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There are many ways to be good and these days, some of the most noble people have assumed the manners of the business world — even though they don’t aim for profit. As Warren Buffet on his recent philanthropic visit to India said, “Part of life is to plant trees that other people will sit under. Somebody planted a tree for me long ago in the form of an education institution and I sat under that tree, metaphorically.”

 

It is a season of reckoning for Teach for India (TFI), the programme that dispatched 80 top college graduates and a few who had stints with top corporates to teach hard-to-staff low-income rural and urban schools in India. The first group’s two-year commitment is up, and the programme now faces expectations: can a small crop of bright and idealistic people with boot camp training help change India’s education system?

 

Shaheen Mistri, founder of TFI spills the beans on her ambitious goal. “Five years down the line, we plan to have 2,000 fellows (teachers) teaching 60,000 kids in 12 cities and their surrounding areas.” Though India’s literacy rate has touched 74 per cent according to the provisional results of the 2011 census, up from 65 per cent in 2001, this is still short of the target set by the Planning Commission to achieve a literacy rate of over 85 per cent by 2011-12. And the little steps taken by Shaheen and her fellows are surely a boon for a worried Planning Commission, whose members can now heave a sigh of relief.

 

Way to TFI fellowship 

Shaheen, who graduated in Sociology from St Xaviers College, Mumbai, and did her Master’s in Education from the University of Manchester, UK, feels that we have a model, which could have a real impact on the ways that all novice teachers in the country are recruited, selected, trained and supported. Selectivity of potential teachers, in fact, is a big part of the TFI brand. TFI fellows do not have to undergo the traditional credentialing process. They receive six weeks training and are given full responsibility for a classroom of students. Through GPA, the teachers’ ability to pursue and achieve goals is assessed.

 

Criteria include perseverance, achievement, and respect for others, says Shaheen who is also the founder of Akanksha, a non-profit organisation. Emphasising on the leadership role she says, “We desperately need people who are going to be visionary thinkers, set big goals and own the responsibility for meeting them. And it’s so much about that mindset and the instinct to remain optimistic in the face of a challenge.”

 

Catalyst of change

 

It’s very easy to confuse TFI with a similar sounding initiative by a media house — an assumption which the reporter was also guilty of making but was quickly corrected by the editor — but TFI has far loftier goals than the other project. It’s on the footsteps of Teach for America, the foundation laid by Wendy Kopp 20 years ago. It was interesting to read through the statistics, which revealed the growing popularity of TFI.

 

In 2008, it started with just 80 fellows but three years later, they are looking to recruit 300 fellows and expand their operation to other cities like New Delhi. The surge in popularity is more so because Shaheen has struck the right cord — tapping on youth idealism.

 

Earlier generations of benefactors thought that social service should be like sainthood or socialism. But TFI and its board of directors think it should be like a venture capital — they understand that government alone cannot be innovative. A 1,000 different private groups have to try new things. Then we measure to see what works.

 

The impact

 

While interacting with the first batch of the fellows (they graduate on April 16) in their dingy, cramped schools, the reporter was captivated by their overtones of ideals and pluck. The moment the door opened to TFI fellow Prakhar Mishra’s class, there was inquisitiveness in the eyes of the third-graders. In a disciplined manner, the reporter was bombarded with as many questions as their curious mind could think of. Surprisingly, every question they asked was in English. It was not the same a year back. English was alien to them.

 

Reading out the scores from his laptop, Prakhar, a 25-year-old BTech from RKGIT, Ghaziabad, says, “The time I moved in here, these third-graders were at Pre-KG level. There has been a 300 per cent jump in their scores. The average grade score has gone up from 10 words/ minute to 42 words/ minute and surely there are exceptions of a score of 100 words/ minute.”

 

Here we have an aspiring politician, who at present will be joining NIIT Foundation and believes that an exposure at the grass-roots level is a stepping stone towards his bigger objective. “When you have everything that you possibly could need and other people need what you have and has enormous use to them, I think you need to do something about it,” he says.

 

Not a ‘cushy’ job

 

Though for Madhumita Subramanian, a graduate in economics from the University of Warwick, moving from her comfort zone was not as easy as it seems now. But in the two years she has realised, “If one can be successful in captivating a six-year-old and get them to do what you want, a boardroom should not be difficult.” The glory is there at 23 and she knows this is where she always wanted to be the moment she had her hands on the advertisement that said, “fellows with the brightest mind and biggest heart, who also wants to pursue rural social entrepreneurship…”

 

Education crisis

 

If today’s millions aren’t being educated well, how will they get proper jobs tomorrow? Won’t the education crisis translate into a far scarier job crisis in a few years? Parents with low-incomes value every pair of hands more than sending a child to a substandard school for several years, the benefits of which are unclear… these are some of the arguments that forced 80 youngsters to plunge into teaching kids in government schools for two years.

