Social Emotional Learning: Organization Spotlight (Rural)

इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए, यहाँ क्लिक करें।

हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे क्लिक करा.

In our last article in this series, we featured organizations working on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in an urban context. For the second article in this series, we present our learning from conversations with organizations from rural India.

The ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) is an annual survey that provides reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India. According to the ‘ASER Early Years Report of 2019 (includes data from across 26 rural districts from 24 states of India) “the domains of social and emotional development forms a part of the learning outcomes expected in pre-school but is entirely missing from the learning outcomes expected in school.” 

(Source: Aser Early Report 2019)

In such a scenario it does not come as a surprise that currently, there is not enough data available that documents the work on SEL done in various settings- whether integrated into academics or as separate instruction time in the Indian context and more so, specifically in the rural Indian context. 

In our search to find out more, we reached out to some friends of Apni Shala doing inspiring SEL work in the rural parts of India.   


We reached out to three organizations, Kshamtalaya, the Teacher Foundation, and Ugam Education Foundation, working to create SEL access through their initiatives with different stakeholders in the system. We looked at the following main areas of work in this exploration: frameworks of design, structure, and format of programme, assessment, professional development for teams, challenges, the impact of the pandemic on the programme design and implementation.


  • Kshmatalaya’s work is informed by the SEE learning framework designed by Emory University. The framework focuses on 3 domains: Personal, Social, and Systems and looks at these areas from 3 dimensions: Awareness, Compassion, and Engagement. They have also integrated this curriculum with Kshmatalaya’s own curriculum on movement and expression which focuses on 4 developmental areas: Physical, Cognitive, Social, and Emotional. The curriculum has sought inspiration from dance movement therapy practices and focuses on skills like body awareness, emotional awareness, developing focus and attention, memory and sequencing, personal space, spatial awareness which they believe is important for the holistic development of a child

This year the team has focused on Attention & Self-awareness as well as Self-regulation with students. 

  • Ugam Education Foundation’s work is primarily with adolescent girls students of the KGBV schools in Jharkhand. They look at SEL as one of the important impact areas while working with school systems. The approach involved arriving at an optimal space between the different frameworks currently available, ground realities of time and resource availability at rural government run schools and the critical needs for the girls. The conversations and sessions  with students, teachers or other stakeholders lays emphasis on the following skills: confidence-building and communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and self-awareness.
  • The Teacher Foundation (TTF) put together a contextualised framework incorporating some of the major international SEL Frameworks – CASEL  Collaborative of Academic Social and Emotional Learning) from USA, SEAL (Social & Emotional Aspects of Learning) from UK, and WHO’s Life Skills. The elements of this contextualised framework were then tested in schools across India by gathering data from 90 schools across 15 locations (urban and rural). The resulting framework is called ISELF

For the article, we focused on TTF’s work in the Raigad District. The approach to SEL taken in the schools of this district is through Quality Circle Time(QCT). In the framework followed in the work with every school, QCT is part of a Group listening system, where the focus is on building the following skills: speaking skills, listening skills, thinking skills, looking skills, and concentration skills. 

Source: ISELF and QCT 

Structure and Format

  • Kshamatalaya’s SEL intervention is anchored in a ‘Cluster excellence learning lab’ model. Under this, 5 fellows (part of Kshamtalaya’s Fellowship programme) are responsible for the development of four domains in partnership with 5 schools in a district – Theme-based learning for Hindi and Maths, SEE learning, Khel, and Community leadership. One of the fellows is therefore the point person for facilitating SEE learning at 5 schools in rotation. Support is provided by the fellow in three ways to a SEE learning support teacher at every school:  
    • Classroom Demonstration 
    • One to one discussions and capacity building through reading, experiential activity or reflection.
    • Co- planning and co-facilitating a session 

Source: Kshamtalaya Foundation 

  • Ugam Education Foundation follows a systemic approach where the team directly engages with students, teachers and wardens. Since the KGBV schools they work with, are primarily residential schools, Ugam began working with the school wardens, teachers, and then with students.  The team has coaching conversations (through phone or personally) with the warden on a monthly basis. At the student level, there are fortnightly sessions. Two facilitators from Ugam visit a school and in their time at school facilitate two-hour sessions with teachers as teacher training and three-hour sessions with different groups of students on some of the SEL themes. The specially designed program (with worksheets and weekly assignments) is called Tarang.  Some examples of the activities and themes facilitated by them are self awareness using  self-portraits, goal setting, menstrual hygiene, safe spaces for girls, unpacking issues of violence or bullying, and decision making.
  • TTF facilitates QCT sessions in the  Zilla Parishad schools of Raigad with teachers as well as students. The training involves learning to identify issues of bullying, violence, etc while also creating space for the wellbeing of the teachers themselves. The format followed is of listening at three levels: Group listening, Non-verbal listening, Bubble time. QCT acts as a group listening system. Each QCT is divided into 5 stages: 
Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5
Meeting upWarming upOpening upCheering upCalming down

Apart from the group listening system, there is a suggestion box that is part of the non-verbal system and one-to-one conversation between teacher and students which is done through bubble time.


