5 Teachers Transform Education in Remote Ladakh; What All of India Can Learn From Them

Ladakhi teachers making a difference to school education

Ladakh recently touched new heights in the Ministry of Education's Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2020-21. Dedicated teachers are one of the main reasons why school education in Ladakh has seen a remarkable transformation.

In a heartening development, the union territory of Ladakh was lauded by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, for reaching new heights in their recently released Performance Grading Index 2020–21.

Improving its score from 545 (out of 1,000) in 2019–20 to 844 in 2020–21, Ladakh achieved a remarkable jump of 299 points. It went from Level 8 to Level 4 within a year.

The PGI structure comprises 1,000 points across 70 indicators. As per an NDTV report, “The 70 indicators are again grouped into two categories — Outcomes and Governance Management (GM). These categories are further divided into five domains — Learning Outcomes (LO), Access (A), Infrastructure and Facilities (IF), Equity (E) and Governance Process (GP).”

There are a plethora of reasons why Ladakh has made this exceptional jump.

One of the less-heralded reasons has been teachers dedicated to the cause of improving school education outcomes in the union territory. While some are building better school infrastructure in more deprived parts of the region, others are introducing new teaching methods. They are bridging the gender gap and giving hope to school students for better prospects after they graduate.

Here are some teachers from Ladakh who have made a difference in the lives of their students.

Muhammad Ali

In August 2021, Muhammad Ali became a recipient of the National Teachers Award for transforming the lives of his students at the Government Middle School in Karith Shargole, a remote village in the Kargil district.

He was felicitated specifically for his imaginative initiative of setting up subject-specific classrooms to enable greater learning in languages (English and Urdu), science and other subjects for students from Class I to Class VIII — besides his work in COVID relief and community organising as Acting Head Teacher.

“My objective as a teacher is not restricted to helping students obtain high marks in examinations. I want them to learn for life. I want them to pick up knowledge and skills that can prove useful to them even as adults. Also, I don’t think we should induce stress on our children for marks. This is no way to truly learn. After all, not every child can come first in class,” says Ali.

Sonam Gyaltsan

Ever since taking over as the headmaster of the Government Middle School, Taknak, in Sakti village (approximately 50 km from Leh) in March 2016, Sonam Gylatsan has worked wonders. Conferred with the National Teachers Award in 2020, Sonam forged the quintessential public school system success story by working closely with the residents of Sakti village.

From raising the standard of instruction to relocating and rebuilding the school, starting a bus service with his own money, and establishing subject-specific classrooms rich with material, he raised school enrolment from four students in 2016 to more than 100 just three years later.

He also helped students enrol for better and more affordable high school education, organised extensive teacher training sessions for his teachers, and even set up a residential hostel for students. Such was his popularity in Sakti that village representatives and the local elected councillor went to the education department and had his transfer blocked.

“On behalf of all the villagers and parents, I once again congratulate Sonam sir for the incredible work he has done for us,” says Tashi Namgyal, a parent and resident of Sakti whose three children study at the Model School.

Mohammad Jabir

Just a year after Muhammad Ali was conferred with a National Teachers Award, his colleague Mohammad Jabir, who has been teaching at Government Middle School in Karith for the past two years, also received the same award. A senior educator in English and Environmental Studies at the middle school in Karit, Jabir found innovative ways to teach.

According to the citation on the Ministry of Education website, “Acting smartly as per children’s psychology, he used the technique of ‘clapping while learning’ for teaching English Phonetics, Grammar, and Vocabulary. Taking ‘joyful learning’ as his philosophy, he tried innovative ways of teaching, such as the prose singing strategy, learning with body language, teaching via slogan technique, language games, teaching in the open air, and story role-playing. He has also been training teachers of the other schools on these innovations.”

Going further, he played a pivotal role in ensuring the education of his students remained uninterrupted in the early pandemic period when schools were closed.

During this time, he was also conducting workshops and seminars for parents on digital literacy. Additionally, he trained teachers on how to use the internet and access online tools to teach via WhatsApp.

