Amidst the cheerful chirpiness of YouTube videos, ‘they said it’ moments, yummy lunch breaks and the spirit of learning together, my research skills evolved from being clueless to cultivated.
*Pop* An imaginary bubble picturing the discussion over my research topic and how hesitant I was to take it because of lack of information and inability to do justice to it! Few discussions and mentoring later, I started on the journey of educating myself about government school education, which later became a crucial and significant eye-opener…
Just to give my readers a dash of what all I did, what I found and how informed I am today as a researcher, a mixed-emotions story weaves out below.
The Curious Case of Research Question
Procrastinating my way through two weeks, reading secondary sources and yet not arriving at a sound and crisp research question, one day before my mid-term presentation a workshop on conducting research was held where the amazingly learned speaker asks me for my research question and Bingo, I just blurt it out. So it took me two to tango, just two seconds although after two weeks!
Research question: How can existing monitoring mechanism be refined through the involvement & improvement of School Management Committees (SMCs) in government schools?
Conversing with stakeholders
‘Namaste Aunty with a warm smile’ does the trick! The art of moulding yourself into someone whom they trust and would open up to is something individualistic to a researcher. Being a student, who knows how important schooling is, who understands the problems their child faces in a class (by sharing my own experiences) and how challenging it is for a parent to perform multiple roles rather than a researcher selfishly getting a questionnaire filled, helped me know more than I needed for my topic specifically. They shared how they felt out-of-place within a committee because they weren’t sensitized about their role; individual problems like teacher’s absence in class, studying Social Science in Hindi after opting for english medium and how confusing it is to get through the hierarchy of school and government bodies to get these problems heard and sorted; illiteracy acting as a hindrance to their spirit of being aware and prudent about their child’s education and many other factors.
This led my questions to the next in hierarchy being the principal who answered my questions past the piles of papers on her desk. From the conversations with this stakeholder, I reached to one of my paper’s recommendation about the concept of a performance audit of every activity, event to monitor a government school effectively. The happy factor that the principal was directly approachable by parents and students alike hid under the limitation of lack of administrative staff in government schools, the onus of which lies with the Directorate of education. So it was time to inspect the Directorate about how they functioned…
Dilemma of the Directorate
The funny experience of being a researcher, acting as a saleswoman- Picture a knock at the door which opens to a salesperson blabbering about his product and your disinterested face, and then picture me (a petite girl) with my product in form of a questionnaire at the Directorate’s office knocking at each door in the hierarchy and coming back with disinterested faces, ‘submit a proposal- committee will decide’ phrases and basically no information except a thought of how difficult it is for parents to approach them too. Nevertheless two interviews within the government body helped me analyse their responsibilities in terms of monitoring.
My interviews from the field aided my understanding of the institutional fabric of government schools, the “I didn’t do it” verses of stakeholders pinpointing accountability, the core component of SMCs being parents and the importance of communicating to them about their functions and the idea of involving children (it is them struggling through studying ultimately) in decision-making.
Most important breakthrough- I can call myself a budding educationist *takes a bow*
– From the off-white vintage pages of my summer sojourn 2k15