Note on Workshops
No journey is made solitarily. Along our journey we tend to meet travellers and dreamers who are of course on their own journey but for a moment our path cross each other. My journey through the Learnership has been a similar one. My companions and co- conspirators deserve a warm mention here.
I would like to take this opportunity to firstly, thank Aakash Sethi and the entire Quest family for not just supporting my idea but also for being actively involved and significantly contributing to my understanding of the ITI sector. Most days, it was their excitement and positive energy that kept me going. At this moment, I can’t help but feel truly blessed to be in their company!
Secondly, I would like to thank all the facilitators without whom the workshops would have been lack-lustre-
Thank you for bringing the whole place alive with your presence! My classmates and I are eternally grateful.
Thirdly and most importantly, I would like to thank my co-pilot, my class teacher and my guide- Mr. Mallappa without whom none of this would be possible. He guided me every step of the way. Also, a huge hug to each one of my classmate and friend who not just accepted me in their midst but also made me reconnect and rediscover myself. I will take each one of them in my memory and will stay evermore connected.
And finally, here is my gift to you, Ashwini (the one who has been the ying to my yang for the last 8 years). A big- “Thank you!”
I come from a very traditional Marwari family. I was brought up with a very set stereotypical ideas of gender roles; to say that I was raised and trained from a young age to be a good and proper housewife would not be an exaggeration. As such, I developed a sense of responsibility at a young age. It was inculcated in me, to help out with household chores in any and every capacity. However, as I grew, I felt the need to stretch the limits of my boundaries, to take on more responsibilities. It was only after my graduation that I decided to break the mould and venture into a world I was totally unfamiliar with me. I did the Gandhi Fellowship for 2 years, after my graduation, which involved me working with government schools in the rural areas of Rajasthan. It was this experience that helped shape me and cemented my belief and desire to be a part of the education industry.
After my 2 year stint in Rajasthan, I returned home to join Quest Alliance. Quest works with various government schools and regulatory bodies in Bihar. They also work with ITI's and VTI's, specifically with youngsters to develop life and professional skills, helping them plan for their professional future and enrich their personal lives. Quest's long term goals are to impact the educational industry at the grassroots level. The organisation has been in dialogues with various state governments to eventually bring in to effect, policies that will hopefully change educational technology and other such issues for the better.
It is here that I had my first encounter with ITI and it's staff. One of my responsibilities as an employee in Quest was to help provide employability skills training to the instructors of ITI. I realised however, that I was only able to contribute in a limited manner, as I had very real knowledge of how an ITI functions. I made the decision to join an ITI course for a year to get an idea of how such an institution is structured, what services it provides and how I can help contribute positively to the learning process. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Quest not only approved of my decision but also decided to support it by providing for me financially and mentoring me through the process. What is more, every member of the team at Quest offered to help and provide support in any way possible. Such an overwhelming and combined offer of support was completely unexpected to me; I am truly grateful and appreciative of every member of Quest for such an amazing response. What is more, Quest is now also planning on offering such an opportunity to other youngsters that are so inclined.
Prior to starting my course at the ITI, I was plagued with fears and insecurities. I was wary about going into an atmosphere where I would undoubtedly be the only female in the classroom and perhaps even the oldest. I knew that such a scenario was bound to create some awkwardness for me. I was also extremely fearful of being violently attacked. My most important concern was the lack of bathrooms, especially since I suffer from shy bladder syndrome. Many a sleepless nights were spent wondering and worrying on my course of action, should I ever happen to be in a sticky situation. Fortunately though, I didn't encounter any major issues. In hindsight, I realise that my fears were prejudiced. It is incredible how, as a society we perpetuate discriminatory and irrational stereotypes onto a particular class or sect of society; in most cases, such ideas are born out of ignorance. My fears and concerns too, were affected by the ignorance of the limited society that I was a part of, it was only the exposure to new kinds of people and scenarios that opened me up to the possibility of a more inclusive and tolerant society. My experience with my peers at ITI, which I shall discuss further, will better explain how I came to this realisation.
I faced quite a bit of opposition when applying to the welding course in ITI. Since most of the staff already knew me from my time with Quest, they were both astonished and unsettled to find me option to do a course, especially one that is considered to be completely masculine. I was offered a lot of advice on which alternative (feminine) courses I would be more suited for, for instance, fashion and interior designing courses. I also was faced with having to explain to everyone about my choice. Eventually, as an acceptable explanation was not at hand, I had to come up with a completely fabricated story (courtesy of a colleague from Quest), which fortunately, seemed to appease even the most traditional minds at the ITI.
Once the admission process was complete, I was now faced with the very real situation of starting my course. It suddenly hit me, that I was just not ready. The first couple of days were truly intimidating. I was constantly concerned about how I'd fit in to the crowd, if I'd be accepted. This constant second guessing was quite stressful. However, what got me through was Ashwini being there for me, especially when the parent-teacher meeting was arranged for the 2nd day. She accompanied me to the conference and acted as a buffer. She made light of my fears and insecurities and cheered me up throughout the day. She was truly a comfort to me, in my time of need.
