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Weekly Blog

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ravi Gulati speaks on 1/26

When Ravi Gulati was an MBA student at IIM-Ahmedabad, he barely knew what a non-governmental organization was. Years later, he spearheads Manzil, an innovative education NGO in Delhi. Working with children living in and around Khan Market, an area with a significant low-income population, Ravi started started with one student. From his living room, he started teaching math from the absolute basics, as he discovered that 9th graders were lacking even an elementary level understanding. Over time, more children joined him and now the after-school program includes classes in guitar and math classes featuring students themselves as teachers.

Ravi's passion for creating relevant, wholistic education opportunities for youth was inspiring. He highlighted the shortcomings of standard education paradigms:
If you are standing at the foot of a mountain and I ask you to measure it's height, how would you do it? I posed this to a group of very bright students from the best schools, and one asked, 'What is given?' Students are only trained to answer questions in this linear fashion. Also, it is impossible to ask this question in a standardized exam format without giving away the answer.
His talk soon extended beyond education for young people. Ravi finds it curious that education is usually thought of as an activity for young people exclusively. He also had some sobering commentary on today's modern society:
When a superb plumber is less recognized than a mediocre academic, neither the pipes or theories of a society can hold water
Both the mason and the architect play important roles in creating a building. Yet we live in a society where the architect and the mason do not respect each other.

It was an exhilarating, inspiring evening. In the end, Ravi was anonymously gifted with a donated klaptop and tagged with a Smile Card. Generosity paid forward!

For those who are curious, we installed Edubuntu (a volunteer-driven education software effort) on Ravi's Klaptop, so the folks at Manzil can use it to aid their education. Here's a video showing a small part of Edubuntu that is aimed at small children, running on Ravi's Klaptop.

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