The key feature of the Activity Based Learning (ABL) method is that it uses child-friendly educational aids to foster self-learning and allows a child to study according to his or her aptitude and skill. ABL serves as one model of child-centered, child-friendly education, which is the mandate of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in India.
According to observers, the ABL method has created a visible improvement in children’s learning and psychology. Children learn to make independent decisions at a young age, from choosing their activity card for the day, to marking their own attendance. Under the system, the curriculum is divided into small units, each a group of Self Learning Materials (SLM) comprising attractively designed study cards for English, Tamil, Maths, Science and Social Science. When a child finishes a group of cards, he completes one `milestone.’
Activities in each milestone include games, rhymes, drawing, and songs to teach a letter or a word, form a sentence, do maths and science, or understand a concept. The child takes up an Exam Card only after completing all the milestones in a subject. If a child is absent one day, he continues from where he left unlike in the old system where the child had to learn on his own what he missed out on. Integrated in the curriculum are activities to create awareness about the environment, sanitation, health, and nutrition. These are brought across through innovative methods like Bommalattam (a puppetry show) in Tamil and through song and rhymes.
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CEI approaches in action
ABL in its contemporary form was first undertaken by the Chennai Corporation in 13 schools on a trial basis in 2003, and has since been adopted by all the 270 primary schools in the district. In Tamil Nadu, UNICEF supported the Chennai Corporation to introduce the ABL methods in the Government schools. Since then, there are many organizations which cultivate and follow the principles of activity based learning. ABL is currently being scaled to many states in India though the exact number is not known.
UNICEF India provided support to teaching staff, educators, and administrators to help develop the human capacity to undertake the ABL programme. This was done through the sponsoring of a Master’s level English program for educators, in addition to providing support in the development of learning materials and curriculum development.