It took me around three months to actually settle into ITI. This also included breaks that I took from the institute. There were in fact, days when I would lock myself into my room and psych myself into accepting the reality of being a part of ITI. The first few weeks of orientation were dragged on; there were detailed lectures on the rules and regulations of the institute. There were multiple rounds of introductions, which helped me get familiar with my peers as well as the instructors. It is during the introductions that I realised that not all students get the option of being in their choice of course. In some cases, the institute makes the final decision on where to allot a particular student. This usually occurs when the course of the student's choice is no longer available due to all the seats being filled. There are also cases where the institution makes discriminatory decisions, based on a student's marks. For instance, if a student has comparatively lower marks then he/she would not be allowed to study a complex or advanced technical course, regardless of whether he/she opted for it. Although it did seem like the first few weeks of orientation were stretched unnecessarily beyond what is usual, the additional time shared with my peers as well as the information about the institute helped me understand how the ITI functions.
The first few weeks of classes involved the entire class just drawing technical diagrams over and over again. Needless to say, it was extremely monotonous. However, it was brought to my attention that when teachers saw me in their class, they expected that I would help set an example for the rest of the students, thereby making their task easier. There was a kind of unspoken agreement between the teachers and I that involved neither of us breaking the established equilibrium. I therefore realised that I could not afford to be remiss in completing homework assignments and participating in class; least I put my teachers in the difficult position of favouring me over other students. And so, I found myself in the unique and exasperating situation of having to complete homework assignments that involved me writing the 2 times tables repetitively, or copying down paragraphs from a book as part of a writing assignment. It truly did transport me to my days at primary school, though the activity didn't really hold as much of my attention this time as it did back then.
The final respite from the sheer monotony of the drawing activities came on the 25th day, when we were finally provided with scrap metal and given the opportunity to work with it. The very atmosphere of the entire classroom underwent a drastic change on this day. It was akin to awakening suddenly, after being in an extended intellectual coma. Suddenly, there was so much activity in the class, you could sense the students' excitement and impatience to get started. This was the day when we finally felt like we started learning. What is more, as the course progressed I realised that it was in the workshop and not in theory classes, that we students truly bonded. It was during this time that we started getting comfortable enough with each other to drop our guards and joke around with each other. This was also one of the first times when I experienced the shared camaraderie of being the butt of a joke.
One of the first ice breaker incidents occurred during a lecture on environmentalism that took place in the main auditorium. It was a hot day, we had just had lunch and were expected to sit through a listless lecture on an issue that has been covered numerous times. I invariably started dozing off. However, since I was in the direct line of vision of the guest lecturer, I couldn't afford to blatantly take a short nap. My classmate Srinivas, who had also become a friend by then, realised how close I was to visiting la la land and decided to save me from myself. He had to literally hold me up and keep talking to me throughout the lecture to ensure that I remained coherent and awake. All his sense of responsibility and support dissolved into uncontrollable fits of laughter as soon as we got out of the auditorium. Soon enough, the entire class had joined in the laughter, including me. This was one of those truly wonderful and unexpected moments of bonding that will always remain with me. I have been fortunate enough to forge unlikely yet strong bonds of friendship with a group of wonderful, intelligent and creative young boys, who I know will always be there for me.
As time progressed I started working with the rest of my peers in my course. Whether it was something like creating a bulletin board for the class and putting up interesting news clips and articles on it, or working together to spruce up the garden area for Ayudh puja, identifying little insects and learning about them from my peers, or even being dared into lighting fire to paint thinner on my palm; slowly and steadily, we all started becoming more comfortable with each other to eventually form strong bonds of friendship.
I was finally an insider, accepted as one among my peers and it was at this time that I begun arranging workshops as well. It was also at this time that I realised that there was a slight dichotomy of my self. There was one version of me that was the “insider”, the one who was one of the guys and just a fellow student. Yet there was also the other me, the “outsider”, the one who was responsible with meeting various facilitators and persuading them to visit ITI and conduct workshops. The reason behind this almost Dr. Jekyl/Mr.Hyde-esque personality split was because of one reason; that of achieving more than what I had targeted for myself. While I still wanted to achieve my main objective of trying to figure out the structure and function of the ITI, in order to positively contribute to the learning process. At the same time, I didn't just want to remain an inactive and average student. I wanted to ensure that within the limited time that I had, I made the most of this experience, both personally as well as professionally.
