Traditional learning with low fees

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When making the decision to go back to school this year, one of the biggest choices prospective children from lower-middle-class and working-class families have to make is whether they could actually go back to the traditional face-to-face classroom interaction or should adapt online learning style to keep up with the technology available to us. While there are many differences between the two types of educational experiences to consider, one of the most important factors for students and their parents is cost and that’s why they slightly leen towards virtual sessions. But, are online courses actually better than the traditional classroom? How effective is the learning method?

Alice Dennis, founder of a small school Val-hue School in Keshavnagar Pune, says online courses are not nearly as beneficial to the children as traditional-style classroom learning. She claims that is why we have seen many children with a lack of skill development, a lack of memory development, and a lack of motivation this year after the school reopened. 

Mrs. Dennis strives to make a difference in the educational field and says she is committed to improving the lives of students who are receiving education at Val-hue School. “One day, I realised I could put all the knowledge to use by providing quality education to underprivileged children in my community, which led me to kickstarting my own school in 2002,” the former teacher opened up about her life-long dream. 

Mrs. Dennis said while nowadays the fees in every private school are outrageously high, she wanted to open a school for children whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to English-medium schools.

The majority of families in the area come from low-income backgrounds and cannot always afford to pay their children’s tuition fees or school supplies. “I thought I could provide them a good education by charging less fees.”

On learning loss

“Because the children have been cooped up at home for the past two years, they, as well as the teachers, need extra support this year. After they returned to school, we noticed that students made little or no progress while learning from home, suggesting that losses are even larger in countries like India which had longer school closures. We saw some behavioural changes as well. Our teachers have already initiated the process of helping them catch up on the missed learning and bring them up to speed so that they can enter the next level well-prepared. The teachers and I decided to give some extra time to the children who are falling far behind in their current grades. We picked up activity-based teaching and launched after-school programs for those who are still slow in learning. We are giving them supplement assignments that they can cover in school or at home,” Mrs. Dennis endorsed flexible learning in the classroom and said that she believes students should not be forced to learn, they should be encouraged.

Partnership with Varthana

Mrs. Dennis started the school with only seven students and later on the number multiplied. By offering families quality education at affordable rates, she had the opportunity to serve the community and improve their standard of living. What she did not have was the proper infrastructure to shelter all these children. When she faced financial challenges, she turned to Varthana for support. “Today, I can proudly say that I have my own school with high-quality infrastructure, thanks to Varthana’s timely loan. The fund helped me construct a school building, purchase school buses, which led to an increase in the number of students enrolled in my school,” she credited Varthana for her success. Currently, her school has over 1000 students studying from nursery to 10th grade.

“I wanted to turn my dream of opening a high school into a reality, so I sought support from Varthana again. Initially, we had the challenge of setting up a laboratory for high school students. We not only constructed a laboratory for the school using the loan we obtained, but also built extra facilities. They were extremely helpful in our time of need,” she lauded the endless support she got from Varthana.

She went on to praise the organisation and said that when students needed academic support, Varthana education specialists visited the school with new assessments and implemented activity-based learning. Parents were ecstatic about the new way of education and she claimed that the children learned something new every time. “What’s more, every time we took out a loan from Varthana, it was promptly disbursed without a hassle,” she concluded.

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