 

Voicing his thoughts on the challenges in the present education system, 25-year-old Saurabh Taneja, an IITian who will be joining the NGO Avsara as a programme manager, says, “I would say that the quality of teaching is probably the single most important factor in predicting student success. Of course, there are a myriad of factors that impede student achievement, but in a bad school with no textbooks and crowded classrooms, a really good teacher can surely be a catalyst of change.”

 

Unconventional pedagogical tools

 

Twenty-six-year-old executive from GE, Sana Gabula’s style of teaching is inquiry-based. Because her students’ literacy skills were so low, she rarely referred to the textbook. Instead, she used hands-on labs to lead her kids to discovery. She glided from task to task with ease, handling behavioural issues with equanimity and presenting new scientific concepts with childlike delight. And by the year-end, the kids were tricked into learning.

 

Gabula who will be joining Mckinsey post the fellowship programme says, “The most important thing I got out of the whole experience was that the children I worked with can definitely learn and succeed, regardless of how painful, traumatic or wonderful their lives may be. There is a ‘magical sense of belief’ that reaching to 200 million children definitely requires perseverance but surely not a daunting task.”

 

Memorable experiences

 

TFI has surely changed their lives is evident from the fact that an overwhelming 65 per cent of the fellows are set to join the social sector, of which 20 per cent wish to stay back and work with TFI. Of the 13 per cent who will join the corporate sector, some have opted for corporate social responsibility. Others will return to the companies which they were in before TFI, and still others want to pursue further studies.

 

Treasure lies where your heart belongs, and the treasure was the journey itself, the discoveries they made, and the wisdom they acquired. Vaibhav Mathur, a 25-year-old alumnus of Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, is slated to join Godrej’s CSR cell as a senior executive. A fellow at Divine Child School says, “Teach for India was life changing. I might not end up being an educator — at this point — but down the line, years from now, I know I would care about the achievement gap when 95 per cent of the world will not.”

 

Learning leads to knowledge, knowledge to creativity, and creativity to self-empowerment. Inducing this thought in a child’s mind is the work of a teacher and these fellows were definitely one of them.

By :

Pallavi Priyadarshini
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Watch Teach For India’s CEO, Shaheen Mistri on NDTV’s “We The People” at 8pm on Sunday night as part of an Independence Day special.


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TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Kolkata: It’s time to show that you care for the underprivileged who don’t have access to quality education. And that you are ready to go that extra mile to help those who need your support. Teach for India (TFI) is back and this time it is ready to select more outstanding college graduates and young professionals as Fellows and reach out to more low-income schools. So, get ready to make a difference.

TFI is a nationwide movement that aims to narrow the educational gap in India by placing the country’s most outstanding college graduates and young professionals, of all academic majors and careers, in low-income schools to teach for two years. Currently, in its second year of operations, TFI has placed their first and second batch of over 200 Fellows in under-resourced English-medium, primary schools across Mumbai and Pune. Taking the ambitious movement forward, TFI will be moving to the nation’s capital, New Delhi in its third year of expansion for the 2011 Fellowship. By its fifth year, TFI aims to place hundreds of Fellows in the country’s top metropolitan cities and their surrounding rural areas.

It hit the state with a roadshow at IIT Kharagpur on Thursday. The TFI team will visit several colleges including St Xavier’s, Bethune, Jadavpur University, Indian Institute of Management (IIM C), IIT Kharagpur, Lady Brabourne, Loreto College, and Presidency College to seek Fellowship applicants from August 5-15. Students in their final-year and young professionals can apply for the two-year, full-time, paid TFI Fellowship. In the long run, the Fellows can become advocates of educational equity.

Shweta Gupta, who joined the movement as a Fellow last year, is excited about her assignment. “It let me fulfil a long-cherished dream to do something for underprivileged children, “said the IIM Calcutta student.

Those who join will be trained in innovative teaching methods and leadership skills in order to help bridge the student achievement gap. After two years, the Fellows will be supported by Teach For India in their search for corporate and social sector jobs, to work in the government, or to join higher educational institutions. The model is to support them as they continue to work as advocates for educational equity.

Application form is online at http://www.teachforindia.org. The application deadlines are: October 10, (first deadline), November 28 (second deadline) and January 9 (third deadline).

Contact: apply@teachforindia.org, +91 22 2518 5821, 2518 5823, 6453 0040

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Deepak Tiwari from Vaibhav and Fiona’s class-Divine Child High School, Mumbai will be at the awards Ceremony tonight (Thursday March 25th) and present the man of the match trophy along with Mrs Nita Ambani . They will talk briefly about Teach For India and the impact we have made (and continue to make) in our classrooms.