The point in my life when I made the decision to join ITI was truly vital. Till then, I was working on building up myself as a goal oriented, smart and independent professional. In the process, I was transforming into the kind of person who is all about the bottom line. I had stopped being the naive, open and shy person that I used to be and I felt this loss of self within me, every day. However, joining ITI brought an immediate halt to all that. I once again found a space where I could safely be my old safe and not feel that I would be judged or taken for a ride. I no longer felt the pressure to portray myself in the socially acceptable form of a professional. It is then that I realised that I can have a successful professional life while retaining my sense of self, that the two are not mutually exclusive. This realisation has helped me achieve more in my professional life than my previous “professional” persona ever did. I now firmly believe that in order to make a difference, in any sphere of life, one does not need to transform oneself or create a new identity. All one has to do is remain true to oneself and have faith in one's own abilities. It is one's inherent qualities, principles and capabilities that make one unique and it is this innate uniqueness that is the need of the hour.
ITI: THE TERRAIN
Lack of structure in the ITI:-
The 12 month course at ITI was one that revealed many things to me. Although I was aware of the type of institution I would be a part of beforehand; being an insider revealed many issues that I had not foreseen.
The ITI campus is divided into 2 blocks. While all the theory lectures took place in one block, with good ventilation, spacious classrooms, comfortable desks and benches; the other block housed workshops. These classrooms were the exact opposite of the former. The classrooms are dingy, dark, tiny, with very little or no ventilation. In addition, the benches and desks are broken down and in disarray. The walls are almost devoid of any paint and have unhygienic pan stains all over. The equipments and tools that are made available for these workshops are actually outdated and cannot be used by the students in a safe manner.
Despite being the second largest ITI in Asia, the institution has just one laboratory that has computers in it. There are around 25 computers in the lab and out of 27 trades, only one trade can access these computers.
Although the institution does house an auditorium, the equipments that go with it, for instance the projector, mic and sound system is not always readily available or in working order. One has to ensure that these items are hunted down from other departments or are fixed ahead of time, before one can arrange to use the auditorium.
There is also a marked lack of structure between the administrative department of the institution and students when it comes to communication. If there is a memo that needs to be sent to the students regarding a day off or suspended classes, it is usually only posted on the main notice board. This is counterproductive as very few students actually check the notice board on a regular basis.
There are no dustbins available in the entire campus. The disposal of garbage is done by randomly dumping them in a corner. This hunk of garbage is cleaned out infrequently. What is most surprising is that there is no running water in the boys toilet and there is no working girl's toilet either. As a result there is no hygiene whatsoever in the bathrooms. The boys are thus forced to relieve themselves on the peripheral walls of the campus. This also happens be the same wall that houses the main ITI sign board above it.
ITI Trainers -
The following part of the report will only deal with those instructors that I have dealt with in the classrooms and/or those that I have worked with while organising various workshops.
I have worked with 10 teachers on a regular basis, 3 of whom have, through their actions have shown that they genuinely cared about their students. These were the instructors who helped organise activities and workshops for their students and also diligently fulfilled their official obligations. They provided helpful insights and also supported the students in independent ventures.
Throughout the 12 months course, my class was assigned two teachers. One of the teachers actually made an appearance to class only 15 days, in the entire year. Even in these 15 instances, he only chose to teach the class in 10 of them, disregarding the other 5 classes completely. He, along with a few other of his colleagues were also the type who stopped progressive instructors from doing anything productive. This atmosphere of negative office politics permeated to even the students. In many instances, students from other batches were openly discouraged from attending the workshops I or another teacher of mine helped organise, because of some minor disagreement between two colleagues. There was one particular teacher who, while completely uninterested in extracurricular activities, was still an extremely competent teacher within the classroom. Students respected his sense of professionalism and attended his classes diligently. What is most disconcerting is that teachers have little to no sense of time management. Most instructors take an entire additional hour for their lunch break. What is more, in a continuous 4 hour class, most of the time would be allotted to students performing the same task repetitively, while the instructor saw it fit to go for walks or generally pass the time by loitering around. The atmosphere of general apathy among many instructors, towards the students is inescapable. Most teachers have little to no interest in the students' aspirations and lives. There are very few who take the time out to talk to their students regarding issues like choosing a career over a job or even encouraging students to pursue their aspirations in a realistic manner.
The curriculum in ITI is divided into theory and practicals. Although there are lesson plans available on paper, they are not executed. As a result, students end up remaining ignorant about many skills that they will undoubtedly require to be knowledgable about in the industrial sector. What is more, as there is always a marked lack of equipments, some students are unable to learn even the most basic technical skills. Students also find the language barrier to be extremely intimidating. Most students come from a kannada medium educational background, who suddenly find themselves flung onto a full fledged english based course. Most of the books have extremely complex and technical language that students are unable to understand. This lack of comprehension leads to a sense of dissatisfaction, which in turn, leads to students rarely putting in any effort into studying. In addition, there are very few instructors that feel the need to take an initiative to help students cross these barriers. In most cases, teachers leave students up to their own devices, until exam time. Come exams, students usually make do by replicating other's work. The motive is to somehow pass the exam, actual knowledge holds little value.
