" “Can we have teacher training move out from the realm of one-size-fits-all, to become need-based?. Instead of simply training the teachers can the Shikshan Mantri not first observe them and identify which skills they need help in? Why can’t the Shikshan Mantri then coach teachers to master those through a targeted interventions and feedback?” "Amrut Dhumal

“You can either have one great school or a whole lot of bad ones. If you want to scale, do fast-food, not education.”

We kept hearing this throughout our journey. Skeptics were convinced that as an organization grew, end delivery needed to be standardized and controlled by process – an assembly line with all its attendant controls. “Only then will the final outcome be what the leaders originally envisaged”, they said. But in our minds, we never wanted a system where decision making happened at the top and execution happened down the line.

We wanted creative collaboration – the magic of minds meeting and explosions of potential. We wanted the beauty of organized chaos, the flexibility to hit the ground running… over and over, the ability to replicate while still lean, and the capability to form and un-form structures as the need dictated.  So we thought “What about a network?”  With each node you add to your assembly line the chances of error increase, but in a network, each node contributes to learning. As you scale an assembly line, decision making goes further and further away from the user, but a network could ensure that decisions get made much closer to the ground with real feedback from the end user. Yes, the network seems like a much better analogy to create a sweeping change in the way this country learns.

And at the heart of this network is the Shikshan Mantris. Our Shikshan Mantris are our super heroes on the field -each leads a cluster of 5 schools. They identify training needs, they run operations, and they are mentors for the teachers and principals in their clusters. They are our feedback mechanism as well as the implementers of policy.  The Shikshan Mantri structure serves another vital purpose. It moves all the action out of our offices, and onto the ground. The Shikshan Mantris are catalysts.

We’ve seen the biggest impact of this structure (so far) on our teacher training systems.  This structure has also allowed us to completely rethink teacher training.  We have strong convictions regarding this. In order to become a better teacher, we know that the deliberate application and practise of ‘teacher’ skills goes a long way – empathy, patience, observation, analytical skills etc. And we also believe that the same way our children become better learners when we create a custom learning path for them, teachers also become better at their vocation when trained in a custom manner.  We asked ourselves “Can we have teacher training move out from the realm of one-size-fits-all, to become need-based?. Instead of simply training the teachers can the Shikshan Mantri not first observe them and identify which skills they need help in? Why can’t the Shikshan Mantri then coach teachers to master those through a targeted interventions and feedback?”

As simple as this thought process may seem, this is a revolutionary concept in Indian education. This changes the paradigm of training and will finally for once push the focus on to the learner instead of the conductor of the training.

We decided to apply this system. Operationally, how this works is that we provide the Shikshan Mantris central support only. These range from culture and development, to hard academic skills like specific curriculum handling, reading and writing etc. The modules are a mix of self-reading, online courses, academic assessment and classroom training. We have also created a teacher assessment tool – A teacher rubric that measures and assess teacher skills much like the development diary does for children.

With a Shikshan Mantri forming the synapse of all teacher training functions – here’s how our new teacher training model works. At the center of operations we have two big tools – the training content system, and the assessment rubric

Using these tools, the Shikshan Mantri follows an ideal loop system to implement teacher training within his/her cluster. By focusing on student learning outcomes she aligns her training to the needs of the child She observes both teacher as well as student development, she identifies areas of development for specific teachers in her cluster. She implements training in those areas, using the plug and play modules. She provides feedback to the design team who keep adding to the repository. She measures improvement/performance using the teacher rubric, hence completing the cycle.

We hope to implement this ideal loop in all other areas of operation soon – delivery of product, operations, admissions, turnover and growth of each cluster. Eventually, our Shikshan Mantris must become entrepreneurs, responsible for what the company is, at a cluster level. We know today that the magic that is created by having innovators & ideators at the intersection of teachers, head-office, parents and students is something else all together, and that’s the magic we’re hoping to create and harness across the length and breadth of the company. We’re prototyping with a few clusters and hope to get the results back soon.

What do you think? Email me at amrut@wunderbarkids.com to let us know.