Young Indian education activists’ leadership skills strengthened by international development programme

The John M. Thompson Fellowship programme Asia has equipped Indian education unionists with skills necessary to meet challenges faced by the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation and its state affiliates, and grow as future leaders.

Capacity building in organisations is at the heart of the John M. Thompson Fellowship (JTF) programme Asia. In October 2015, 24 representatives of the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation (AIPTF) state affiliates attended leadership and management skills training organised by the JTF in New Delhi. The training was supported by Education International (EI) and affiliates, i.e. the Australian Education Union (AEU), the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF), Lärarförbundet/Sweden, and the Syndicat national des enseignements de second degré–Fédération syndicale unitaire (SNES-FSU)/France. The representatives came from Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Haryana, and Karnataka states; most were young union representatives and half of them were women. 

 

Leadership and managerial skills 

The attendees all highlighted learning outcomes in leadership and managerial skills such as being a strong leader; developing a union mission and vision, i.e. strategic planning; conflict resolution, listening and building consensus; financial management and independence; negotiation skills; importance of team building and team work for the union; communication between union leaders and members, and different media that can be used to this aim; gender equality, improving women’s participation at all union levels; and teachers role in education and social issues. 

 

“JTF has influenced my vision both as a teacher and a leader,” said Chandra Shekhar, a JTF fellow from the Karnataka state. Now I feel myself as an energised and capable teacher who possesses leadership qualities and is ready to lead. Along with other young leaders, he said he was now confident and determined to bring about the necessary changes in his education unions to boost union functioning and operations.  

 

Building solidarity  

Participants also agreed that one of this training programme’s major achievements was the “solidarity” built up among AIPTF state affiliates and their leaders. This was demonstrated by the transparent way of sharing and exchanging information without hesitation. Unions consulted and helped each other to find solutions for common issues, such as protecting and strengthening the public education system, encouraging female and youth participation in the union, declining enrolment and retention of children in public schools, teachers’ engagement in non-academic activities, privatisation of education, increasing union membership and union dues to strengthen the organisation,  gender-related issues, improving communication between leaders and members, and teachers’ pay and benefits. 

 

This collaboration is a very positive trend, participants found, not only for the state unions, but also for AIPTF as a national federation.  

 

Action plans  

Participants also prepared action plans for their unions to adopt and implement. Shekhar said his role in promoting the plan prepared during the training will be to convince AIPTF executive committee members, state leaders and members to implement it, allocate resources, raise awareness about it among members at all levels, and prepare the plan budget and strategic overview. 

 

Indeed, while this training generated hope, the young union activists are acutely aware that the actual outcomes will depend on successful implementation and follow-up of action plans. This will require pro-activity by participating leaders and cooperation from AIPTF state affiliates. 

 

Way forward 

Planned follow-up activities include orientation meetings between the fellows and their respective state executives to develop strategies to implement these action plans. These meetings will be followed by a refresher course, giving fellows an opportunity to refine their skills as trainers and union leaders. 

 

Based on a survey among JTF fellows, the EI regional office made the following recommendations for the future 

  • Use JTF fellows as resource persons at regional, national and international levels 

  • Organise special training targeted at women only, to promote women leaders at different levels 

  • Organise leadership training at district and block levels, to benefit grassroots activists 

  • Consider a break after five days of training, to ensure effective and quality learning 

 

Background 

The JTF programme Asia was started in 1999 to assist organisations in the Asia-Pacific region showing potential to grow and become stronger. Until 2013, through 12 JTF training programmes, 143 men and 119 women leaders from 78 organisations in 11 countries in the region have been trained.