Although ITI is supposed to be a learning institution, there is no real sense of fostering knowledge. Moreover, students and teachers barely realise that there are large chunks of time when entire classrooms are left to sit idle, twiddling their thumbs. Instead if the students were taught about time management, it would be much more beneficial to them in their future professions. It is extremely disheartening that an institution that is ideally expected to produce competent professionals, barely invests enough time or effort in all that raw potential. The standards of education offered by ITI needs to undergo a major transition for the better. More emphasis must be put on enabling the students with life skills and soft skills, in order to ensure that they go on to have successful and fulfilling careers, instead of just an industrial job.
At the start of the course, when the class was first introduced to each other, I was surprised to find so many youngsters who had a very clear idea about what they would like their future to be like. When asked, students revealed about their dreams and goals, not one of which was unimaginative or limited. Each and every one had really wonderful ideas, none of them feared dreaming big for themselves. However, as the course progressed, the sheer monotony, inactivity as well as the disheartening feedback from the instructors slowly chipped away at their dreams. Day by day, one could feel a sense of disappointment and apathy creeping into the classroom, only to solidify as time passed. By the time the course concluded, students ended up feeling discouraged, unprepared and lost. One was case was a student named Akbar Ali.
Akbar was on his third year at ITI. He comes from a conservative Muslim family. His father is a fruit vendor and his mother a housewife. He came to ITI to learn technical skills and he wanted to have certified qualifications. Apart from attending ITI, he also worked part time to earn a little and provide for his family, as well as get some hands on experience. Akbar comes across as an extremely passionate and smart person. He seemed genuinely passionate about his course. He was also extremely creative when it came to fixing technical issues. He often came up with simple yet innovative solutions to fix technical problems.
Akbar was one of the few boys who was truly grounded in reality. He was well aware of the fact that in order to get ahead in his future profession, it wouldn't be enough to just be knowledgable about technical skills. He knew that he would have to also pick up some soft skills and have the ability to communicate fluently in English. As a result, he was always very polite and he was also very involved in the classroom, trying to enable his fellow classmates to grow with him. One example of this was how he would make sure that he borrowed my copy of the newspaper everyday and read up on it. He would also cut out articles that he thought were interesting and helpful and put them up on the class bulletin board.
One of Akbar's major concerns was how the institute had very little to offer students of his calibre. He was thoroughly annoyed and disappointed with the lack of proper and safe equipments in the institute. He truly felt that instead of spending hours within the classroom, sitting idly, his time would be better spent getting some hands on experience in the field. As a result he bunked classes frequently and opted to work part time or even help out his father with his fruit stall. He would only attend classes when he had to complete his practicals classwork or when he was informed that some workshop would be taking place.
It was truly surprising to find someone like Akbar in ITI, someone who is so self aware and makes informed decisions, setting realistic goals for himself and goes about actively achieving it. But it was extremely sad to see such an active and capable person being completely let down by the system. Instead of encouraging such an exceptional student to grow, the atmosphere at ITI only served to disappoint and dishearten him. What is more, taking Akbar's case as an example, many other students also started feeling disenchanted with the system as well.
Some of the dreams and aspirations of students were more than just about personal gain. A student named Srinivas aspired to create an organisation that would breed employee loyalty just as it would beget financial success. He wants his organisation to beget a culture of mutual benefits; whether it be consumers, employees or stake holders, Srinivas desires that everyone get something of value out of the professional relationship. Another student, Philomin Raj, wants to create an awareness among men about gender sensitivity issues, so as to reduce violence against women.
The issue of gender sensitivity reminds me of an innocent conversation I had with one of my classmates. We were talking about my past education from Christ College and some of my fellow students told me that they were under the impression that all girls from Christ College smoke and drink. At this point, one classmate of mine, Arun, a 17 year old boy, spoke up and opined that girls should not be drinking and smoking. He was of the opinion that girls should maintain a moral high ground by refraining from such “immoral” activities. This comment only served to offend me. My response to him was to ask what he thought about men urinating in public. I challenged his moral authority by claiming that such an act was immoral as well. To this, he responded in a very matter of fact way, saying “we are men, we can do anything”. His response was so nonchalant and brutally honest that I was left speechless. This conversation made me realise how basic issues like gender equality and social responsibility have to be instilled at the grassroots level in order to bring about a true change in societal perception.
I have had many such conversations that have lead me to quite a few life changing epiphanies. However, one fact remains true, each and every person that I encountered in ITI is intelligent, capable and creative in his own unique way. What is more, each of these youngsters deserves to have a much better quality of learning experience.
NOTE ON THE WORKSHOPS
My interaction with the ITI system (students, teachers, alumni) has shown that one truly effective way of improving the students’ employment opportunities is by providing them with greater exposure to the outside world.This exposure is not merely an exposure to more skills but it is an exposure to more perspectives, ways of functioning, to more opportunities and most importantly to ways of learning. 'Learning by doing' is what drives the students here. My experiences have clearly shown how “passion” is best communicated through the voice of a leader and how interaction with him/her can inspire the students and leaves them with absolute conviction.
