SRIDHAR RAJAGOPALAN (MD & co-founder of Educational Initiatives, B.Tech IIT-M, PGDM IIM-A)
We have attempted many things in EI in our ongoing 14 year journey. Fortunately many have been successful and quite a few have received wide recognition. Yet, for me, the work we are attempting to do in the Mindspark Centres is the most important, the most challenging and I feel, will be the most rewarding.
EI stands for 'making a significant positive difference' and 'working systematically and deeply to find a solution'. The Mindspark Centres beautifully marry these 2 philosophies. If we succeed, we would have found a way to solve the challenge of quality education to the poorest in India - at scale. That itself makes the challenge worth attempting.
The learnings have been many - one, that the problem is a more difficult and multi-dimensional one than may seem at first - it goes beyond learning, technology, poverty, social attitudes, commitment or governance issues - and indeed encompasses each of these and more. I understand the parents and children we deal with much better now, and actually not very different from individuals we deal with more often. Another learning has been that technology can probably replace a lot of teaching, but cannot - and need not - replace the human touch.
I have been touched by the efforts and commitments of all team members, though at times frustrated by our collective patience as we work to solve a problem we should probably not be very patient about solving. The one thing that motivates me to keep at it is just continuing to see that the problem still lies unsolved in front of us - something that will stay as long as that reality stays the same.
PRANAV KOTHARI (AVP Mindspark, B.Tech-Georgia Institute of Technology, MBA-Harvard Business School)
I decided to start this project because I felt very privileged to get a world class education and thought the best use of that is to help others get it by being the support system for them. I strongly feel that each of us is different, has different needs and hence need a uniquely tailored program that is the most efficient learning path. The kids who come to our Centre are no different, and hence through the use of a personalized adaptive learning program they are learning at the fastest possible speed and at the highest quality. I have learned that it is important for us to listen to each child, and to be patient - that no child is dumb and "can never learn" - we just need to find their strengths and build up from there.
I'm motivated by the size of the problem that we are trying to solve and the fact that this hasn't been done before. This is not just restricted to India but the world over and across most socio-economic classes of society. My enthusiasm has been built on the back of several experiences - ranging from the first time I helped a child hold a mouse, to quietly observing a child's learning trajectory as she moved from measuring angles to drawing equilateral triangles to a child drawing a picture of what the Centres project means to him.
I have the pleasure of working with a wonderful team whose stories continue to inspire me to achieve the unthinkable. They are the ones who I draw my energy from and what pulls me out when I'm down and out. My vision for the Centres is that it spreads across the world adding a lot of value, causing a sea change in the way we think about education.
PRASID SREEPRAKASH (Project Manager, PGDM IIM-I)
In a country where more than 20 crore children do not finish 10th grade, the idea of children achieving significant learning gains with the help of an adaptive learning program is extremely powerful. This idea was what drew me towards this project. After my Teach For India Fellowship experience I have come to believe that children of all sections of society can learn given the right opportunities and support. It has also made me understand the critical role of education in opening opportunities for children when they grow up. Working on the ground in the communities where the Mindspark centres are located gives me a stronger insight into how the children and parents view their choices in education and also into how they make their decisions.
The centres team is led and run by highly motivated people who have chosen to work in this sector because of their personal beliefs and choices. The passion they show for their work in coming up with innovative ideas has been incredible. The children at the centres have a lot of fun as well with them along with the learning gains and it has been a great
ANURIMA CHATERJEE (Senior Centre Manager, MA - Development Studies TISS)
With my previous studies closely tied to the development sector, I have found that "education" has the potential to be a game-changer for the widespread economic disparity, social inequality and political disenfranchisement that exists today. However, most of the work in the education sector is highly input oriented and focussed largely on educational infrastructure rather than learning. Choosing to work with the Mindspark Centres came largely from a need to understand how education needn't just be a notional value-add for the masses but a real value-add for each person's access to freedom, social mobility, and greater opportunities.
My engagement with the Mindspark Centres started with extensive involvement with children and parents - their excitement, their expectations, their aspirations and their disappointments. The experience of starting and sustaining the Mindspark Centres has seen "trying" times for the team - trying to enrol, trying to retain, trying to teach, trying to assess - all leading to a collective effort of "trying to make a difference".
