This Engineer-Turned-Educator Is Helping Teachers Teach Better
“The future of our country lies in the hands of not some, but all of our children. We have to secure their future,” says Gaurav Singh, Founder and CEO of 3.2.1 Foundation at the Echoing Green Fellowship award ceremony.
Gaurav Singh is an engineer by education who worked for Accenture before becoming the first Teach For India Fellow in its founding batch. He was then selected for the first Global batch of the Fisher Fellowship with the KIPP schools in the US. He travelled for a year, including to countries like Finland, China, UK, to learn the best International practices in education. He started 3.2.1 Education Foundation in 2012 and was awarded the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship and Echoing Green fellowship in 2013 for his work.
An inspiring journey
It was 7 years ago, in the year 2010, when Gaurav Singh was in the second year of the Teach For India (TFI) fellowship; he had 3 big ideas that inspired the core of his being.
First, there were a lot of best practices from research, experts which were not spreading but were stuck in journals and academic papers. Gaurav realised that there would be so much possible if someone is able to take all the research, apply it and create proof points. He aspired to create powerful examples so that the educators also become motivated and think that ‘I shall also try it.’
Second, he felt that the impact of creating examples and best practices is not enough. There is a need for scalable examples, scalable tools and programmes. This had been in his mind from the design phase itself.
Thirdly, the vision of a model workplace, where people who are looking for purpose, motivation and engagement come together with the intent of putting together the best practices and scalable programmes led him to start 3.2.1 Foundation in early 2012.
“The bird in 3.2.1 Foundation’s logo is a golden bird because I believe that by making a meaningful impact in education, India is once again going to become a golden bird,” says Gaurav Singh.
The problem that Gaurav is trying to solve is brobdingnagian in nature and it requires not just a shift in mindsets but a cultural shift of the country as whole which makes the mission of his organisation equally noble.
Firstly, there are millions of teachers currently in school and millions enter every year. Most of them do not have access to the latest pedagogy and the best practices that their students they deserve.
Secondly, there is no access to a community of which teachers can be a part of, where they can support, learn, grow and share their journeys with each other.
Lastly, the teachers do not have access to high quality coaching and mentoring which reduces the time taken for being effective.
For the cause of teachers
Gaurav believes that there is no point in blame game and instead the educators should focus on understanding how hard the job of a teacher is. He adds with a smile that those who have been teachers, including himself know about the demands and rigour of that job. What pains him the most is that in spite of that they are not given the respect they deserve and the training and support they need to be effective.
When asked why he did what he did, he explains that his organisation wants to bring back the respect and prestige of the job of a teacher back and this is what they embody and live by in their programs.
The flagship programme that 3.2.1 Foundation runs is IGNITE.
When they start the programme in the school, the first thing that they do is they acknowledge each and every thing that the teachers have done well. They hold a massive celebration event in the school where they invite the teacher and their families to showcase the success of the teachers. This gives the teacher a great sense of pride.
The most profound underlying message that 3.2.1 Foundation is trying to send through the celebration is that the teachers have forgotten that they are nation builders. Through this celebration they strive to remind teachers about this.
The next part is the training. Gaurav mentions repeatedly that their teams have taken painstaking effort to read books thoroughly, gain an in-depth understanding of the training content and the research papers and present it to the teachers in a simple, super fun way.
He feels that the academic papers are read only by a handful of people and are then assigned to online closets or to bundle of books stacked away in libraries. What 3.2.1 Foundation has done is that they have simplified those academic papers, perused through it to attain depth and then present it in a super fun way. For starters, they have introduced the technique of KBC (a popular game show) to build the culture of revision. They also use the videos from Shah Rukh Khan’s movies for training teachers on Classroom Management.
As a result of these practices the initial inhibition goes away and the teachers have a lot of fun. Moreover, there is a lot of learning that takes place and adds to it, they get opportunities to do a lot of practice. And most significantly, it becomes a model for them on how to run congenial classrooms.
Gaurav asserts that the teachers haven’t experienced such safe, fun and rigorous learning environments. To add proof to his testimony above, at the end of the workshops the teachers come up themselves and say that they want to create such spaces for their students as well. A direct quote from a teacher; “How you have made me feel during the last 6 hours of training, I want to make my students feel that every day. Please help me do that” echoes the sentiments a lot of other teachers who are part of the Ignite programme as well.
There has been a lot of theory on motivation; however, 3.2.1 Foundation feels that if the teachers instead of being given mentoring and support are shouted at and abused, how do you expect them to stay motivated for such a rigorous and demanding job?
Post the training, 3.2.1 Foundation provides multiple observation and feedback with debrief to the teachers. The first thing they do is celebrate the successes, big or small that the teachers have been doing well post their workshops. A lot of times, the teacher has tears in her eyes, they remark that they have been teaching for many years (a lot of them have been teaching for more than 15 years) and no one have told them about what they are doing well and have never given a pat on their backs for a job well done.
They do this by taking videos of the teachers and analyze it together by diving into minute details. This idea has been incorporated from high quality sports coaching programs. They also discuss the areas of improvement and devise a plan of action to work on till the next visit.
All these efforts have made remarkable impact on the schools and students because of which 3.2.1 Foundation have been able to retain 94% of the schools they have engaged with.
The Principal of one of a school remarks in a humorous way that earlier, the serials were discussed in the staffrooms, not they are discussing classroom techniques and pedagogies.
The teacher satisfaction in those schools has risen by leaps and bounds which also came out in the independent assessment done by Grey Matters India. The chart below shows the comparison of the teacher Satisfaction of a 3.2.1 teacher and an average teacher.
3.2.1 Foundation has completed their engagement with 80 Schools impacting 1800 Educators and 72000 children now and they are going to scale it to 200 schools. They are also scaling up from teacher and Principal Workshops to Full School Programmes like working on School Clubs and Showcases. They are now designing programmes that will have impact across the school culture.
Talking about challenges, Gaurav Singh remarks that there is widespread disrespect and apathy towards the teachers. Their families do not respect them, the Principals do not want to invest in teachers as they feel that nothing is going to happen, the system has given up on them. He reflects that it takes a lot of effort to convince the system to invest in them.
The most arduous thing for them is to make the teachers believe that they are nation builders. This, he concludes, is what makes or breaks teacher’s motivation level.
Another challenge they are facing is that in the last year, they have quadrupled their schools. This makes the logistics very hard because of the unpredictability of the time table, events and therefore, bringing all the schools together becomes a task in itself. They engage with 1800 teachers and have a total of 27000 touch points throughout the year with them.
How we can help
The first appeal that Gaurav implores on is that we, as a nation, have to understand that if our teachers are not empowered, motivated, well trained and supported, our children won’t turn out to be confident, successful, well learnt and happy citizens.
Instead of focussing on blame, all of us should now focus on how, in whatever capacity, they can support teachers and bring back the respect and glory to their profession.
Secondly, 3.2.1 Foundation is a grant funded NGO. The programmes they provide to the schools are subsidised.
Over the next 4 years the plan is to impact 11,000 educators, 500 schools and 4,00,000 children.
Contact Gaurav on: [email protected]
Visit the website http://www.321-foundation.org/ for more information.
Written By – Aditya Minocha