Workshop on entrepreneurship:-
Name of the facilitator - Rahul K.P.
Number of students attended – 15
Government industrial training institute.
Aim of the workshop – 1) introduce students to the idea of entrepreneurship, 2) understand its challenges and risks and advantages, 3) channelising their creative ideas with regard to welding, 4) explore the concept of starting up, 5) using scrap metal for new creations.
The workshop involved 8 sessions of 4 hours each. The students all experienced practical knowledge. One of the things that the students created was a spear (which can be converted into a lamp shade as well). The item was created out of scrap metal, with minimum equipment and tools. Slowly, the students graduated to creating more complex and bigger items with scrap metal, especially as the workshop progressed. One such complex item created was a dustbin.
The workshop seemed to be successful because there was equal participation among students as well as the facilitator. The initial inputs and involvement of the facilitator, helped provoke the students to eventually branch out and come up with their own creative ideas on welding. Students started independently experimenting on creating items from scrap metal; this also resulted in a united collaboration among the students that in turn, encouraged a free exchange of creative ideas. One of the things that the students realised about welding, during the initial stages of the workshop was that, it was possible to create objects with a bare minimum of tools. Students were exposed to more complex tools only at a later stage of the workshop. The facilitator ensured that the students understood that creating objects out of scrap metal didn't always involve the use of heavy and complex tools.
The atmosphere was such that students felt comfortable learning together. This in turn, facilitated an atmosphere of team work. Students expressed genuine interest in each others' ideas and future aspirations. In fact, this free exchange of ideas, helped most students expand their own creativity and seriously consider being a contributive member of the entrepreneurship world.
The Industrial Training Institute has teachers that are usually assigned the task of overseeing such workshops. However, as a student, it has been my experience that, more often than not, there is very little involvement on the teacher's part. This is unfortunate, as I felt that, students would have benefited greatly from the participation of the teacher. I also felt that the facilitator would have appreciated the experience and tried to make it simpler and more efficient for everyone, had the teacher also been more involved. In my humble opinion, teachers too are likely to enjoy the experience and pick up real life skills regarding the processes of facilitation, which in turn can come in useful in the classroom scenario. Teachers should, I think, experience such workshops with the students, so that an atmosphere of integration among both students and teacher can be achieved.
The workshop was a success because the students were independently involved in coming up with creative ideas. In addition, the atmosphere was such that, students felt comfortable in the free exchange of ideas with the facilitator. Students were able to question the facilitator on various aspects of welding as well as starting up, without the fear of being shut down or ridiculed. This truly helped in excavating the hidden passions of the students. It was a pleasant surprise to find that students were comfortable enough to participate and more importantly, ask questions regarding the welding techniques. The workshop itself created more of an interaction based atmosphere, rather than the traditional lecture based atmosphere that is usually experienced in most classroom scenarios. It is this interaction between the facilitator and student body that resulted in making the workshop such a wholesome learning experience.
Questions asked by the students to the facilitator:-
What is your qualification?
How long have you been welding?
What is the initial investment you put in for your own business?
How much did you have to invest in buying the tools and equipments alone?
Where do you get the scrap metal from?
How do we get in touch with you, if we have more questions or want to learn more about welding?
What do you do with these sculptures once they are created?
Is there a market for products made out of scrap metal? If so, then who are the target consumers?
How did you market yourself?
Workshop on Design Thinking:-
Facilitator – Ashwini Krishnaprasad
Number of students attended - 16
Aim of the workshop - 1) Facilitate the concept of design thinking, which in its most basic form tries to incorporate every aspect of an enterprise, product or a service into one, wholesome, big picture.
The workshop involved the students working as part of teams to achieve a shared goal. The practical application of the concept of design thinking was applied very uniquely by the facilitator. The classroom that the students were assigned to for the workshop was in absolute disarray, with paint peeled walls, dirty and spit stained, crumbling ceiling and rickety desks. This environment only served to dishearten the students. The facilitator saw this and created an activity around making the entire room more hospitable. The students were divided in three groups, each group assigned to sprucing up one part of the room, either wall, ceiling or floor. As students became involved in the activity, each group started exhibiting a competitive streak against the other. The objective for each group became to make their own part of the room better than the other groups. As a result, students started hoarding or overusing the materials provided. One group ended up with more paint, while the other had more craft papers. It was at this point that the facilitator called a halt to all activity and gathered all the students to ask them one pivotal question: what the final goal of this task was? The facilitator also went on to point out that if they were all working on an activity in a more professional setting, in for example, an industry of some sort, would they all be working individually on just their own little tasks or would they be bound to work as a collective team toward a shared goal? It was then that the students had the realisation that instead of working ont heir individual tasks and competing among themselves, they ought to work together, share the materials and make the entire classroom better. It was this insight that made them realise that a lay person, on walking into the room would not notice just the walls, ceiling and floor separately, rather they would take in the whole room at once. Therefore, having one aspect of the room “better” than the other would be counterproductive to the final goal. Having realised this, the students finally began working as part of one big team to accomplished the shared goal, of making the classroom as a whole, more inhabitable and hospitable.
