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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kiran Sethi's talk during Ideafest at IIM Ahmedabad

Kiran Sethi may be better known as Geet Sethi's better half, but she is a renowned educationist in her own right, who also has given a TED talk on  the subject of making children believe that they can make a difference. She has leveraged her degree in design from NID(Ahmedabad)-India's premier design school-to design a school and curriculum that makes a difference. I attended the talk expecting that something new would be there, and I was not disappointed. Below are some key takeaways from the talk.
  1. She walks the talk:-A 6yr old student of her(the daughter of an IIM faculty member) was also attending the talk. So Kiran spoke to her for quite some time, and then gave her the bouquet as well as her momento to play with, which touched me-that level of sensitivity for the kid's likes. 
  2. The power of observation:-Its human patterns that create a problem but we never pause to observe them . So we solve the wrong problems and wonder why change never happens. Riverside is like the lab school, where the teachers see the practice after learning the theory
  3. The Power of sharing:-She deplored the practice of top educational institutions not sharing their best practices(that is how knowledge is created and shared), and intends to put her own learnings on open source platforms for sharing
  4. How NID helped her:-NID helped convince her that even her opinion mattered, and she also learnt that a story needed to be TOLD rather than SOLD. 
  5. Do Good and do well:-This is her mantra for the school, and the focus of her curriculum. She aims at teaching empathy/excellence/engagement beyond the typical maths/science/literature. 
  6. Bringing change:- We are quick to change our minds but when we persist with an idea long enough, then change happens
  7. The power of student creativity-business plan for icecream:-A team of students built an entire marketing plan including pricing/promotion for a Christmas launch of an icrecream in Dec11 at Ahmedabad, which was a hit. The press release here details it(http://www.schoolriverside.com/sidenode.aspx?&sidenode=13) but what is impressive is the fact that even bschool students would have been proud of this product launch! 
  8. Scaling up:-She claims that this not only works in small schools(teacher/student ratio of 7) but also bigger schools of even 50:1 ratios and all. The rationale is that best practices can be replicated. But given the dismal Indian education scene, I'm a bit sceptical on that. 
  9. Education focus:-She noticed a shift in dialogue/debate shifting from ensuring access to schools; to quality; and then to retention(will they stay in school for 15yrs). Also, going by the trend of top/key jobs, if we continue focusing content rather than skills, then are we preparing children for jobs that don’t exist? Education should teach how to navigate life AND how to shape it, and influence it.
  10. Diversity of models:- She acknowledges that India needs multiple diverse models ASAP, not only that of Riverside. 
  11. Teachers:-She feels that teachers should also spend professional development time. Of course, IMO, that would take away the cushy perception of teaching, so that meets with resistance. Still, that is important as an idea since every other profession has it, so why not teaching


  1. I visited Riverside during my Intern at IIMA. Students love her so much, just like their mothers. Every part of school was really amazing.

  2. The best part while Riverside visit was to see how well they incorporate practical learning in their curriculum.