This profile was prepared when Yogendra Singh was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
The organization that Yogendra has built pushes the notion of "individualized attention" to a new extreme. He knows that members of all communities buy into systems that respond to their particular needs, so Yogendra has created a program that helps every poor child and his or her family learn most effectively. In order to "sell" communities on the value of education, his program includes child-centered teaching methodologies, alternative forms of assessment, unique teacher training sessions, and, most impressively, very low student-teacher ratios. Whereas many education practitioners run "non-formal education" programs, Yogendra insists that his organization be termed "alternative" education instead, because it can and should become the formal model. Yogendra's innovation is to blur the distinctions between formal government schooling and the alternative education that children have access to in seven slums of Jaipur, Rajasthan's capital city. The "Common School System," as Yogendra calls it, has two prongs. On one hand are the 'Bodhshalas', which are new preschools and primary schools set up and supported by the residents of the slums and staffed by teachers trained in Yogendra's organization. The second prong throws the same principles of educational pedagogy and decentralization into the larger arena of government schools. The "Adoption Program," as it is called, is a pilot partnership that initiates existing government school teachers to the Bodhshalas' unique syllabus and training. This is the first time that the Rajasthan government has suspended its primary education curriculum and given a nongovernmental program free rein to implement its strategies in government schools.