Upon receiving the award, he said on Facebook, “It is our duty to prepare each and every [child] to build their dream India by or before 2047 [when India celebrates 100 years of Independence].”

School teachers and educators from rural Ladakh are making a huge difference for school education
Stanzin Saldo, Aka Shifah (left) and Tsering Tashi (right)

Stanzin Saldon, aka Shifah

As the founder of rZamba, a Kargil-based charitable trust registered in 2017, Shifah has worked extensively in education, adolescent health and youth leadership.

Thanks to her trailblazing work with government schools in Kargil, adolescent girls have shed their inhibitions in talking about menstrual health. And students (both boys and girls) have improved their English reading and comprehension levels. Her work has also raised the standard of socio-emotional learning in these schools by working closely with teachers and the local administration, as well as helping to formulate creative study material for students.

In addition, the work she did in the initial phase of the pandemic also deserves a mention. 

In an internet-dark region, she started ‘Khangrtsa Yontan’, a door-to-door project-based learning initiative through volunteer facilitators. She also conducted community-based classes once lockdown restrictions were lifted. She says, “Despite our work so far, it feels like we’ve just begun. There is still a long way to go.”

Tsering Tashi

Tsering Tashi is the first scientist from Ladakh to work for the prestigious Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). He is also the founder of Ladakh Science Foundation (LSF), a charitable trust. 

LSF has played a pivotal role in not only promoting science across different schools in Ladakh, but also helping students from low-income families to secure government scholarship schemes. It has also helped its students attend some of the premier institutions in this country.

Earlier this month, LSF announced that more than 1,600 students from the region had registered with them for mentorship and guidance, for admission through the PMSSS (Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme) scholarship in the academic year 2022–23.

Thanks to their counselling and guidance, more than 400 students from the region got admission through PMSSS in professional courses (engineering, nursing, pharmacy, hotel management, etc) and general courses (BA, B.Com, B.Sc, etc). Also, more than 100 students are expected to get through Delhi/Central Universities, IIT/NIT, etc. Each student has managed to get scholarships ranging from Rs 3.9 to Rs 9 lakh, according to results published by LSF.

Tsering Tashi says, “If I can study in a government school and reach this level in my life, others can do the same and reach greater heights. Our children must get opportunities and exposure so that they can benefit in a big way, and go very far.”

Suffice it to say, this list may have left out some teachers of note. However, its purpose is to highlight their work and to inspire the current crop of school teachers in Ladakh, as well as those looking to join this noble profession or make a difference in other ways.

If we have more such teachers, mentors and guides who are invested in the future of our students, it can only be a good thing for Ladakh, and this nation.

(Edited by Pranita Bhat)

(Feature above from left to right: Muhammad Ali, Sonam Gyaltsan, and Mohammed Jabir)

Sources: 
‘PGI 2020-21: Ministry Of Education Hails Ladakh For Setting New Benchmark In Education’ by Mridusmita Deka; Published by NDTV Education on 6 November 2022
‘Ladakhi Headmaster, Villagers Transform Rundown Govt School Into Model Institute’ by Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk; Published by The Better India on 14 October 2020
‘This Muhammad Ali’s Unique Teaching Methods Are a Model for All of Ladakh’ by Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk; Published by The Better India on 18 September 2021
‘Agent of Hope: How One Woman’s Belief is Uplifting 1000s of Children in Kargil’ by Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk; Published by The Better India on 31 December 2021
‘Ladakh’s First ISRO Scientist Helps 700+ Village Kids Study in India’s Best Colleges!’ by Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk; Published by The Better India on 17 July 2019
‘Mohd Jabir from Kargil selected for National Best Teachers Award 2022’; Published by Voice of Ladakh on 27 August 2022
‘National Awardee Teachers’ (2022); Published by the Ministry of Education, Government of India
Tsering Tashi, Ladakh Science Foundation page on Twitter and Facebook

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