As an educator, I have always loved going to schools and meeting students, teachers, and other stakeholders. In the last few months, I had several opportunities to visit schools and meet the enablers of education there.
As part of the newly launched program ‘Project Based Learning,’ I was on a field visit and went to a few schools to observe classes where the program is conducted. It was a grade 6 classroom where the teacher was teaching the first project, ‘Hum aur Hamara Paushtik Aahar’ (We and our Healthy Meal). I was super thrilled to see the classroom. The entire classroom was filled with a sense of enthusiasm. I was curious to know the reason behind that, as one of the objectives of the program is for students to become curious learners and learn science independently through learning by doing.
I was looking forward to the opportunity to speak with them and understand what was making them enthusiastic. Finally, when I got the chance to speak to one of the students, I was left with many thoughts and satisfaction. The students shared that when their teachers teach through many activities and by connecting them to real-life experiences and problems, they learn better. I further asked them how they connected this learning to their real-life challenges. One of the students, Sonu (name changed), told me about the project that he made on water conservation after his teacher taught how easy methods can prevent waste of water from the PBL project - ‘Jal hai to Kal hai’ (Water is future). He not only learned ways of conserving water but also applied it to his life and made a live project through which he started conserving water at his home. He is also willing to share such easy ways with his friends and neighbors.
From Teacher’s Lens
Further insights were gained during my conversation with the teacher, who highlighted the transformative impact of Project Based Learning on her teaching approach. Traditionally, as a Science teacher, she expressed that the program not only engaged students but also improved her own teaching methods. Instead of standalone activities, the projects were more immersive and energizing, fostering a deeper connection between students and real-world applications of scientific concepts.
Such stories are inspiring examples that led me to think about why Project Based Learning is so important. It is an innovative and transformative pedagogy that, when done well, can help all of our students learn and thrive. While the approach is one of a kind, it is not new. The National Education Policy 2020 promotes a project-based learning approach. Hence, under the policy, project-based lesson plans and resources have been developed to promote experiential learning in the science subject for all classes 6-8, targeting school principals and teachers. It is a teaching method in which students apply learned concepts, available materials, and easy procedures to explore interesting and complex real-life problems or challenges within a specified time frame. They will then create models related to it.
In Bihar, the program's implementation since August 24, 2023, has garnered positive responses from teachers and students alike. The state's commitment is evident through the training of various cadres and budget allocations for the distribution of handbooks. This approach is also the need of the hour in Bihar's education system. Through different cadences created at the state level, multiple efforts were made to engage stakeholders at varied levels, such as orientation and monthly reviews. The Mantra4Change team's field visits and observations in Bihar have highlighted several reasons why Project Based Learning is crucial for the future of education:
Real-world Application: Project-based learning is a teaching methodology that allows students to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations. This practical application helps in a better understanding of concepts.
Critical Thinking Skills: Through projects, students are often required to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. This fosters critical thinking skills and encourages independent thought.
Problem Solving: Such projects usually involve solving complex problems or addressing challenges. This helps students develop problem-solving skills, a crucial ability in various aspects of life.
Collaboration: The projects are designed to be collaborative, encouraging teamwork and communication skills. This mirrors real-world work environments for students where collaboration is often essential.
Creativity: Project-based learning allows for creativity and innovation. Students have the freedom to explore and come up with unique solutions, fostering a sense of creativity and curiosity. It provides the students with voice and choice.
Motivation and Engagement: Projects are often more engaging for students compared to traditional methods of teaching. The hands-on nature of projects can motivate students by making learning more interesting and relevant to their lives.
Long-term Retention: Engaging in projects tends to enhance long-term retention of information. Students are more likely to remember and understand concepts that they have actively worked on and experienced.
Preparation for the Future: Project-based learning prepares students with these skills, making them more ready for future challenges.
Mahatma Gandhi's quote, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," resonates deeply with our purpose. As mentioned by a state official, the success of the program lies not just in students' engagement but in teachers finding joy in implementing it. The program's ultimate goal is to instill a love for learning, ensuring both students and teachers are actively involved and passionate about the educational journey.
Kumari Shalini, Program Lead - Bihar, Mantra4Change