Palak Shala: Parents and children learning together
Education doesn’t only happen in school, but continues beyond its confines and beyond what teachers impart in classrooms. Parents play an equally critical role in the learning process, by helping their children with their homework, keeping track of the child’s progress in school, knowing their friends, teachers, etc. As simple as this process may seem, it is vital in providing an enabling environment for children to learn and grow.
But what happens when parents themselves are unaware of basic scientific concepts, simple mathematics, languages or any other school subject? What if parents have never experienced education in a school? Will they then be able to provide their children with a stimulating environment at home, after school? It may be impossible even if the parents wish for their children to be well educated and are willing to invest in their education.
Rural and tribal parts of India have a vast number of families where children are first generation learners. In such communities, it is imperative to engage parents in their child’s education without negatively impacting their livelihood. A highly effective tool is the Palak Shala or Parents’School, where parents play the role of teacher as well as learner, along with their child, gaining and imparting knowledge about various subjects along with their children.
United Way Mumbai conducts Palak Shalas in Anganwadi centres (courtyard shelters run by government under Integrated Child Development Services scheme) in rural and tribal communities of Karjat and Panvel, in Maharashtra. Here, children below the age of 6 years are provided preschool education and the Palak Shala becomes an excellent tool to sensitise children and their parents.
- Orientation to formal schooling: The Palak Shala begins with the basics of a school’s location, who a teacher is and what he/she does. The Shala also focuses on the children’s daily routine at school, the subjects they learn, the classes, etc. Therefore, children about to be inducted into school are well prepared and so are their parents.
- Rights of children: A critical aspect, often skipped when a child starts schooling is that making the child aware of the rights to which they are entitled at school and in the community. Consequently, parents need to be oriented about the child’s rights formally. The right to free and quality education, a safe and conducive learning environment, etc. are sensitive issues of which children and their parents must absolutely be aware.
- Responsibilities of parents: Parents learn about what they need to do at home in order to provide a loving, nurturing, environment for their child to learn and grow. Participating in parent-teachers’ meetings, school management committees, etc. help to ensure a school’s accountability and demonstrate parents’ involvement in their child’s future. The Palak Shala helps in inducting parents into the educational process through role-play, enactment of mock School Management Committee meetings etc.
- Learning through involving children in creating educational play material: A fun filled and high impact initiative to increase parents’ engagement is by involving them in creating educational material for their children. Parents are motivated to collect common household items, which they have little use of and are guided to create educational play material using the items. Parents and children are taught basic numeracy, comprehension, identification of colours, etc. through play materials that parents can use to engage children in educational activities at home.
Palak Shalas are an effective medium to involve parents in improving the quality of education for their children. Both generations learn together in the process, becoming truly school ready. Rural and tribal education enhancement programmes would greatly benefit from adopting the Palak Shala method as it is a high impact strategy, which ensures better learning outcomes for children.
© Renalysis Consultants Pvt Ltd