The concept of design thinking was very simply and comprehensively experienced by the students while participating in the activity. The completion of the activity helped the students realise that the central idea of design thinking is basically to keep in mind that when creating a product or service, one needs to keep in mind the big picture and not just focus on individual processes.
It is vital for an entrepreneur to consider the entirety of an enterprise and it's common objective first and then move on to categorically forming the individual process that go into the setting up of the enterprise. It is also equally important for every member of such an organisation to have a sense of integration; this can only be achieved through open communication and a free exchange of ideas. It is only when all members of an industry feel a sense of integrated belonging and realise that their individual contributions help shape the entirety of the product or service offered, that the enterprise itself can truly be independently productive and profitable.
As a student, the workshop helped me realise that in this day and age, monetary issues have been overridden in economic terms. The economy is now knowledge and innovation driven. People now work smart and not just work hard. This idea is at the core of design thinking. It is also a concept that must become integral not just at an industrial level, but also at the basic educational level. Our nation's education systems, unfortunately propagate an atmosphere of competitiveness and disassociation among each other. What should instead be encouraged is a sense of integration, a culture of team work that in turn helps each student realise that they are not just a cog in the mechanical wheel, rather an important contributing member of the educational industry. Students must be imbibed with a sense of personal and shared accomplishment towards a larger goal. It is only then that, in the future, such individuals will go on to incorporate and ideate such that, they create organisations based on innovation, creativity, knowledge and shared and smart work.
Insurance and Banking workshop:-
Facilitator – Usha Sanganahal
Number of students attended – 25
Aim of the workshop – 1) to understand the different types of insurance offered to manage risks in personal and professional life, 2) how to avail for personal, professional and/or student loans when one comes from a economically unstable and lower background.
The workshop involved educating the students on the various kinds of insurance available in the market. The common misconception about insurance is that there are just two kinds, vehicle and life. Through the workshop, students were educated about insurance for other avenues as well, for example, livestock and rural insurance and most importantly, health insurance. Students were also instructed on how best to figure out the appropriate insurance plan for themselves. As it is not uncommon for people to get fleeced by insurance scams, it was very important that the students understood the importance of keeping themselves aware about the current premium rates, with regard to the type of insurance they planned on prevailing for themselves. Students also learnt the practical value of availing such types of insurance and how it can be beneficial to their personal and professional lives.
The workshop also comprehensively explained the process of finance management and loan approval to the students. Many students are unaware of how to go about securing a small scale loan, whether it be for professional, personal or educational purposes. The workshop on banking, outlined the various government and private schemes that are available to the students. In addition the students were also informed about various affordable interest rates. Most importantly, the students were assisted with the managing of personal and professional finances.
Questions students asked:-
What about people who cant even afford to pay for the premium amount for insurance?
When one is constructing a house, what if it collapses while it is under construction?
What if there is death outside the work space, will my insurance provide for it?
This is with regard to personal accident. In case of third party insurance, should both the parties have insurance?
What is workman compensation and ESI and it's benefits?
English language crash course:-
Facilitator – Vidula Ramabai
Number of students attended – 13
Aim of the crash curse – To brush up the English language skills that the students have acquired so far, create an awareness among the students as to the kind of experiences they may encounter in the future professions. This course also aims to encourage students to develop a sense of “self learning”, which would involve students taking an initiative as part of the learning experience, with the teacher acting solely as a guide.
The workshop mainly focused on ensuring that the students familiarised themselves with the English language by completing tasks assigned to them on worksheets. Most of these worksheets were procured from non copyright websites like www.elcivics.com, www.abcteach.com, etc. Some of the worksheets provided were created by the teacher/facilitator themselves. The worksheets provided encompassed four central categories; namely, speaking, listening, reading and writing. Students were expected to complete activities specifically designed to improve vocabulary, spelling, handwriting, etc. Students were also assigned activities specific to practical, real life scenarios of professional and/or social relevance such as, reading about an interview or the garbage disposal and recycling system. Students were also assigned comprehension passages on topics such as robots, laptops, being in love and so on. These topics were specifically chosen to target a group of 15-19 year olds; these being the kind of themes that would interest and engage students of this particular age group. Students were also made to write about their strengths and weaknesses in the form of a “What I can do – What I cant do” list. This was designed to create a sense of self awareness among the students.
