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October 20, 2009

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October 20, 2009

I have visited Pratham's educational programs in Delhi, India in 2006 and 2007. During both the visits, I have been updated about Pratham's work by their staff members. In January, 2006, I visited Pratham’s educational programs in slums of Shahdara, New Delhi with a team of administrators and faculty members from California State University, Long Beach. During that visit, we observed two early childhood (Balwadi) programs held inside people's homes and witnessed educational activities for older children held in an old temple yard. We also talked to people in the community and were highly impressed with their positive responses about Pratham’s work. During my 2007 visit, I observed two preschool programs. The two preschool classes that I observed were held in the entrance room of a family’s living space. These rooms were very small and there were no furniture or other equipments as one would expect in a regular classroom. However, recommended practices for young children such as developmentally and culturally appropriate curriculum and child-centered teaching practices were highly visible during instruction. Teachers demonstrated an understanding that “self-expression is key to internal motivation and learning.” Children shared their emerging literacy and numeracy skills through a variety of ways. Children demonstrated their abilities to apply concepts of colors, shapes, and many other concepts to their immediate surroundings. Children showed and proudly talked about their work with us. As a researcher working with young children, I have consistently gathered this sense of ownership and empowerment when children talk about their work, irrespective of the differences in their geographical locations and life circumstances. A teacher training session was also scheduled that day. I had an opportunity to interact with teachers before they started their training session. Teachers showed stories and artworks of children at the L-R (Learning to read) level. They also shared many anecdotes of unusual talents and potentials among these children. One would not miss the eagerness and happiness in teachers’ voices. Children’s stories and art work reminded me of what educational philosophers and researchers have expressed over centuries that potentials within each child need a nurturing and stimulating environment for full realization. Pratham and its committed volunteers and teachers are providing an environment that fosters creativity and motivation, a forgotten domain in many existing educational institutions. I also learned about Pratham’s mobile libraries. I saw a suitcase that contained books for children and a log book maintained by teachers to track individual children’s library activities. I also learned that Pratham teachers examine a child’s frequency of checking out books with his/her actual reading performance. Mobile library is an approach that can be replicated in any part of the world. Pratham’s educational practices including its low teacher-child ratio, on-going teacher training and monitoring, high focus on children’s learning, ongoing assessment of children’s understanding of concepts, and implementing mobile libraries demonstrate Pratham’s understanding of research-based practices. Not only that Pratham understands these practices, it implements these practices amidst many constraints of infrastructure and resources to enhance quality of educational experiences for children under their care and supervision. My experiences at Pratham's educational programs in India convinced me to join Pratham's Los Angeles chapter in the United States and to be a district sponsor.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Teachers' strong pedagogical knowledge as shared during my interactions with them; children's understanding of concepts as observed in their response to teachers' or my own questions; and children's engagement in learning activities and high attendance.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Its curriculum based on an understanding of children and their background and the strong content area focus; my interactions with staff members, teachers, and children; and teachers' teaching strategies.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Knowledgeable,enthusiastic, committed, hard-working, and pleasant. They updated me very well with Pratham's efforts, achievements, and challenges.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Reach out to more children in India; cover all levels of schooling; bring more resources including technological resources to enhance quality of children's educational experiences.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

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