In 2009,Teach for India (TFI) started its Pune and Mumbai operations aiming “to seek an innovative solution to end educational inequity in the country”. It’s a little early to assess the impact the programme has had on the low-income schools it provides staff to. But two graduates from the first (2009-11) batch have shown a glimpse of its potential to change the education sector.
Gaurav Singh spent a year of his fellowship in a low-income private school in Pune and the other in a municipal school in Mumbai. “I got to see how both systems work,and compare,” he says.
For six months after completing his fellowship,Singh travelled across the US on a Fisher fellowship. “I visited a number of schools and then spent the next six months doing the same in India,” he says.
With this experience,Singh started 3.2.1 School,a free,English-medium school in Crawford Market,in partnership with BMC.
“Four TFI alumni from the second batch – Nandita Shetty,Seema Kamble,Rohita Kilachand and Arnab Datta – joined me,and also a few non-TFI people,” says Singh. “Right now,we only have senior KG with 19 children,but plan to add a grade every year. Three-four years later,I’m looking to start a second school,and my dream is to have 100 schools in the country in 15 years.”
The curriculum at 3.2.1,according to Singh,will be “constructivist”. “This means kids construct their own knowledge through discovery,not rote. We will use games and songs to aid learning,and it will be thinking-based,where we’ll teach concepts rather than procedures. For example,we’ll try to get them to think about what exactly addition is before learning the process of adding numbers,” he says. “Though it will be English medium,we’ll also look to use their native languages.”
Ritesh Mishra,a chemical engineer,was also part of the 9-11 batch. His experience in teaching fourth-standard children in a PMC school in Aundh convinced him to stay in the education sector.
After spending a-year-and-a-half at an educational assessment company – where he worked on projects,including a study on board exam reform with the Gujarat state board and a status of teachers assessment with the Bihar government – Mishra started an organisation called Mantra.
“We are working on two projects. One is called the Knowledge Cafe. We have three-four centres in Bangalore,where children in the 7-14 age group can discuss different topics in a non-academic atmosphere over a glass of milk or hot chocolate and question. In most classrooms,children aren’t allowed to express themselves freely,” he says.
“The second project is a target programme,where we identify children with talent and connect them with mentors. For example,we had a painting competition,and selected four kids and connected them with a professor from Stanford.”