Teach For India
An innovative initiative to ensure quality education for every child in India
In 2006, 17 years after starting the Akanksha Foundation, Shaheen Mistri felt compelled to address the issue of educational inequity at large scale. As she thought through the solution, she believed that the answer lay in a people's movement that would come together to provide an excellent education to every child in India.
In 2007, Shaheen met with Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America and was struck by the idea of leadership being at the core of the solution, and thus, Teach For India was born. In 2009, the organisation welcomed its first cohort to the fellowship. The 87 'niners' formed the beginning of what Shaheen hoped would become a nationwide movement of diverse leaders. Two years later, the niners graduated from the fellowship and became the first cohort in their alumni movement. Through their work as alumni, the hope was that they would become lifelong leaders for educational equity. This first cohort went into teaching, teachers' training, school leadership, and government policy. Today, Teach For India has 900 plus fellows working relentlessly to change the lives of students, across seven cities and 3,400 plus alumni who are collectively fuelling the larger movement.
The Teach For India Fellowship is an opportunity for India's brightest and most promising youth, from the nation's best universities and workplaces, to serve as full-time teachers to children from low-income communities in under-resourced schools (Public, Private and PPP). Through two years of teaching and working with key education stakeholders, fellows are exposed to the grassroot realities of Indian education system and cultivate the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed to attain positions of leadership in and beyond education.
The organisation is committed to ensuring excellent learning outcomes and a safe learning environment for all children, and has been working with Local, State and the Central Government for sustainable impact through public-private partnership projects. They have created long-term partnerships in Ahmedabad to work in government schools with a four-year MoU; in Bengaluru, their online teacher training portal, Firki, is supporting government teachers' training throughout the state of Karnataka, and the Teach For India team in Chennai is directly working with headmasters and teachers on capacity building programs while fellows intern with the Education Department and the Greater Chennai Police. Similarly, the Delhi Government has also been a huge supporter of the Teach For India movement. In addition to numerous alumni working at leadership positions, they are working with the city team directly to support the formulation of a Child Protection Policy with the DCPCR, are designing the Deshbhakti Curriculum—an effort to build conscious future citizens through the exploration of the many facets underlying citizenship, pride, and services—and are running the Changemakers In Education (CMIE) Fellowship with the SCERT.
In Hyderabad, the organisation's strong relationship with the SCERT and Child Welfare Department has ensured the creation of safe learning spaces and support in case of child protection violations. The city team has also collaborated with the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society to create a chain of innovative democratic government schools. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, they have consistently collaborated with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to run an officer capacity-building programme called Guftagu Circles, which includes students' voices in government processes through the Student Advisory Council. This council has begun work to implement a city-wide and state-wide Child Protection Policy and Process. Across all cities, their alumni have taken up positions of influence in policy-making and implementation for wider impact programmes, most strongly seen in Pune, where in addition to the city operations team running a teacher training programme and opening up opportunities for fellows to intern with the Education Department, alumni are running networks of PPP schools and working with state policy design. Finally, Teach for India is also part of NITI Aayog's Voluntary Action Cell Education Sub-committee, to share learnings and voice for national policy.
Teach For India's alumni movement is a growing community that works towards educational equity at all levels of the system. Alumni start their own organisations or hold key positions of leadership, both within and beyond the education sector, enabling them to impact the lives of millions of children collectively. While their fellows support 32,000 children, their alumni are reaching 33 million children across India.
Teach for India's goal, quite simply, is to put every child on a different life path. The organisation measures the impact of progress to this goal at three-level — academic growth, values and mindsets, and exposure and access. Leadership is a central part of their impact assessment. They aim to develop student leaders who seek transformational change — both in themselves and in their classroom, school, and community—and use a number of metrics and assessment tools to measure their efforts. All of their students take biannual standardised assessments, developed in partnership with an external assessment company, to measure the progress on reading comprehension and Mathematics, using standardised rubrics and sample surveys. They also measure personal and non-academic growth that includes values, mindsets, exposure and access. In addition to internal assessments, Teach For India participates in longitudinal studies to measure the academic and non-academic effects of the fellowship over time.
They know that it's impossible to reach each and every child in India but it remains their goal to enable every child to attain an excellent education. So, how can they achieve it? How can they reach as many children as possible with the resources that they have? These questions are what led them to innovate and create Firki, TFIx and KER.
Firki is India's first open-source online teacher education portal— A world-class, blended learning program for teachers across India to use and transform their teaching methods.
A year-long incubation programme and lifelong learning circle for passionate entrepreneurs who want to adopt Teach For India's Fellowship model into their context, for both semi-urban and rural. TFIx is open to anyone who would like to apply.
KER (Kids Education Revolution) is a bold and ambitious collective of schools and educational organisations that are working towards reimagining education at scale and are driven by a profound belief in the power of student leadership.
It is the organisation's hope that with these innovations, they will be able to reach as many children as possible through as many people as possible.
Teach For India has demonstrated that good practices can not only be evolved for improving the quality of school education in the country, but they can also be scaled through public-private partnership in the true spirit of Nexus of Good.
Views expressed are personal