(A snapshot of Abhigyaan teachers from August 2012 taken in Bits-Pilani Goa campus, I’m the one sitting in the center)
I (Raghav Nyati) am the sole founder of Volunteercurriculum.com. I am a 2009 batch engineering graduate from Bits Pilani (Goa), India. I taught students (mess workers, security guards and their family members) in my college campus, elementary English and arithmetic, for 3.5 years under a volunteership based educational initiative called “Abhigyaan”. During those teaching years I always felt that a lack of curriculum was severely limiting my teaching efficiency and effectiveness, particularly for English. Prevalent English curriculum frameworks ( NCERT and the various niche curriculum prepared by NGOs) could not be replicated here because of the humongous diversity in age and requirements of these students i.e. some may want to learn english for better jobs while others probably just to educate their family.
So while heading Abhigyaan in my final year I and some of the other Abhigyaan volunteers started working on a syllabus for English (using Raymond Murphy’s “Essential English grammar” for grammar reference) that could be used by Abhigyaan’s teachers with ‘practicability’ being our prime concern. I continued my teaching efforts (through NGOs) while working in Hyderabad (as a software developer) and expanded the scope and features of the curriculum using the teaching experiments that I frequently conducted in these classes. I started consolidating these efforts into a systematized curriculum framework from April 2015 and finally uploaded them to Volunteercurriculum.com which was launched in June 2015.
WHY VOLUNTEERCURRICULUM.COM ?
In this curriculum, breaking away from the traditional way of teaching English through separate chunks of literature and grammar lessons which takes years to make the student a fluent speaker, I encapsulated all the common grammatical forms and repeatedly occurring phrases into simple tables. These tables teaches the students to directly make sentences, which they can use in their day to day life, through the familiar visual technique of ‘match the following’. Each such table is supplemented by vocabulary and exercise/activity sections to form a lesson plan which is what the teacher can directly teach his/her student(s). A series of these lesson plans (and associated guidelines) is what our curriculum is. Moreover, from my teaching experience I realized that a ‘one size fit all written in stone’ book based curriculum model is never really going to be abreast with the changing needs of the illiterate population in the country and so I made the curriculum dynamic and highly receptive to change hence the decision to launch it as a web portal (rather than publish it as a book) was obvious.
I based this portal on the wikipedia model of knowledge accumulation wherein we regularly assimilate teaching content, techniques and approaches from different teaching sources (ad hoc volunteers, teachers etc; whoever our users are) to our lesson plans making them highly responsive to the on ground needs of the illiterate students. The target user for this curriculum is the untrained English teaching volunteer (anyone who knows English and who wants to teach it to someone in need) for whom the availability of fixed teaching targets, ready-made resources to utilize, and reliable time estimates to reach that target, through our curriculum, would help him/her deploy a focused strategy for his/her student(s) by removing all ambiguities w.r.t. What to teach? How to teach? And how to manage available volunteering hours to obtain measurable results for the student(s)?
I want to empower every single English speaker in the country with a curriculum (and guidelines) to teach ‘usable’ English to a person in need whenever he/she gets a chance in life to do so.
Being inspired from wikipedia, all the work required to run and expand this portal are divided into a series of disjoint ‘work from home’ tasks and then Interns (online interns spread across India) are hired on ad hoc basis to complete these tasks(content development and marketing tasks etc). So no permanent workforce is mandated. We found it easy to recruit suitable online resources (within a week of the requirement through online internship portals like internshala and letsintern) and so as of now our workforce swells up and shrinks based on the requirement. In all volunteercurriculum.com is always expanding and updating its curriculum content in accordance with the feedback that we get from the teachers who use it for teaching their students.
(Its always a pleasure to see your students smile at the end of a teaching lesson)