न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते।
ज्ञान के समान पवित्र इस संसार में कुछ नहीं है।।
There is nothing more pure in this world than knowledge(Jyana)
Extended Orientation Programme: Bridging the Gap between School and College
It is common knowledge that at school, the dominant culture in India is that of spoon feeding students who are then made dependent on easy study notes, rote learning and so on. This leaves them with little or no ability to articulate their thoughts, think independently and write coherently. We also get a large number of students from very conservative families. When young girls from such families and from deprived backgrounds come in contact with more open minded students and students from more affluent families, conflict of values makes such students confused. We feel it is necessary to prepare students to deal with such pressures and to make them aware of the choices that are available to them and how to negotiate the changing and complex social situations that they are faced with.
We believe that these are issues that need to be addressed urgently and in a focused manner right at the start of college life through an intensive activity-driven orientation program that imparts skills and strategies needed for college and later life. The goal has been to help students cope with the demands of Academic Reading and Writing, even as we equip them with skills and strategies for dealing with their own problems.
Women in India face a variety of problems and challenges. Typically they come from patriarchal setups where they are denied a voice of their own. The school system too reinforces this culture of silence, obedience and submission. However, in Bharati College, we believe that for meaningful learning to take place, it is necessary to teach students to question as well as to be self- critical. The Extended Orientation Programme (EOP) has been formulated to bridge this gap.
In the EOP, we create a friendly democratic space where a free flowing dialogue between teachers and students who have just taken admission in the college can talk openly about issues that affect their daily lives. Through these interactive activities, we equip them with skills and strategies for dealing with their own problems and help them recognize their roles in the larger life of the country and the world.
We have been using the integrated learning approach as it allows flexibility of interaction along with direct teaching supported by digital media. The students are encouraged to summarize, paraphrase, evaluate, and analyze a given issue or situation. The focus on academic learning is achieved through making them use research tools, HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) in order to enhance their reading and writing skills for academic purposes. Film clips are used to trigger typical positions and mindsets and generate responses. So, multimedia is used for its captivating quality of articulating scenarios and situations succinctly and poignantly. Close and critical reading of selected articles helps sustain the exploration of issues introduced through films. This understanding is then crystallized in writing tasks like posting comments on the college blog and Facebook page.
Interactive tasks are set around issues that impinge on their personal lives. For instance, we begin with students talking about themselves and their families, moving on to issues like domestic violence and the sexual harassment they face in their daily lives but are reluctant to talk about as loyalty to the family comes in. From themes like fashion, lifestyle, peer pressure we move to academic reading and writing. Students are encouraged to apply the gathered information/ insights in different situations through group activities like role play, dramatization, debate, etc.
The impact of the programme has been very positive. Students bond with the institution and teachers faster; they do not feel like strangers groping to get familiar with a new place. Students make friends across subjects and sections; teachers spot talent and potential leaders early. Most importantly, they face their new life confidently.
Every year, the EOP team revisits the programme content and activities. The challenge is to find new materials (give film clips, videos, articles and visuals) on issues of contemporary interest that will appeal to 17-18 year olds. We therefore need teachers and senior students to help us with running the course to be up-to-date in their general awareness and they also need to be computer savvy.
The next challenge is to format the entire course in such a way that it can be internalized and followed by a new set of teachers and implemented simultaneously in several classrooms at the beginning of each academic session. Teachers of commerce, history, political science, English, Hindi etc. deliver the course. The challenge is to enable each one of them to understand and use the discursive methodologies necessary for transacting such knowledge and skills. For example, what may be easily understood and therefore, transacted by the humanities teachers might not be understood as easily by the commerce teachers. So the challenge is to ensure that such understanding and learning takes place so that the same sensitivities may be acquired by all the students.
The other problem is time management. Departments resent the fact that the first 2-3 days are taken up by the Orientation course so we have tried to shift it to the days before the formal opening of college. However, outstation students are reluctant to get in early for the Orientation.
The EOP materials and methodologies has been presented by Dr. Mukti Sanyal at conferences at Chennai, Jaipur and BITS Pilani and the college is further willing to share it with any organization that wishes to implement it.