In a school in Delhi, children were given a slip of paper everyday with a new word written on it. They were asked to learn its meaning, spelling and usage, and then give the slip to their parents, who were to bring these slips to parent-teacher meetings. Those with fewer slips than school days in the term realised the effect that low attendance had on their children’s education. The school’s attendance consequently improved by up to 90% after introducing this ‘Tie up for learning’ initiative by STIR Education, a teacher-led movement that aims to harness the strength of teachers to transform the current education system in India.
“I can’t speak more highly of the professionalism, kindness and helpfulness of the iProbono team and their help in steering and shepherding the process. I would recommend iProbono unreservedly to other non-profits. There are so many legal issues that schools face, from land planning to registration with the Government. We hope to connect many of our schools with iProbono over the coming years.”
CEO, STIR education
As an iProbono member organisation, STIR has been connected to a number of lawyers who have helped implement their model and expand their reach:
- Clare Maurice of Maurice Turnor Gardner and Miranda Fisher, Legal Advisor to Kew Gardens, assisted STIR in the early stages with their incorporation;
- Noshir Dadrawala of Centre For Advancement of Philanthropy (CAP) India advised them on governance issues;
- Priti Deshpande of Krishnamurthy & Co. (K Law) reviewed their intellectual property rights;
- Tom Heerey, Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft India provided advice on agreements with partner NGOs.
According to Sharath Jeevan, CEO of STIR, the Indian Right to Education Act 2009, gave a strong impetus in improving basic school infrastructure and access with over 95% enrolment. However, recurring surveys indicate that reading and writing abilities of pupils have been dropping to alarming levels. “According to various surveys, more than 50% of grade 5 children across rural India achieve only grade 2 levels of math”, says Sharath.
Evidence suggests that committed, open-minded, capable teachers could make the single biggest difference in addressing this learning crisis. Sharath believes, “Teaching is not seen as a true profession with a pivotal role in shaping life-chances for all children, neither by teachers themselves nor society in general. There have been few efforts to understand how to motivate and empower teachers to teach adequately, and teach well. This is STIR’s core focus and reason for being.”
STIR’s model works in 3 steps:
- Reigniting teachers’ spark by recognising their existing efforts and networking them together to spread ideas;
- Connecting them to external support and resources to sustainably improve their practice;
- Eventually handing over ownership of the movement to teachers themselves.
Currently, around 4500 teachers are involved in the changemaker movement across India and Uganda, impacting learning for over 1,70,000 children. This model was piloted in 2012-13 across 264 schools in Delhi, where 300 teachers were engaged in sharing of micro-innovations. Using peer feedback and existing research, the 25 most promising micro-innovations were selected and consequently attracted 40 national-level partners including Pratham, Teach for India, Azim Premji Foundation and Bharti Foundation who have access to nearly 100,000 schools in India. This was furthered by 9 NGOs who adopted the model in schools across 8 Indian states. The Delhi Government also went on to implement the model in primary schools across the capital.
After assisting STIR, Tom Heerey of Microsoft said, “STIR is doing some great, innovative work, providing content and teacher empowerment modules for underserved parts of the country. I love the way they are using technology to help achieve this at scale. This aligns with what Microsoft does in the community to help technology empower young students. I hope I was able to share my perspectives from business and my knowledge and experience as a technology lawyer.”
Being put into contact with lawyers from Microsoft meant that STIR could develop clear partnership agreements, enabling them to work closely with partner NGOs – a key way to scale the model in India. In addition, they were able to create a legal framework where the model is embedded into their programmes, and the legal roles and responsibilities of both parties were clear.
For more information on STIR Education, go to www.stireducation.org.