actions for the schools of the MJP society. It is this child-centric leadership of Mr A. Krishna Mohan, that makes him an efficient and beloved leader. 

 

Written & Compiled By:

Prachi Sharma - Communications Lead, Mantra4Change

Deepa Parameswaran - Research & Design Lead, Mantra4Change



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