The project has been blessed with great leadership, diverse co-workers committed to a common cause and enthusiastic mentors from the community - all constantly striving to surpass any hurdle that comes our way. "We chose the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." With this conviction, the journey ahead - though challenging - seems infinitely exciting! Hoping to see this project grow into many centres, mainstream into the education system and impact policy changes in future...
RIMA ANAND (Educational Specialist, MSc. Biotechnology-MIM, PGD Bioinformatics-Jamia Hamdard)
My journey started with EI when the centres' project got incepted. It has been very adventurous so far both literally and metaphorically, off course a deeply satisfying experience put together. The thought behind the project in itself is so rich, enough for being charged up each day for little more of an effort, for a little more of sharing, for a little more of learning to make conceptually led quality education reach the marginalised communities in the country, this vision, this transcendent purpose has a far more impact driven satisfaction more than anything else.
Along with making learning happen with the use of technology, we are into understanding ourselves that how learning in itself takes place. What can be better intuitive cum rationalised ways, through which we comprehend a child's individualistic standing on varied skills and concepts, those s/he absorbs at his/her own pace and depth, building further a strong edifice through remediation at correct time. Technology can be far reaching in terms of providing the child with best in terms of academic juice but still it can't transcend the human touch. It is heart-warming to see when kids sound so confident in their dealings with academics over a period of time, when they smile back atyou with utmost innocence, because they loved what and how they studied today and highly boosting when they are eagerly waiting for the learning for today to begin.
Being the academic head, it falls into my kitty to make sure every kid propels towards learning. In our efforts to make a child's each day at centre an exciting, fruitful and rewarding affair, how much important it is to connect with them at all levels from in centre to out centre periphery, to help kids and their parents understand the weak links in the performance graph and how to strengthen them moving forward. Exposing kids with all forms of educational content from books, to Mindspark on computer to learning tools on walls to hands on activities, making it a beautiful blended educational experience, is a very creative and satisfying task. I learned how difficult it is to cater to wide ranging needs of each child, and also among children but after have picked up the challenge, it is more important to make sure that facilitators are well equipped and well prepared to satisfy all sorts of academic assistance. I understood how important it is to work in synergy with a very well informed and well-coordinated structure of working. After all, every step taken, every move made is to make children have better than the best education. For which, a collaborative and close knitted back up is required, for which I am immensely thankful and grateful in totality.
Hence, what I look forward to every day at work is a list of 7 tasks, each equally enduring as exciting.
- My job in addition to preparing highly interactive, activity driven, conceptually led and application based Maths lesson plans that can help as remediation for kids who have minimum of 2 to 3 years of learning gap but also researching and developing an effective plus impactful Hindi reading model which help kids pick up on their Hindi literacy levels both in terms of reading and writing.
- Review the Mindspark content stringently and suggesting changes based of student performance and student response. Design Maths and language ( Hindi and English) Diagnostic tests, for bucketing kids, into their individualistic levels of knowledge and weaker areas.
- Helping in designing system reports for better data representation and feedback to parents.
- Training the Centre staffs in executing the lesson plans most interactively, with right approach systematically and closely monitoring kids, while doing Mindspark.
- Making elaborated teaching module to fix a kink in the learning pedagogy.
- Helping in designing stem reports for better data representation and feedback to parents.
- Building up on workable, potent and learning oriented culture in the centres by introducing academically rich systems, ensuring learning is happening at all levels and at all times. Performance oriented detailed data analysis, to keep a regular interval progress check of all the kids.
- Extensive research on the Hindi language skills which includes early and middle grade level reading & writing skill acquisition.
- Clubbing the edtech component to the best techniques, to provide appropriate customized content which works at child's own level & pace of learning.
- Inception of Lending library with documented standardized process which is replicable and technologically driven.
I love the feel which speaks to me "I am making a difference".
ABHINAV BHATNAGAR (Senior Centre Manager, B. Tech- Mechanical Engineering)
Being an Engineer, My dreams were like the millions of my kind, machines, work floor, outputs targets etc. I was walking on a similar track , working where I was supposed to..
Suddenly an accident happened, I was in bed for 3 months- browsing the internet, reading about topics like Education, problems faced by low income group to get education, revolution in Education by technology based tools, philanthropy etc. etc.
Then one day while I was still in recovering process, I came across EI's blog about Mindspark centre, an article saying 'Harvard graduate returns " swadesh" on a mission', It talked about Pranav Kothari, a Mechanical Engineer from Georgia Institute of Technology and M.B.A from H.B.S, who started contributing to this project supporting the education of kids who belong to weaker sections of society, under the roof of E.I.