Match:  Mumbai vs  Chennai

IPL 2010, 21st Match, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai

Live action Starts from : 14:30 GMT (20:00 IST)

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By Shivangi Narayan on 15 February 2010 on http://www.pagalguy.com/
in 

We all have been mildly aware of the fact that an increasing number of MBA graduates are choosing to work for the non-profit sector, either as entrepreneurs or employees of organizations driven more by the need for social good and not commercial profit. We came across one such rather unique and refreshing instance of a venture that has employed graduates from some of the better-known business schools as primary school teachers at government schools in low-income group areas. At Teach For India, watching MBA graduates apply their management skills to teach a class of third-graders can make you question stereotypical notions about products of business schools.

A bunch of MBAs have taken to teaching through an organization known as Teach For India or TFI, a ‘movement’ (based on a similar movement in the USA called Teach For America, and not to be confused with the Times Group’s Teach India) to harness people who in future, are likely to rise up to become leaders in their domain and hence will be able to help improve the state of primary education in India by influencing those around them. Started by Shaheen Mistry in 2006, TFI has adopted a number of government schools in the Mumbai and Pune area and is empowering them with the promise of highly-qualified, young and energetic teachers, known in TFI-ese as ‘fellows’.

english investment strategies in a class

The TFI website reads, “Teach For India recruits the most outstanding college graduates and young professionals to teach in low-income schools for two years. Fellows go through a rigorous selection process in which TFI evaluates them for academic excellence, demonstrated leadership, a commitment to the community, critical thinking and perseverance, among other qualities.”

The fellows are hired for a two-year fulltime fellowship in teaching where they teach kids up-till the third standard in the many low-level schools of the society. At the end of two years, they are expected to have a grasp over the education scene in India (or the lack of it, some might say) and work further towards improving it. The National Manager for fellowship recruitment, Shveta Raina says, “For long-term impact, we need people who are likely to make it to corporate CEO roles, to high levels of leadership in the government, or to influential positions in the education and social sectors, so that they can change the system and transform education in this nation.” Many TFI fellows are on a sabbatical from their fulltime jobs in a corporate and are often assured re-employment at the end of the fellowship. As TFI fellows, they receive a salary that is enough for a respectable sustenance.

Although all fellows receive basic training in teaching, they are free to experiment and improvise once they are inside the classroom, making for a number of creative teaching methods in TFI-adopted schools. For instance Ashish Bansal, an MBA from the KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai, who joined TFI right after he graduated from b-school, has a ‘big goal’ for his class and ’secondary goals’ that lead to the big goal. The ‘big goal’ is a book, which the students wthreeill write and present at the end of the program. Knowledge of say, English grammar, which is essential for writing a book, will become the ’secondary goal’.

Bansal draws a parallel between his work and financial investment. The low-income locality in which he teaches, parents would rather send their kids to work than to school. He thus considers having regular meetings with parents and providing updates about their children’s progress in class as investment. When students come to school regularly and with a packed lunch box, he counts the success as his return on investment.

The idea at TFI is, that after two years of teaching experience, a fellow will become a leader, with his class of 20-30 third graders as his organization. The teacher has to lead the students (his organization) towards a goal and therefore, every minute is an earning opportunity.

For students, Bansal has created role models such as Lal Bahadur Shastri and APJ Abdul Kalam whose stories of success despite their modest backgrounds inspire the students to see their immediate situation in school as something constructive that will lead to a better life.

Siddharth Agarwal, another fellow at TFI and an MBA from SP Jain Center of Management, Dubai & Singapore works on a slightly different principle though. He treats his students as his customers and applies his knowledge of ‘customer centricity’ to bring the best out of them. His knowledge of business acumen helps him make decisions for his class that make learning more profitable.

Veena Verma, HR Manager at Godrej, who is on a sabbatical to work for TFI and is an MBA from Symbiosis Center of Management and Human Resource Development (SCMHRD), Pune considers students as a part of an organization and uses her HR and Organizational Behaviour skills to understand and thus, work with them

Not all TFI fellows are MBAs, though. Nor is being an MBA a prerequisite to become a TFI fellow. Take for instance Girish Sharma and Vipul Shaha, both of whom graduated with BBA from the Symbiosis University are making use of what they learned during BBA for teaching. For example, According to Sharma, the Japanese ‘5S system’ which defines cleanliness, efficiency and discipline standards can be as much applied in a class as in a company. For Shaha, critical thinking helps him find tackle daily situations in the class and data tracking helps him use the student data effectively.

