1. India - the starting point
1.1. Aspects of the work of the Rishi Valley Institute for Educational Resources
Since the mid-1980s, the Rishi Valley Institute for Educational Resources (RIVER) has developed schools located in the very poor villages around Rishi Valley in southern India. Each child can, together with other children, follow a well-structured learning path at an individual learning pace and yet integrated into the sociality of the class, considering his or her cultural background and learning prerequisites.
The starting point for the development were questions that are also relevant in Germany, especially with regard to the challenges of realising an inclusive education system: How can we justice to the great age mix on the one hand and the performance heterogeneity of the children in a school or class on the other? How can individual and collaborative learning be successfully combined?
In India in the mid-1980s, neither the children, nor the often non-illiterate parents, nor the teachers identified themselves with school: schools were not available in many villages or very irregular lessons took place - if they did, however, then often under the creation of fear. The family, religious and agricultural obligations of the children and the fearful school situation led to many children not attending school or dropping out after a short time. This situation led RIVER to engage in teaching based on Krishnamurti's educational philosophical ideas. These considerations are also about the fact that schools do not need to be geared to competition and comparison in order to be successful but can promote the uniqueness of their pupils in class in order to enable fear-free learning and living. In the meantime, RIVER has become one of the most innovative international driving forces for the development of individualised schools in which fearless and successful learning takes place.
In 2018, the MGML methodology reached about 300,000 primary schools and about twelve million children in numerous states of India. RIVER's developments influence school developments in many countries worldwide. They have received several national and international awards and recognition for their work.
Further information, also about the MGML methodology and its learning ladders can be found under
1.2. Selected results of the cooperation with RIVER
The cooperation between RIVER and German universities began in 2002 with the University of Regensburg (school pedagogy) and has shifted continuously to the University of Würzburg (pedagogy for behavioural disorders) since 2011. On the German side, the cooperation was initiated and organized mainly by Dr. Ralf Girg and Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller.
Since 2004, about 300 German teacher training students have participated in joint local seminars in Rishi Valley, India. In addition, seminars on MGML methodology were and are regularly offered (Würzburg) in order to inform and familiarise students and prepare them for their tasks as teachers with heterogeneous groups. The experiences of the teacher training students who attended joint seminars in Rishi Valley have had a lasting influence on the further development of German schools from special needs schools to grammar schools and universities, albeit primarily in southern Germany.
In addition, since 2004 hundreds of teachers from various types of schools have been and continue to be trained or trained in workshops. Demand remains high.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller conducted numerous seminars with teacher study lectures in Rishi Valley, especially supported by the program 'A New Passage to India" of the DAAD (2013 - 2017). In addition, he worked as a visiting professor at IIT Madras to inform about the work of RIVER, the MGML methodology and learning with learning ladders as well as the influences in Germany.
One of the results of the intensive cooperation with RIVER is a two-year curriculum for pre-school children that has been successfully tested and implemented. This influenced the work of colleagues in the special needs field who developed learning ladders for school preparation facilities for children with special needs.
Further results of the cooperation, in addition to numerous German publications, are two international publications:
- Müller, Thomas / Lichtinger, Ulrike / Girg, Ralf: The MultiGradeMultiLevel-Methodology and its Global Significance: Ladders of Learning - Scientific Horizons - Teacher Education. Immenhausen 2015, Prolog-Verlag
- Brahme, Milind / Babu, Suresh / Müller, Thomas (Hrsg.) (2018): Inclusive Education in India. Concepts, Methods and Practice. New Delhi. Mosaic Books
Together with RIVER and the IIT Madras, Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller organized the First World Conference on MGML-Methodologies in 2016 with participants from all over the world. The report of the conference is found here.
2. International Developments
2.1. Sierra Leone – Implementation Experiment for Pupils with Special Needs in the Field of Mental Development and Hearing
At the invitation of the Honorary Consul of Sierra Leone in Munich, Dr. Scheiter, two students of the Institute for Special Education of the University of Würzburg (Anna Gaul and Michel Chab) prepared and supervised learning ladders at the Hosetta Abdullah Memorial Special Needs School under the supervision of Prof Dr. Thomas Müller. Also involved were Prof. Dr. Christoph Ratz from the University of Würzburg, Joseph Cole for the Verein für Sierra Leone e.V. and parts of the faculty of the Hosetta Abdullah Memorial Special Needs School.
2.2. Kenia - mobile schools for the Daasanach nomads
Through his many years of missionary experience, Father Florian learned about the daily problems of the nomadic peoples and realized that the existing schools are not suitable for the education of the nomadic children. In conversations with the nomadic families, Father Florian and his team have found that Daasanach parents are in favour of their children attending school when the school comes to them and goes with them. It is therefore a task to initiate a comprehensive basic school education in the tribal area of the Daasanach on the eastern side of Lake Turkana, which considers the nomadic lifestyle as well as the specific interests and needs of the Daasanach.
With the INES schools, educational opportunities can be created in the Foras (the temporary settlements of the cattle nomads). In addition to the three cultural techniques - reading, writing, arithmetic - areas of life such as hygiene, animal husbandry and utilization, handling money, technical knowledge, water extraction, etc. are also taught. In addition, basic knowledge of Kiswahili and English will be built up.
The new learning materials, adapted to the Daasanach culture, are based on the MGML methodology and its learning guides. They are designed and manufactured by the INES development team in Illeret. Using the learning material and so-called 'barefoot teachers', mobile schools are created, which are transported by a donkey and travel with the families. The 'community teachers' are nomads themselves. They can qualify accordingly through their own school attendance and the INES teacher training.
Since 2017 Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller has accompanied Ruth Würzle and Theresa Schaller, who have been commissioned by the Benedictines (St. Otilien) to develop the learning ladders and the corresponding material, train teachers and jointly initiate the construction of the mobile schools. He acts as scientific advisor for development and organizational aspects as well as project documentation of the work of Ruth Würzle and Theresa Schaller. In February 2019 Prof. Dr. Müller visited Illeret and the mobile schools at the invitation of the Benedictines.
2.3. Laos – learning ladders for children with special educational needs
On the initiative of the Angel for Children Foundation, a cooperation was initiated in 2019, which Prof. Dr. Müller led at schools in Laos in autumn 2019, which have been supported by the foundation for many years. The first step there is to diagnose the special educational needs of the children, who appear to the teachers there to be conspicuous. On this basis, targeted milestone developments with students have been taken place from October 2019. From November to April, two students in Laos, supervised by Prof. Dr. Müller, developed concrete learning guides and learning materials. They sensitised teachers to deal with children with special educational needs and jointly implemented the learning of these children with learning ladders.
3. Germany – the SeELe-project
The aim of the project SeELe is to develop materials to support social-emotional learning processes in schools and other pedagogical settings for pupils at secondary level 1. The materials should do justice to the heterogeneity of children and adolescents through an acitivity-oriented and self-responsible approach to individual and common tasks at their own learning pace. The project is supported by the Heidehof Foundation.
The project has been realized together with Dr. Stefanie Roos from TU Dortmund, Dr. Christine Schmalenbach from International Nehemiah University El Salvador and Anja Grieser.