Student Think Tank for India started in the year 2014, and was originally envisioned as a network of college students across the world, with the objective of promoting a culture of involved inquiry. The rationale for STTI was that an effective education should include spaces that promote civic engagement and critical thinking – and that if it doesn’t exist, we should create one. The benefits of are wide ranging – be it for personal, professional or civic reasons.
Throughout 2014, as we continued our discussions and research papers, we changed our question to ask: how can we create similar spaces in schools?
Over the last year, we have partnered with schools to set up clubs for students from class 9 to 12. It’s an open space where we’re learning to raise and answer important questions about social, economic, political and environmental problems. These clubs are led and organised by Moderators, usually college students or young adults. Our model is built on student initiative: participation is voluntary, and we choose topics that students want to talk about (See our sessions on topics ranging from gender to food systems to engineering education). As Moderators, all of us passed out from school not too long ago, and we’ve made a conscious effort to not turn this into a lecture series.
Our discussions and activities are interactive – using Project Based Learning, Service Learning and Thinking routines – so that students really think about the issues and form their own interesting questions and opinions. Apart from regular sessions, we often invite eminent guests who conduct workshops, and take part in field trips to observe and understand the world up close.
What Do We Have Going For Us?
- Global network: One of the most prominent STTI chapters is based in Purdue University. Besides this we have active members from UPenn and Cornell University. STTI is supported by professors and students from some of the best universities within the country and internationally.
- Fast Paced Growth: We started with 2 school clubs in Hyderabad in 2015. Within a year, the enthusiastic response has led us to start 5 clubs in Hyderabad, and new chapters in Delhi, Bangalore and Coimbatore.
- Recognition from Ashoka India’s first Youth Venture programme, which makes us part of a network of some of the world’s biggest names in social innovation.
How Can You Get Involved?
Currently, we’re looking for Moderators in all 4 cities. As a Moderator, you are required to dedicate a couple of hours a week through June and July. You can be from any stream of study, but the only real requirement is that you bring curiosity, and fulfil your responsibility as an educators: the last thing we want to do is pass on wrong/ incomplete information, or conduct boring and ineffective activities. There will be a short period of training before entering schools, so that Moderators are able to better understand STTI’s structure, and then use it to craft the learning experience in their micro learning communities.
We also invite people who can help bring critical thinking to life by creating session plans for the school clubs — eg: how would we get high school kids to appreciate the nuances of freedom of speech? What instances of pop culture would we use, and how would role-playing an event from history help them to see that complexity? These session plans would be used in our clubs across the country.
What Is In It For You?
Along with the chance to impact the learning experience of many students and their schools, working with STTI is a frame to explore various professionally valued qualities: research, mentorship, networking, and entrepreneurship. This opportunity is guaranteed to be a growth experience, and is structured as an internship with a letter of recommendation at completion.
What’s the end goal?
All of us at STTI are involved in it because we are convinced that the value of a real education lies in fuelling the inherent curiosity of students. No matter which career students choose to enter, we want that people do so as engaged and critical citizens – with a basic working knowledge of all the issues that the country faces, so they can channel their energy – in big or small ways – to solving them. And we want to do this at scale.
STTI is our moonshot at marginally reforming the education system, one club at a time.
If you share this vision, we would love to hear from you! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and explore our past work on the website. If you’re interested in applying to be a moderator, visit this page: https://studentthinktankforindia.com/moderators/
Note: Credits to Isha Malik for putting together this great post!