Community involvement is important to help develop a structured learning process both, within a formal setup like schools and institutions as well as in the outside environment.
Researchers and educators have long agreed that when parents and the community gets involved in education, children try harder and achieve more at school (e.g., Epstein, 1995) resulting in higher academic successes. Support and encouragement from parents and the community garner positive attitudes toward school and education as a whole. In the long run, a strong support structure has a positive impact on children and the community at large.
Civic participation in schools helps to ensure the relevance of the curriculum with the real world. It can also be an effective component in monitoring the process and outcomes of education at multiple levels. In resource-constrained settings such as India, community participation also serves as an effective means of advocating and mobilizing the resources needed to aid a high-quality education system.
Policymakers and educators have created several approaches to maximize parent’s involvement in the education of their children. These approaches have several features in common: programs that focus on parenting skills and the development of home conditions that support learning; school-to-home and home-to-school communication about school programs and children’s progress; the use of volunteers at school or in other locations to support the school and students; and participation by families in decision-making, governance, and advocacy (Bauch, 1994; Davies, 1991).
These approaches, however, were not developed in the early years within the rural communities. Rural communities differ from urban and suburban ones, and they also differ from one another (Flora, Spears, & Swanson, 1992). Parent involvement programs for rural communities work best when they respond to particular features of the communities they serve. This is exactly how Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises addressed the situation when the Satya Bharti School Program was initiated in 2006.
Community involvement, participation and their sustained support towards the Satya Bharti Schools have been a key component of the program over the years. Aiming to build the trust and ownership of parents and community members, the program format ensures that there is enough opportunity for the community to understand and be engaged with the schools. Community members regularly come forward and actively engage in the functioning of the school, either through participation in events or contribution of land, time, skills, knowledge, material and funds.
Bharti Foundation follows an integrated approach to community engagement that includes:
The teachers keep the parents involved by participating in the assignment that is given to their children. This not only builds a bond but also motivates them to take interest in their child. This activity has helped in establishing parent connect quickly during the COVID-19 induced lockdown. Thereby helping parents to actively involve in their child’s learning process at home and support teachers by sharing pictures of their children’s homework and reports via WhatsApp groups on a regular basis.
The students are encouraged to actively organize and participate in community development campaigns, making a lasting and sustainable impact on the community where schools are present, inciting community education. The students find innovative solutions to address the social issues, seeking the help of the community at large, thereby involving community participation.
Here are two such examples amongst many:
The Road Safety Project by Satya Bharti School Chimna, Punjab, won the Design for Change Award 2020. A student lost her uncle due to fog and the absence of lights on the village roads. Determined to find a solution, she along with a group of students, pasted ‘reflectors’ on roadside poles and trees, fixed broken poles and installed convex mirrors on turns and blind spots and crossings.
Another campaign was run by Satya Elementary School Balliyewal, Punjab where students undertook rallies in the village to raise awareness on menace caused by using polythene bags. They stitched hundreds of cloth bags in a span of 2-3 months with unused pieces of cloth, which they collected from the village households. The villagers supported this initiative wholeheartedly and switched to using cloth bags.
Parents and community involvement helps ensure child safety. Community involvement is more effective when people are given specific tasks and training: Training of school committees improved how these committees handled teachers accountable to them. In India a program that trained local volunteers to directly intervene in child learning was very successful.
Whenever parents and community have a visible presence in classroom life, students are more likely to see a meaningful connection between their studies and their eventual success in the workplace. We at Bharti Foundation are working with the communities, to provide quality education to the underprivileged section of the society.
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