Beating Educational Odds in India: Tulika Verma Skypes with JCU Entrepreneurship Class

On October 24, 2018, Professor Silvia Pulino‘s BUS 305 Introduction to Entrepreneurship course hosted a Skype session with Tulika Verma, city director for Hyderabad at Teach for India. Tulika began with an overview of the current education crisis within India. She explained that, while 25% of the global workforce is going to be Indian by 2025, 47% of Indian students cannot read English, 75% of Indian high school graduates are not enrolled in college, 57% of Indian students cannot solve a simple division problem, and 67% of Indian students do not make it to grade ten.

These problems are intensified by the difficulties in identifying the causes. What is the causality chain? Is poverty leading to poor educational outcomes, or are poor educational outcomes leading to poverty?

Professor Silvia Pulino

Professor Silvia Pulino

These questions play out in a complex context, where the pursuit of teaching is not even considered as an aspirational career path, even though recent research points to a close connection between educational excellence and respect for the profession. There are also institutional barriers that restrict a school’s ability to implement better teaching practices: corporal punishment, ineffective metrics and lack of supplies are the norm in lower-income schools.

It would be easy to feel powerless in the face of such an overwhelming problem, but a growing cohort of dedicated educational pioneers believe change is possible. At Teach for India, the Indian chapter of Teach for All, they believe in “developing collective leadership to ensure all children have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.”

Their business model works through a two-step process. In the short-term, the business model focuses on a highly rigorous selection process that seeks out graduates with strong leadership skills. Once admitted to the program, they commit to a two-year fellowship; they receive training and are then placed in some of the most under-resourced schools. The second part of the business model includes the teachers’ post-fellowship trajectories. In the long-term, they remain engaged, supporting the growing community and advocating for change. The alumni work in various roles within the education sector, as teachers, teacher-trainers, school principals, curriculum designers, and education policy researchers. They also work in the environment surrounding and supporting the education sector as journalists, lawyers, health experts, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders. They all share the purpose to build a  movement for educational equity for all children in India.

Tulika concluded her presentation with a touching final anecdote. Students were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up; one little girl aged 9 answered: “I want to be like you.”

(Valerie Kozak)