Throughout the workshop, it was noted that students overcame their initial nervousness when presented with a task by working in pairs or groups. Regardless of what the task was, working on a crossword puzzle, completing a vocabulary exercise or fill in the blanks, students seemed to work better and be more involved when they worked in pairs rather than individually. As a student, I also noticed my peers working well when provided with clear instructions and explanations of the task that was assigned to us. In one of the classes, students were asked to play out a skit as part of a story telling activity. The topic of the skit was “Honest Conflict Resolution Attempts”. The students were asked to imagine and create a scenario where they would be responsible for resolving a conflict in the work place, either as a professional or as a customer. This activity, not only showcased the creativity of the students but also brought forth the various individualistic attributes of each of the students. What was commendable was how the students chose to make their skits bilingual, thereby making use of english words and phrases in order to better communicate their story/message. As the workshop progressed, it was clearly noticeable that students became more comfortable with teh English language. In one of the read and share activities, it became apparent that the students independently chose to read passages and share their interpretation on it, without any prompting from the facilitator. In fact, most students voiced their opinion on how they felt they could have done a better job presenting their interpretations, had they been given more time. This was an encouraging instance of the student body's responsiveness and involvement in the course.
This crash course was organised by me for my peers in an effort to help them brush up their English language skills. Since most of my peers had, at one point or another, come up to me specifically to ask for more support, specifically with regard to English language. I decided to organise a crash course for them, so as to ensure that their learning experience would be comprehensive and structured. However, I realised over time that since this course was not part of the ITI curriculum and was offered free of cost, most students refused to invest their time into it. The lack of economic value coupled with the fact that, the course instructor was not an official authority figure, lead to most of my peers not taking the course seriously. As a result, the attendance was disappointingly low. Although one can always come to terms with such a scenario by opining that impacting just one person's growth is also a job well done; as an organisation built to provide alternative learning experiences, it is important to create and market a product such that our target audience is attracted enough to invest in it. It is also important that such a product/service be transparent to the consumer, such that he/she can comprehend the true value and consequences of investing time, effort and money into it.
Industrial day visit:-
Name of organiser – Mr. Mallappa
Number of students attended – 35
Aim of the visit – Students were taken to visit Sartorius, which is an international pharmaceutical laboratory equipment supplier, to explore a new career path available. Students were also taken to visit the FTI (Foreman Training Institute), where they were made aware of opportunities to upscale their professional qualifications.
This day long visit included exploring two different avenues of learning. While the visit to Sartorius was mainly in order to explore a new and different professional option, the visit to FTI provided an insight into furthering students' learning experiences by providing options on adding to their current qualifications. While on their visit to the Sartorius, students realised for the first time that they could be part of an industry where welders actually held a very high responsibility. Since the company was involved in producing equipment that is used to make medicinal drugs, the standard and demand of the quality of work is very high. Welders are therefore construed to be the most respected artisans in this particular field. It came as quite a surprise to most of the students that welding could also be a part of such an industry. Students were truly interested in gaining more knowledge about this industry. Most of them actively asked questions about the industrial processes like production and assembling mechanisms. In addition, students also enquired about how to apply for positions with the industry, specifically, within the company. Most seem truly interested in considering this field as a future profession. The visit of FTI held a different kind of knowledge for the students. They were made aware of the various certified courses that can further their knowledge about welding and upscale their professional qualifications. Students were also introduced to courses that are specifically designed for those interested in becoming ITI instructors. This visit too, opened up new avenues of work for all involved.
Day visits such as the ones mentioned above are generally not part of the official curriculum. However, as a student, I feel that my peers and I were more involved as the form of teaching took a very practical and visual turn. While classroom learning is a vital and traditional part of any educational experience, it is important for students as well as teachers to have other options when learning and/or teaching. Variety is truly the spic of life, as was evident on this day trip. Students were enthusiastically participating, by being vocal about their queries; the visual and practical presentation of the industry visit, made the learning experience all the more memorable. It is my opinion that such forms of teaching should be made a part of the official curriculum; teaching and learning should not be confined to just one form or method.
Storytelling sessions on gender sensitivity, team building and trust building:-
Name of organiser – Arunkumar Gonal
Number of students attended – 17
Aim of the sessions – To create an awareness on gender sensitivity issues, build professional and personal trust among peers, leading to a more integrated work and/or learning atmosphere.
ITI has an inescapable atmosphere of violence within it's walls. Conflict resolution among students usually takes the form of brutal and sporadic violence. This is usually due to the fact that most students come from the kind of socio-economic background where violence is a way of life. As a result, there is very little awareness on various issues like gender equality, verbal and non violent versions of conflict resolution. There is also a very noticeable lack of trust and team work. These issues were tackled in the sessions of storytelling. Through various activities, the organiser provided food for thought to the students regarding the above mentioned issues. Students also participated in various activities that involved conflict resolution and team building. Students were grouped such that previously unfamiliar or dissimilar individuals were made to work together to complete tasks and activities. In this process, students developed a sense of shared camaraderie that was so far missing in their interactions. As the workshop progressed, students were also made to realise about how each individual and their personality traits are unique, unto themselves. Students eventually came to understand and appreciate these differences among each other, which in turn lead to a more balanced and intrusive learning atmosphere within the classroom.