  • Kshamatalaya uses the Life skill assessment scale developed by Dream a Dream that they use for their impact assessment, and they have also built an in-house outcome assessment tool based on the enduring capabilities they are working on. The tool involves two kinds of questions to assess 1. Knowledge and 2. Practice. 
  • Ugam Education Foundation has its own inbuilt assessment tool. The students fill out worksheets that help assess knowledge and application of the skills around which sessions were facilitated. Additionally, the team also publishes a bi-monthly periodical called Urja specially created for adolescent students/girls in rural settings. Urja shares students’ writing thus allowing students’ stories and testimonials to be shared across schools. These are printed in the form of a large display that allows accessibility for students and teachers alike. 
  • TTF uses assessment tools such as checklists, observation tools, and self-reporting by students around observations of themselves and of the school. The team is now working on creating a robust tool developed from the findings of their research in the creation of the ISELF framework. In the Raigad district however, testimonials and observations of the impact of facilitating QCT in the schools in Raigad shows increased participation from children, an increased curiosity in students and better relationship and engagement between teachers and students.

Professional Development for facilitators, teachers, and counselors

  • Kshmatalaya is one of the implementing partners of the SEE learning program. Thus, some of the team members receive support directly from the SEE learning team at Emory and their team in India. This support involves being part of a facilitator training track, small group circles, and compassion-based cognitive training. These training and development sessions equip them to support the ground team of fellows with a deeper understanding of the curriculum and framework.
  • Ugam Education  Foundation has a very small team where all the staff act as facilitators of the initiatives run with the KGBV schools. The team comes with immense experience in the facilitation and design of coaching and support programmes as well as an understanding of facilitative pedagogy and strategies.  
  • TTF has focused on training in QCT. During this, they work on the teachers’ own wellbeing and then their facilitation skills of taking QCt to their respective classes. They work on the teachers’ own SEL while they work with students’ SEL. In their work with schools and systems, they have found that “A caring school is a listening school”. 

Challenges in design and delivery

  • Kshamatalaya is working with first-generation school-goers. Hindi being a second language for most of the students, building familiarity with the SEE learning vocabulary can be challenging for the facilitators. Sharing personal feelings, and experiences comes naturally in our own mother tongue. Another challenge is with respect to the delivery of the programme as facilitators need to plan, replan, be quick with changing strategy, and consistently look for ways that work for their children. Facilitators, therefore, have shown patience and acceptance in understanding that there may be small milestones that show movement even if on the outside it might look stagnant. Due to the pandemic, the team also faced additional challenges.  The earlier intervention that happened through a 90 minutes face to face session had to be converted into self-learning material which children can either access from home, or create a small group maintaining the protocols for COVID. The content was converted to an audio learning format through radio programmes called ‘Paathshala ki Ghanti bajao’ with the help of a radio partner and ‘Khayalon ka Safarnama’ in partnership with Apni Shala. Currently, there are around 31 episodes of the former and 10 episodes of the latter.  For teachers, the team created a wellbeing programme called Hausla to address three themes: Self Efficacy, Emotional Regulation, and Relationships & Interactions. This is an audio program of 10 minutes for each day that contains a story and practice associated with it. There is additionally a workbook for teachers with reflective questions based on practices that they experience every day during the program.
  • Facilitating conversations so that teachers and wardens appreciate the value of SEL( in their own lives and that of their students) as well as the pivotal role the school plays in creating that. During the lockdown, students’ access to phones and internet was a significant barrier. Since the schools have been closed the team started making worksheets for students that were shared with the teachers. Teachers then took responsibility to distribute these to the students. During the pandemic, the team came up with a system of ‘Vistaar, Sahyog, and Samajh’. This involved working with district and KGBV teams to create systems and review mechanisms to ensure that a maximum number of girls were contacted, supported emotionally and encouraged to continue learning. While this was a start, the team still faces the difficulty of being able to reach students who live in the more remote areas. No gadgets and no electricity makes it harder to reach them.

The conversation with teams from Kshamtalaya, Ugam, and The Teacher foundation was enriching in so many ways. One of the things that became clear was that children are children no matter where they are. The contextual challenges of course are more pronounced in times of a pandemic. However, it has been an inspiring journey to learn how each of the organizations has found ways to continue to create access to SEL, setting examples of being resourceful, agile, and resilient. 

Our contributors: 

Pallavi & Pooja, Kshamtalaya Foundation:  They lead SEE Learning projects and operations at Kshamtalaya.  and 

Maya & Prakash from The Teacher Foundation:  Maya Menon is Founder Director of The Teacher Foundation and Prakash Mudrale is the Head of TTF Operations in Maharashtra. 

Lopa from Ugam Education Foundation:  Lopa Gandhi is the founder of Ugam. Ugam works with 35-40 KGBVs in four districts of Jharkhand. 

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