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In August 2012, I moved back to India to go full time at Avanti Learning Centres. We’re a strange company in some ways. A largely offline, brick-and-mortar education company in times of .coms, .ins and mobile apps. We don’t lecture in classrooms, we don’t hand out notes to memorise and we encourage students to make a lot of noise in class. We’re also a bit crazy in our ambition – to dramatically re-imagine education and teaching at scale and allow passion to be the primary marker of a good teacher and not a long list of certifications and the belief that our product and our process will overcome barriers of language, boards and years of training in rote memorization.
Our mission: Every child in India should have access to a high-quality education no matter where they are and how much they can pay
Here’s a video that should show you more
To succeed in our mission, we’ll need tens of thousands of you to become teachers; love being teachers and stay with this profession for a long time. You’ll need to spend multiple years in small towns, learn to be patient and learn more than anything to be responsible for the futures of young children who are trusting you with the most important years of their lives. What I can promise you is that for many of you this will be the most important thing you do with your lives. It is for me. Here’s why.
Each child in my classroom depends on me. As adolescents, they may not show it. Many act out. But when you do this long enough and you know that deep down they’re all counting on you. When we first started teaching (and till this day) I am often insecure in class. Do I know enough? Did I give them the right advice? Was I too stern? Too soft?
Outside of my family, I’ve never felt so invested in any other relationship. In some ways, being a teacher means that your family life extends to your work, to your day-to-day. I spend over 50 hours a week working. I spend every one of those hours with my family.
“भैया आप इतना पढ़कर टीचर क्यों बन गए?”
This is the most challenging job I’ve ever had. Every batch of students has different needs, different circumstances and often different goals. As an engineer, I particularly enjoy thinking of a way to teach better, trying it in class and seeing it work (or fail spectacularly!). At Avanti, we’ve been fortunate to get to a point where something that works in class can be scaled to close to 2,000 students. In five years that number will be more than 200,000! It is incredibly hard to find a job where you can innovate every day.
Over 250M students (1 in 5 Indians) are currently enrolled in school. We are failing to give most of these students a reasonable education. As a teacher, I feel that I am part of finding at least a small part of the solution to one of the biggest unsolved challenges in the world.
There is no better way to understand our country than to teach its children. From Kupwara, India to Raghogarh, Guna to Bellary to Chhapra. From Hindi spoken a million different ways to the tiny nuances of culture, language, history, cuisine and dreams. I’ve learned so more than Math and Science in this time. When we first launched our centres in Delhi, parents who ran small businesses quizzed me more on the robustness of our business model than on the quality of our curriculum. When I travelled to Kashmir, I learned about the history of the conflict and the radically different perspectives just as much as I fell in love with Goshtaba, Tabak Maz and cracking soft walnuts by hand.
I have never worked with such inspiring people before. When Krishna and I started Avanti, we took a big bet on the fact that smart, capable young people would come join us in our work. In the years since, we’ve been fortunate that so many ambitious, driven young people have joined us in this journey. Like most start-ups we’ve learnt most of what we know through trial and error and through a lot of scrambling and hustling. I’ve seen team members stay up all night answering questions from students in hostels and wake up at 7am to teach class. I’ve seen 23-year-olds volunteer to go live in tiny villages and build amazing Avanti communities there. I’ve spent time on overnight buses making lesson plans with team members and reading text books for class the next day. It is hard for me to switch off and its nearly impossible to lose track of our mission. The importance of what we do is mirrored every single day in the passion of my team-mates and lengths to which they will go to give our children an education and future they are proud of.
If you’d like to teach at Avanti or know someone who could be a great teacher please point them to https://www.avanti.in/careers