Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference in education around the world! Today’s rockstar is working to provide leadership training to school leaders in India. Join me as I talk to Manvi Arora, co-founder of Alokit!
Spiffy: Welcome Manvi! Tell me about the challenges you’re addressing with your start-up?
Manvi: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! In India, school leaders have minimal opportunities to attend leadership training and are consequently ill-equipped for their roles. School leader surveys show that leaders lack the skills required to support teachers in improving their practice and measuring progress toward improved student outcomes. Most school leaders in government schools are promoted based on seniority. School leaders in affordable private schools have an understanding of their administrative duties, but limited knowledge about teaching-learning. Without leadership training, school leaders consider their role as an administrative one, and hence the quality of education in the school does not improve.
Spiffy: I believe it! What motivated you to focus on school leaders?
Manvi: Well, Spiffy, my journey in the development sector started as a break from my corporate stint, but the mentoring and support of my school principal during my first year of teaching changed it to a lifelong commitment of serving the students. Working with two school principals during my initial years (one trained and the other not) made me realize the impact a trained leader can have on her staff and students. One trained leader can positively influence the school culture and processes. However, very few organizations are focused on training them. I wanted to support school leaders in their professional development and advocate for school leadership development. Since then I have been working in the leadership development domain.
Spiffy: That’s fantastic! Can you talk about how you’re working towards creating a more equitable world?
Manvi: Alokit ensures that students from underprivileged communities get access to excellent education irrespective of their economic status. Alokit trains school leaders serving marginalized communities to ensure that school is a safe space for students to learn and enjoy. In 2020, we developed customized leadership programs to equip school leaders to support the well-being and learning of students affected due to the Covid-19 crisis.
A school leader being coached by Manvia Arora. (Image courtesy of Manvi Arora)
Spiffy: What about any recent milestones? Do you have something you’re especially proud of accomplishing?
Manvi: As education systems respond to the pandemic, we know that girls are at greater risk of suffering education losses during school shutdowns. To address the inequity of girls education in India, Alokit recently worked on a virtual training program—Shakti—to train 123 girls residential school leaders in the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Department. The project had three objectives: sensitize school leaders on gender inequity issues, guide school leaders in engaging girls while schools are closed, and educate school leaders on gender-inclusive approaches to reopening schools. One of the impacts of this intervention is that school leaders have started working to ensure that all the girls are reintegrated back into the schools, once they reopen.
Spiffy: I always have to ask about failure. Can you share about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn?
Manvi: Well, Spiffy, in my last job, I was competing with my colleagues for a promotion. I prepared really hard for the pre-work and the interview and still got rejected. I was disappointed and, initially, was not able to face the rejection. It took me a couple of days to reflect what went wrong and I sought feedback from the interviewers: then I started working on areas of improvement. I applied for another position the next year and got promoted. My learning from this was that every rejection is an opportunity to identify areas of development, and understand how we can improve.
Spiffy: That’s so important! I’m curious if you’ve learned any interesting lessons lately.
Manvi: One of my students taught me that we should strive to become a better version of ourselves instead of looking at external competitions. Several days ago, one of my students called me and happily shared, “Didi, I scored 50 marks in my English exam!” I didn’t really think this was happy news: in my mind, 50 is not a good score. But she explained that she got scores of 30 and 33 on her last two exams, and she had worked really hard to achieve a score of 50. Now for her next exam, she is planning to score even better. She was happy with her progress, because she is improving based on her own targets and has a plan to achieve a score of 75-80 marks in her final exams. This made me realize that everyone has their own journey.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would like to tell our audience?
Manvi: Alokit has worked with more than 700 school leaders in both government and private schools across nine states in India in the last nine months. Through Covid-19 specific leadership development programs, we have impacted 300,000 students to ensure their well-being, and that they have access to remote learning opportunities.
Manvi Arora is the co-founder of Alokit, an engineer by qualification, and an educator by choice. Manvi started her journey in the education sector as a Teach For India fellow, where she realized the importance of having well-trained school principals. This realization pushed her to focus on supporting school leaders in their professional development, through leadership development training with the India School Leadership Institute (ISLI). Manvi co-founded Alokit in January of 2020. (Nominated by Shakti—The Empathy Project)
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog