What if we found a way to create teachers into “Master Teachers”, a tool with which we could reach every students that wants to learn. What if we could find a way to help learners learn in the way that’s best suited to them and to make them thinkers not memorizers. These are some of the questions Jyoti Thyagarajan, a teacher for many decades and an optimist for even longer, asked herself. The idea gave birth to Meghshala Trust, in it’s own words, “a new platform that equips every teacher to supercharge their teaching potential.
Here’s our chat with the very vibrant Jyoti Thyagarajan of Meghsala Trust.
Q. What drew a nuclear physicist to the world of education?
Africa did! I was living the dew-eyed life that all late-20-year-olds live; a lovely husband, a long-lashed and curly-haired toddler son and a breakfast table that was built for long conversations. One idyllic day, my husband asked, “Shall we travel?” and I said, “Where does everyone else go”? He said, “America, I guess.” And I said, “Then, let’s go to Africa”! And so, we went to Zambia.
I was an IBM main-frame computer coder. Zambia had no main-frames. But what it did have was universities – and universities always had physics and mathematics courses – my mind operated in these two logic streams. So, education it was.
Q. When did you realize you wanted to move from working within an institution to creating something of your own?
Once I retired, I had no grading to do, no attendance registers and mark sheets to fill up. In the ensuing thinking space that suddenly developed in my monkey-brain, it dawned on me that the kids who need good teachers are always the last to get them. If not now, then when? If not me, then who?
Q. What is the idea behind Meghshala Trust and how does the platform work?
Meghshala Trust was built to up-skill government school-teachers. Given the size of the job, there is no way any country can cover the ground and build a complete cohort of teachers that can reach all these students, esp. those at the bottom of the pyramid. India has roughly 400 million students and these students need about 10 million teachers. It is an impossibility to train 10 million teachers in the time left to do it in. Apart from this, those 10 million teachers need at least 1 Lakh teacher trainers! Good luck with that!
Which is what gave birth to the idea of Meghshala Trust. The platform is built as a learning management system, but we ended up using it more as a content management system as we came to realize content management was much more appropriate for the task that we had shouldered.
Q. How old is Meghshala now and what are the key lessons you’d like to share with entrepreneurs in the education space?
Meghshala is 3.5 years old. We spent the first 1.5 years perfecting the solution. Later, we realized that the solution needed huge re-aligning and re-designing. The key lessons I would like to share with all entrepreneurs is that everything you learn and design for will fly out the door when you first step out on the field. So, wait till that happens till you begin to fix your solutions!
Q. What, to your mind, is the role technology has played in providing greater access to education?
Technology works as a great enabler and accelerator. In all honesty though, it does little else besides that (although a lyrical teacher can pick up any sort of file like the ones Meghshala builds and turn it into a wonderful lesson). But to get the files into the teacher’s hands, technology is as good as it gets. And the better the technology, better the speed and ease and delivery of the teaching- kits.
Q. A large number of philanthropic funds are now keen on investing in education at all levels, primary, secondary and higher education. What are the changes you’ve seen in the education landscape over the last few years?
I have a faint suspicion that philanthropic funds are getting easier to access. But I’m also acutely aware that there are lots and lots of NGOs that are engaged in education. And this, I believe, is a really good thing.
Q. Where do you want to see Meghshala reach over the next few years?
Worldwide! We are all about world domination!
Q.What is your message to individuals who want to get involved with education, in some way, for the lesser privileged?
I would say, COME ON! Let’s do it. I will help you in any way you want. We are dreamers and planners. We are collaborators. We are not competitors. And this is a job that needs doing, for you and me and the children of tomorrow.
Q. All the write-ups about you, highlight the fact that you are an idealist. Do you still identify as one? What fills you with hope?
Really? It is so obvious to everyone?! I am always filled with hope. And indeed, I would rather be an idealist than someone who drags herself through life, with cynical thoughts about the future.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to reach out to the Meghshala team or want to know more about their products and work, please visit them at: http://www.meghshala.com/