Teach for India is a programme that employs youngsters to teach in low-income schools to bridge the inequity in providing quality education. The author writes about her experience as a Fellow.

As I entered the final year of my B.A, planning my future course of action and filling up applications and shortlisting universities all over the world became top priority.

Teach For India had visited my college and presented the Fellowship programme. Since I couldn’t attend that, I decided to check their website (www.teachforindia.org).

What I read online interested me. The organisation aimed at eliminating educational inequity in the country. They offered a two-year-long fellowship, where one would teach full time in an under-resourced school.

I found that the fellowship would give me:

An opportunity to be a part of the movement which was trying to bridge the gap in education between regular and low-income schools.

A required pause in my academic pursuit that would help me decide what I wanted to study further.

Experience in field work.

A chance to be financially independent. I had worked with special children as part of NSS in college. I had also tutored the children of my chai-wala and the domestic help at my PG accommodation. The experience made me wonder at the huge discrepancy in our education system. I was curious to learn how the system functioned in reality and hoped the fellowship would provide me with some answers.

Stringent selection process

I submitted the application form online. In a couple of weeks I was invited to the TFI Assessment Centre, where I would present a lesson plan, participate in a group discussion, engage in a problem-solving activity and have a personal interview. I realised then that this was an extremely selective programme (with a seven per cent acceptance rate), and that they were looking for real excellence in their Fellows. Fellows were chosen from the top universities in the country such as Delhi University, IIMs, IITs etc. and also from high-performing employees of companies such as BCG, McKinsey, Deloitte, to name a few.

After my B.A final-year exams, I attended an intensive five-week, residential training capsule that Teach For India conducted in Pune. There, we were told about teaching methodologies, community relations, and leadership development, among other things.

We also taught in a low-income school as part of the training. As we underwent the course, we learnt where we would be placed (our preferences were asked in the application). I was placed in a municipal girls’ school in south Delhi. I had to teach 40 students of Class IV and would be with them through the two years of my Fellowship.

The south Delhi experience

I am halfway into my Fellowship, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have helped raise the reading, writing and comprehension abilities of my students. Apart from academics, Teach For India lays emphasis on all-round development of the children. There are plenty of extra-curricular activities such as music, dance, theatre, art and sports. The children have had a chance to move outside their community, meet new people and see new places.

As Fellows, we have to interact with the families of the students and ensure that the parents are involved in their children’s education.

In the second year of my Fellowship, I will engage in what is known as ‘Be the Change Project’ (BTCP).

This gives the Fellows the liberty to choose any area of development within their school or in the community, and work on improving it.

From having the school walls painted with visual aids and installing white boards in all classrooms, to setting up English learning centres for women in the community and building toilets, there are a range of projects Fellows have undertaken.

What next?

The Fellowship throws open various career opportunities such as teaching, curriculum designing and policy making, coordinating roles in the development and education sector, business development, consultancy with the Government, media, working with the Corporate Social Responsibility division of companies, etc. Many well-known universities also recognise this Fellowship. Teach For India alumni have gone on to set up their own schools and NGOs.

Approximately 60 per cent of alumni have continued their careers in the education sector in various capacities.

They have a strong alumni network, often collaborating with one another as they continue on the path towards educational equity. The deadline to apply for the 2015 batch of TFI is August 27. To know more, log on to www.teachforindia.org

The writer is Fellow at Teach For India (2013 cohort),

New Delhi