Although the authorities at ITI are well aware of the fact that most of their students come from a certain socio-economic background, and thus, are not equipped with various life skills that would ideally speaking, help further their professional life; there is very little being done, to actually help the students overcome such obstacles. Students are bound to greatly benefit from soft skills and life skills sessions. It would not only increase their exposure to professional and social situations, but also provide them with the means to arm themselves with social graces in the workplace.
Workshop on creativity:-
Name of the facilitator – John Devaraj
Numbers of student attended – 40
Aim of the workshop – To introduce students to the importance of creativity, especially in a professional setting. To encourage students to realise that every one of them have the ability to be creative.
The workshop involved educating students on the concept of creativity. The facilitator spoke to the students about his life story. He is an extraordinary individual, who has had a vast variety of life experiences. Although an engineer by qualification, John Devaraj has not limited himself to mastering just one field. He holds world records for the most interesting achievements; for instance, creating the tallest earthen pot, which incidentally is displayed in Lalbagh. He is also a very well traveled individual. In addition to his world records, he has also created eco friendly cycles and a jeep that he travels in himself. It was these things that he spoke of to the students, who were inexorably drawn to know more. Through this workshop, students were encouraged to believe in their own ability to create; whether it be ideas or objects. Students were also encouraged to dare to dream big. Most students in ITI are from a certain socio-economic background and as such are discouraged from stepping out of the limits that are set for them by their families or their current financial situations. This workshop worked on encouraging students to attempt to move beyond their set boundaries.
Since this was the first workshop that I organised, it was a little nerve wracking. However, this was a wonderful opportunity for me to create and organise my own support system within the ITI. I realised that I could rely on the support of a few teachers to help me organise more workshops in the future. I also discovered that I could depend on my peers for support. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that each of my peers had the ability to contribute and it was their own unique qualities that enabled them to provide additional support to me. As a result, I could delegate some of the work involved in organising workshops, for instance, I could assign someone the task to write invitation letters and appoint someone else to speak and introduce a facilitator to everyone. This truly helped me later on. The workshop also showcased the students' ability to undertake and deliver responsible tasks. Students previously assumed by the teachers to be irresponsible and careless, surprised the educators by taking on responsible roles and promptly delivering on them. This in turn served as an eye opener to the teachers, that if given the opportunity, students, even those deemed to be “problem students” can and will take up roles of responsibility.
SKILL UP: A MOBILE LEARNING APP
This brings us to the end of my Learner-ship and how we assessed the performance of the students. We designed Skill Up for a mobile platform and students solved problems to earn their score. Each level on Skill Up was correlated with the workshops conducted during the course. During this process we also realised that Skill Up can be used independently as a learning tool. More details have been included below.
SKILL-UP is a fun, easy-to-use android mobile application that has been conceptualized by Superheros Incorporated. At Superheros, we train the youth in life skills by conducting workshops at various colleges, schools, corporates and vocational training institutes. We focus on three broad categories of skills- personal development, social leadership and global citizenship education
This application has 15 levels of increasing difficulty and it is in turn divided into three stages having 5 levels each. The first five levels are called the Garage Level, the next five are called the Small Scale industry level and the final five levels are called the Silicon Valley Level.
The application focuses on building 6 essential life skills for living in the 21st century economy:
FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY. This skill describes your ability to adapt to different work roles and responsibilities. It also measures your ability to work competently when a plan changes and to deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism.
INITIATIVE AND SELF DIRECTION. This measures your time management skills along with your ability to set short- term and long-term goals. It also scores your ability to work independently, reflect critically on your behaviour and look at learning as a life-long process.
SOCIAL AND CROSS- CULTURAL SKILLS. This skill describes whether you know when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak. It looks at whether you treat others respectfully and express yourself with an open mind. This skill measures your ability to accept cultural differences and work with others effectively.
PRODUCTIVITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY. This measures your planning skills, ability to prioritize work, perform under pressure and achieve results. It also describes your ability to work with others, multi task and be a dependable team member.
LEADERSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY. This describes your ability to influence and guide others towards a goal. This skill also measures whether you act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind and whether you inspire others to do the same. Basically, are you a role model for others? Are you able to lead teams?
GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP. Do you follow traffic rules and behave respectfully? Do you pity people or do you empathize with them and offer help? This skill measures your deep knowledge of global issues and universal values such as justice, equality, dignity and respect for all living beings. It also describes your ability to see yourself as part of a collective identity.
To know more about this initiative, visit us at www.superherosincorporated.org or write to us at email@example.com
Feedback by the students:
The one year I spent in ITI has been one of the most enriching experiences, both personally and professionally. One of the most amazing by product of this experience has been the android app that Ashwini and I have developed, with support from Quest Alliance. At the moment, our app, SkillUp has been tested in 3 colleges and we are now working on a promotional strategy so that we can reach out to more students across Karnataka. This is supposed to be a bridge for us to develop SkillUp 2, which we intend to be used by the students, not just to upgrade their professional and soft skills, or to find information on further studies, but also to find job opportunities to work in India and elsewhere.