TFI might be a great opportunity for a lot of you who wish to break into the non-profit education sector but aren’t quite sure how to. Their Admissions webpage details how they recruit, in case you are interested.

Note: According to the Teach For India website, applications for the 2010 Fellowship are now closed. Those interested in the 2011 Fellowship can e-mail apply@teachforindia.org with their questions.

http://www.pagalguy.com/2010/02/teach-for-india-using-your-mba-to-fix-primary-education/

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By: Alisha Coelho ()    Date: 2010-01-13

For most of us, Milind Nagda’s current job would be pale in comparison to the six-figure cushy one he had with AMD.

After spending six years in Texas with the processor giant, Nagda is today a full-time primary school teacher at Shindewadi Municipal School in Dadar. Nagda is just one of the fellows of NGO Teach For India’s eponymous two-year fellowship programme.

“The other day, a parent told me that their child was the only one who could string a sentence together in English in his housing society. I’m teaching them a life skill,” said Nagda. When he started seven months ago, 72 per cent of Nagda’s  class couldn’t pronounce three letter words, but now 93 per cent of them can read.

The NGO’s list of 87 fellows boasts of professionals from Godrej, Mahindra & Mahindra and ICICI.

This year, they have received over 2,400 applications and expect to get over 3,000 by January 17 (last date for submission) for 150 positions.

But there are challenges. “We have to train first-time teachers on dealing with regular teachers barging into their classroom or ensuring the children get enough sleep,” said Shaheen Mistri, the organisation’s CEO.

Getting parents to let their children participate in the programme is another hurdle. Shveta Raina, who handles recruitment, said, “They’re worried about what will happen to their children after the programme is over.

My parents were worried too, when I left New York to join the programme, but now they see that this is opened many doors for me.”

The NGO hopes that its 16,400 fellows will impact 7 lakh students and 3000 schools by 2020.

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POWER OF ONE:

Shaheen Mistri always knew that the best gift a poor child could be given was education. Shes done just that from 60 centres and six municipal schools in Mumbai and Pune

ANAHITA MUKHERJI TIMES NEWS NETWORK


SHAHEEN MISTRI MUMBAI

My second centre was in a room under the staircase of the boys hostel at St Xaviers College

In the summer of 1989, Shaheen Mistri, just 18 then, watched as street urchins with bright eyes pounded on car windows at a traffic light, holding out their palms for a coin, or a crumb, only to be swatted like flies by the rush of people both irritable and impatient . Her heart went out to them, and in one swift roll-down of the windowpane, Shaheen had let the kids into her life.
Then a first-year student at a college in America, Shaheen had lived abroad all her life and was in Mumbai on a vacation. The poverty she saw on the streets of Maximum City moved her so much that she decided to stay back in India to do her bit.
Shaheen dived headlong into the slums of Mumbai and founded Akanksha, now one of urban Indias most popular NGOs with an army of volunteers teaching underprivileged kids at over 60 centres in Mumbai and Pune. Akanksha also runs six municipal schools in the two cities. We want to develop them as model schools for government bodies as well as NGOs to emulate, says Shaheen.
At the heart of Akankshas success lies Shaheens infectious, childlike enthusiasm coupled with innate resourcefulness. I had never visited a slum, so I simply marched into one at Cuffe Parade, and instantly connected with a girl my age, although she didnt know any English and I barely spoke a word of Hindi, she says. Shaheen would visit her every day after college. She picked up a smattering of Hindi from the slum kids, and began teaching them English.
Its here that Shaheen learnt how unfair the world was. I would walk into a home and see a child born one day, only to return a couple of days later and find that the child had died of some preventable disease like diarrhoea, she says. I found this unacceptable.
Soon she felt the kids needed more than just English classes. They would hang around doing nothing all day. They needed to see what a classroom looked like.
And so began Shaheens long search for a place where she could start her first centre . I approached several school principals and asked them whether I could use one of their classrooms, after hours. But almost all of them refused, she says, adding that finally she hit bulls eye at Holy Name High School, Colaba.
Her second centre was in a room under the staircase of the boys hostel at St Xaviers College. Shaheen would go from class to class with hand-painted posters recruiting students for Akanksha. In the beginning, most volunteers were students of St Xaviers . Two decades later, Shaheen has used the same enthusiasm to motivate college students and young professionals to join the Teach For India programme, which has seen a hundred young people devote two years of their lives for the mission.
The transition from Akanksha to Teach For India was no easy task. It was really hard to leave Akanksha, she says. I was able to do it only because I felt I was giving young people the opportunity to work directly with kids and to understand that eliminating poverty was the way to begin a huge movement towards eliminating inequity . Every child needs to be given an excellent education.

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