Sutra is a knowledge exchange project between academic and non-academic partners with a focus on early childhood education and primary school programmes. Non-academic partners include teacher trainers who are active practitioners and/or policy workers, teachers, local folklorists, story tellers and folk artists. The knowledge exchange outputs are in film and print formats using local cultural and artistic artefacts, and from this is where the project title is derived: Supporting Teachers with Resources and Art. Sutra in Sanskrit means a pithy message and is also the string that holds diverse matters together.

This project was started in March 2019 with funding support from University of Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account. The project aims to:

  • Develop easy-to-follow resources that demonstrate evidence-backed teaching practices for teachers in resource poor settings.
  • Draw upon the local cultural and artistic idiom to present these teaching practices. 
  • Draw upon contemporary means of communication familiar to teachers. This includes tapping into the growing use of mobile phones, the free exchange of information through platforms such as WhatsApp and the ease of accessing pamphlets/posters in ongoing in-service teacher training courses.

The first phase of this project has seen involvement from local cultural actors, government and policy makers from the Indian state of Karnataka. As background, Professor Sonali Nag has been supporting the local government and UNICEF with guidelines for a curriculum change for language and emergent literacy instruction for a mid-sized network of preschool centres (approximately 60,000) in Karnataka, a state in South India. This curriculum change is seen as a forerunner to a country-wide programme change which will be led by UNICEF and other state governments. For this effort, a group of non-academic partners have been meeting regularly in Bangalore with coordination by UNICEF India and the government. These meetings have focused on finalising the curriculum framework and incorporating the guidelines suggested by the PI. Developing teacher resources was a natural next step and her idea was that we learn from local cultural actors ways to interpret key theoretical insights about children's learning for teaching practice in local schools. The team that worked on the outputs were from NGOs, schools and members of the network supporting the curriculum reform.

As a result of the successful first phase, partners from other Indian states gave positive feedback and asked to share the resources more widely.