So, started reading about what we do, how we do and just in few days... I Became a part of this wonderful initiative. I'v completed my one year with this project now, I feel lucky that I met with an accident last year and got a chance to be a part of this project.
Walking around in the slums of Govindpuri, I talk to people about their problems, how they spare time for studies after day to day chores from 'paani ke tank ki line' to 'shauchalya ki bheed'.
But what motivates me is dedication of parents to give education to their kids and their common liner when they talk about education- "Jo hume nahi mila, hum chahte hain, humare bachcho ko zaroor mile'.
There is no cubical to work, No air conditioned rooms, just fans in hot summers but the smiles of kids, when they joyfully greet while coming in and going back is enough to fill all the missing gaps in our lives.
Yes, they are learning,they are grooming, under one roof they feel united..
I feel like a parent of hundreds of kids and it feels great to see change happening in front of my eyes...
Change from illiteracy to literacy..
Change from not being able to write your name to writing poems..
Change from not being able to read to reading all the sign boards on your way to grandmother's house...
SMITA BARDHAN (Centre Manager,MBA-Finance and HR)
After 1.5 years experience in Livelihood ,I understood that without good education we can’t fantasise a sustainable livelihood for every Indian because EDUCATION is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. So I decided to come to this sector. I really want to deliver some good things to the society
After I joined MINDSPARK centre, I realized that this is the platform where I can exchange my ideas. I got the opportunity to enhance my skill. Before I joined EI ,I was always afraid that whether I have the managerial abilities or not. But as a Centre Manager when lots of responsibilities came to me I realized my real potential.
With Kids and spending your whole days with kids is really a tremendous experience for me. I feel happy when I deliver something to kids and they use it. I feel awesome that I am also contributing something to change the world. I believe that if I able to educate one kid I can solve five problems :- change the world,make him/her a better person, reach potential, eliminate fears, support family
After interact with parents, community and kids, I got to know about their hundred of problems like water, lack of hygiene and sanitation problem, no proper school but still parents are so much worry about their kids education. They work hard for earn money so they can secure their future. Through this project we can bring changes to the community.
RUCHI CHAUDHARY (Centre Manager,B.Tech-Electronics and Communication)
After completing engineering in 2013 it was just a random decision to be a part of this organisation.Thoughts like "being an engineer entering into education sector will be a bad decision" were spinning in my head.With lots of confusion, questions and ideas I came for an interview.
That interview fully changed the idea or system of education that I had. Education is not a copy/paste, its a process of sharing what I have learnt and I can directly see the impact on the lives of student that you teach.Through this project I can see the impact not only on 50-60 kids but on hundreds and thousands.
Technology is the ultimate cloud for students and teaching them through technology is something they want to learn, they want to master. Students really want to learn through this adaptive learning program, it makes them excited about coming to center. Mindspark is teaching students from all ages and backgrounds.
Being a part of this project is one of the most rewarding,fulfilling and yet challenging career for me.Here I have learn a lot and still on a journey of learning and sharing that I will learn.
APURWA RAGHUVANSHI (Centre Manager,B.Tech-Electrical and Electronics)
I graduated as an engineer and working few months with same ,I was not very much in love with what I was doing then and was wandering to different places and meeting people to know and realize what will draw my attention and got a chance to visit Mindspark centre.
It was the first time I was walking through the community and was talking to people about their issues and telling them the importance of Education ,back at Mindspark Centre,I was thrilled to experience so many smiles and chirping tots altogether.
Being at centre ,I can literally say that there are numerous and variable experiences that we encounter each day , filled with innocence , parents psychology and community exposure that comes in hand with the task of building knowledge bridge between the learning and understanding level of the children, that we are walking on.
Education is a field ,whose exposure to kids will be there for their lifetime and it will add to both their moral values and their educational prospect. I believe that in today’s scenario , through education we can bring a change in child’s psychology irrespective of the place they live in or rather their surroundings and help them to become a better citizens of tomorrow and nurture their people and community ,filling up the gap which is hindering their development and proper living The best thing with Mindspark project which adhere me with this project is the individual and adaptive learning path it provide to each child and through this the scalability of education is multiplied in association with efficiency.
It’s a pleasure and self satisfying work and means more than a job to me , given me a direction for my future endeavours and learning path.