Ranjitsinh Disale
Ranjitsinh Disale

Mumbai: Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher at the Zilla Parishad (ZP) school in Paritewadi, Solapur, Maharashtra, won the Global Teacher Prize 2020 on Thursday. Disale, 32, was selected from over 12,000 applicants and nominees from 140 approximately countries.

The Global Teacher Prize, in partnership with UNESCO, is a US $1 million award presented annually by the Varkey Foundation, London, to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. Disale was the only teacher from India to make it to the top 10 finalists, consisting of teachers from Italy, Brazil, Vietnam, United Kingdom, South Korea, USA, South Africa, Nigeria and Malaysia.

In his winning speech, Disale announced he would share half the prize money with the other nine finalists (they will get over US$55,000 each). This is the first time in the Global Teacher Prize’s six-year history that the overall winner has shared the prize money with other finalists.

Disale, who has been teaching Classes 1 to 4 in the ZP school at Solapur for the last 11 years, told The Free Press Journal, "I did not expect this prize at all. I was delighted to be the only Indian selected in the top 10. It is an honour to represent the ZP school, the Maharashtra state government education system and India at an international level. This prize will encourage me and other other teachers to innovate, evolve and develop creative methods of teaching-learning."

Among his many contributions, Disale worked on creating a QR code for every lesson in the textbooks of Classes 1 to 12. Disale said, "This QR code is printed in textbooks, where students can scan it using a smartphone and access explanatory videos, audio tutorials, questions, homework and assignments. It is an easy way of self-study and helps students understand difficult concepts at home."

Disale translated the class textbooks in his pupils’ mother tongue and embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments. Crucially, by analysing their reflections, Disale would change the content, activities and assignments in the QR coded textbooks, to create a personalised learning experience for each student.

According to the globalteacherprize.org, the impact of Disale's interventions has been extraordinary: there are now no teenage marriages in the village and at the school, girls' attendance is 100 per cent attendance. The school was also recently awarded the best school in the district, with 85 per cent of his students achieving A grades in annual exams. One girl from the village has now graduated from university.

Disale had been working on this QR code innovation since 2014 and had pitched it to the state government in 2016. He said, "I never thought there would come a time when we would rely solely on digital education. I created this QR code model because digital education is always an add-on, which helps students access information any time outside school hours. But now, as schools have shifted to online mode due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students are using QR codes to access virtual lessons through the 'DIKSHA' app."

Disale aims to use the prize money to start new innovative projects for education. "I want to use the innovation fund to start new projects and creative methods of teaching-learning for students," he said.

At this year’s ceremony, the Varkey Foundation announced the launch of the new Chegg.org Global Student Prize, a US$50,000 sister prize to the Global Teacher Prize, which will open applications and nominations in the new year. This student prize will highlight the efforts of extraordinary students throughout the world that are making a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society.

State School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad announced in a tweet on Thursday: "Ranjit Disale, a teacher at Paritewadi Zilla Parishad School in Solapur, has won the prestigious 'Global Teacher Prize' given by UNESCO and Varkey Foundation, London. I congratulate him from the bottom of my heart."

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Free Press Journal