Jun 14, 2016
STIR education is an NGO working in India and Uganda to create a Teacher Changemaker Movement, an initiative aimed at improving education quality for the world’s poorest children. Sharath Jeevan, Founder & CEO, STIR Education, talks to OneWorld South Asia about the importance of rejuvenating the profession in developing countries. Excerpts from the interview:
OneWorld South Asia: What instigated you to start STIR Education?
Sharath Jeevan: India has about 80 lakh teachers and 24 crore children in its school system. We know teachers make the biggest difference to children’s education.
Yet, we often give up on our teachers and see them as the problem rather than the solution to the learning crisis in India. At STIR we are building a movement of teachers within the system who can improve learning for children.
OWSA: How did the idea of ‘Chalk Walk’ hit you?
Jeevan: We wanted the Chalk Walk to be a time for teachers to make a commitment to improve learning for children, and influence their peers and the wider teaching profession in the process.
We wanted the Chalk Walk to be a time for teachers to come together and reclaim their profession.
Having worked with 12,000 teachers and five lakh children, we thought this would be a good point. It will really bring to life the teacher-led movement we are building in India to improve learning, which is now across 15 Indian states, working closely in partnership with governments.
OWSA: Can you explain the concept in brief?
Jeevan: The Chalk Walk campaign aims at bringing a revolutionary change in the mindset and approach of not only the teachers but the students, parents and other community members towards teachers and the teaching profession.
The Teacher Changemaker Movement has 12000 active teachers across 12 states, participating in Chalk Walk to reclaim their classrooms and show the world that they, the teachers, are the people who shape the lives and learning of our children.
OWSA: Why do you think teachers generally lack motivation?
Jeevan: We think that there are many teachers already within the system who care deeply about their children. We want to shine a bright light on them and help them influence their peers in a positive way, so the overall motivation level is improved.
OWSA: How Chalk Walk campaign will impact at National and International level?
Jeevan: Other countries are facing very similar challenges and opportunities that are there in India. There are 250 million children around the world who are now enrolled in school but victims of the global learning crisis.
We hope it will serve as a positive demonstration nationally and internationally of how teachers can reaffirm their commitment to teaching in a positive way.
Much of the approaches and innovations we have found in India have already been expanded to East Africa, with strong support of governments there. We look to work with national and state governments to improve learning for over 30 lakh children over the next five years in India.
OWSA: How and whom are you targeting to raise funds for this campaign?
Jeevan: This is not a fundraising campaign at all - merely a way for teachers to raise awareness about the importance of their profession.
OWSA: What kind of support are you expecting from the Government?
Jeevan: The government has already been very supportive at national and state level and we are working closely with the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments to embed our approach into government structures and build supportive networks of officials and policymakers who can support teachers in their efforts to improve learning.
OWSA: Which are the states/countries you are currently working in?
Jeevan: We hope this programme will serve as a positive demonstration nationally and internationally of how teachers can reassure their commitment to teaching in a positive way.
We will be highlighting the effort in Delhi and in UP at major UN and international forums. With India being a catalyst for many efforts around teachers internationally, there is a lot of international learning that can be shared.
For example, much of the approaches and innovations we have found in India have already been expanded to East Africa, with strong support of governments there.
OWSA: What should be the focus areas to nurture more Teacher Changemakers in India?
Jeevan: We want to reach 90,000 teachers in India over next five years, with a focus on four states including Delhi and UP. The purpose is to impact learning for 25 lakh children by building thousands of Teacher Changemaker networks across the country.
These networks allow teachers to share innovations, and get experience of leading change and working with evidence based practices.
OWSA: How do you think this campaign will change or improve the scenario in the education system?
Jeevan: We hope it will help influence many more of our 80 lakh teachers in India to think differently about their pivotal role in shaping society -and to showcase a real example.