Columbia University Student Launches People's International School to Address Educational Disparities in Maharashtra

Amravati local follows in Dr. Ambedkar's footsteps to promote education.
Vikas speaking at the inauguration of the School
Vikas speaking at the inauguration of the School

Amravati— In a bid to address the educational disparities prevalent among marginalized communities in Maharashtra, Vikas Tatad, a student at Columbia University, has taken a significant step by laying the foundation of People's International School. The auspicious occasion of June 19, marked the initiation of this noble venture, coinciding with the date when Dr Ambedkar himself laid the foundation of Milinda College in Aurangabad.

Vikas Tatad, a native of Amravati and a postgraduate pursuing Masters in Teachers College at Columbia University, recognized the stark educational disparities faced by scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other marginalized groups. During his studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 2016, he discovered that in Bhim Nagar, his hometown, only 1% of the population had attained a college degree, with a mere 0.2-0.3% pursuing engineering. The absence of medical aspirants was also apparent. Instead, the majority of students opted for ITI courses. Furthermore, Tatad observed that many students lacked the desire to pursue education, leading them to work in shops or as laborers after completing their secondary education.

Motivated by the ideals of Dr Ambedkar, who emphasized the transformative power of education, Vikas Tatad resolved to establish a school that would provide an enabling environment for students to realize their educational aspirations. Thus, the People's International Pre-Primary School was founded as a non-profit organization. The school, which initially offers classes for nursery, kindergarten (KG1), and KG2, charges a minimal fee of Rs. 500, which is voluntary rather than compulsory. The school's motto, "Bhim Nagar to Columbia," symbolizes Tatad's personal journey from his humble beginnings to pursuing his education at Columbia University.

Smart Classes and Student-Centric Teaching Approaches

When asked about his prior experience in education, Vikas Tatad mentioned the establishment of Mission Education—an informal school that catered to 150 students residing in slums, predominantly from SC/ST/OBC backgrounds. Through Mission Education, Tatad and his team taught subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, and Ambedkarite Thought. Drawing inspiration from Dr. Ambedkar's People's Education Society, which led to the establishment of Milinda College on June 19, 1950, Tatad decided to name his school the People's International School. The school aims to provide an international standard of education and will pioneer the introduction of smart classes, an unprecedented feature in nearby primary schools. The curriculum will employ a non-hierarchical teaching structure, fostering a roundtable method of learning to ensure individual student growth. Additionally, the school plans to keep its teachers abreast of the latest teaching methodologies.

Inquiring about the support received during the school's establishment, Tatad highlighted the assistance he received from various individuals and organizations. Having been awarded two prestigious prizes amounting to Rs. 1,25,000, Tatad utilized the funds for renting the premises and renovating the school. Furthermore, Dr. Sheetal from the Ambedkar Association of North America pledged to fund the teachers' salaries, while Dr. Alka Dhoke from Nagpur offered to cover the annual rent. Dr. Anil dhoke, who attended the inauguration, expressed his commitment to supporting miscellaneous expenses associated with the school. Apart from them Dr Anita, Dr Deepti Kiratkar, Dr. Archana, Michael Thevar, Manoj Wagmare and also one organisation Dalit Solidarity Forum, USA have also assured help. These contributions from generous individuals reflect the collective effort to promote quality education for all.

When asked about his current focus while in Maharashtra, Vikas mentioned his research on the National Education Policy as part of his master's thesis. Drawing attention to concerns raised by Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat, former UGC Chairman, Tatad emphasized the discriminatory aspects of the policy and its emphasis on skills rather than knowledge. His research analyzes the influence of international bodies such as OECD, UNICEF, UNESCO, and the World Bank on the policy, delving into the principle of policy borrowing. Additionally, he explores the potential of public opinion as a tool to shape educational policies, investigating how public pressure can effectively influence policy decisions.

Vikas Tatad's journey from Bhim Nagar to Columbia University has inspired him to bridge educational disparities in his hometown, manifesting in the establishment of Peoples International School. With a vision to provide quality education to marginalized communities, Tatad's initiative promises to ignite the flame of knowledge and empower students, embodying the transformative ideals of Dr. Ambedkar.

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