Teach for India: ‘Taking matters into their own hands’ has never been more accurate
By: Pritika Gupta (Warning: The political edge of this article is highly questionable, if not invisible. But this article is from the heart and if you think about it, wouldn’t politics also be better that way?)
If you’ve spent your whole life in Mumbai (just as I have), it is rather difficult to not marvel at the rate at which this city has developed, with its marginal growth increasing with every passing year. While Corporate India attempts to merge and co-ordinate (or perhaps even compete) with their Wall Street counter parts, it is often easy to overlook the efforts of social enterprises to implement Western policies and programs that have proved to be exponentially successful in a country where growth is more than just a number. Case in point: Teach for India.
Teach for India (TFI), based on ‘Teach for America’, is slowly transforming the state of affairs of recent Indian- American college graduates. These are specifically students that are taking a couple steps back from the golden roads leading to desired, mainstream professional goals, to look at the bigger picture that is their lives. In doing so, they find a niche to fit in their desire to explore a different road (and lifestyle), if even for just two years. Perhaps this article is a little biased. Scratch that, this article is heavily biased. If anything, I am writing it whilst planning to perhaps join TFI one day. But more importantly this article is a testament to the change that a younger demographic (550 million under the age of 25) can bring for a lesser-developed country like India.
Eight million Indian children never go to school. Of those who do, only 58% complete primary school and 42% drop out after the fifth grade. Expenditure on education by the Indian Government has never crossed 4.5% of the Indian budget and the main reason that the percentage spent should be higher is because of the degree to which government subsidies are necessary to provide an impetus to families in a lower income group (while other issues such as under-developed infrastructure and lack of public transport in these areas is indeed an issue, the cost of education itself is mostly a deterrent to parents sending their children to school). A thorough primary education is imperative to incentivize students to continue with secondary education. A World Bank report states that “secondary education, which plays an important role in building up a skilled workforce, gets 30% of the spending” and is indeed dwindling since there is no upward progression in the education sphere. A long with the efforts that Indian Education Portfolio continues to make, TFI is helping to take on the responsibility of widespread enrolment, under the leadership of Shaheen Mistri. The movement and theories of change that were started and put forth in 2006 eventually took form in 2008. Within this period a twelve week study was launched by McKinsey & Company to determine the feasibility of implementing this model in India and the scale to which it would be effective within the Indian system of education. The study concluded favourably and in 2009 the first cohort of fellows were placed in municipal schools in Mumbai and Pune.
At its core, this organization aims to end educational inequity in India. While gender inequalities remain to be an issue because of certain social outlooks in backward areas, it is possible that these will present themselves as less of a reason to stall schooling in the event that a thorough education appears as a steady trend. Thus, by reducing educational inequality, TFI also hopes to alleviate other significant disparities in the country, such as gender inequality TFI’s motto is ‘one day all children will have an excellent education’ and as it stands today, these children are provided this education by students that were fortunate enough to receive an all-round education themselves.
Tanya Arora, the international recruitment chair, explains TFI’s motto: “As a country we can’t reach our potential until every child reaches their potential.” For the year 2009-2010 there were 6,500 students in TFI classrooms, which has now grown to 16,216 for the academic year 2012-2012. Teach for India is a young organization, but a promising one nonetheless. It is built on the better part of frustration and trust, which respectively stem from blatant educational inadequacies and the bonds which form when small steps make a big difference. Day by day, TFI is showing itself to be a place where, as said by Ankana Sheth, “For every good day, there are one hundred and fifty difficult days. There are days when a kid finally learns that eleven times eleven is one hundred and twenty one, and I know it’s all been worth it.”
Pritika Gupta serves as the Associate Editor of EJIA and is also Teach for India's Campus ambassador as of this fall. Please get in touch with her if you are interested in volunteering or working for TFI. For more information, check out www.teachforindia.org.
The Times of India, "Secondary education lagging behind, says World Bank study," 7 October 2009, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-10-07/india/28104253_1_secondary-education-rashtriya-madhyamik-shiksha-abhiyan-higher-education.
Deshpande, Ajay, and Sayan Mitra, "Primary Education in India: Key Problems," MIT India Reading Group, 18 June 2006, http://www.dise.in/Downloads/Use%20of%20Dise%20Data/Ajay%20Deshpande,Sayan%20Mitra.pdf
Teach for India, "Teach for India," 2012, http://www.teachforindia.org/.