-Autar Nehru (Delhi)
Ratna Viswanathan is the Gurugram-based CEO of Reach to Teach (RTT, estb.2007), a social impact organisation. “RTT is a UK registered charity and has been supported in its work by The Larry Ellison Foundation since 2007,” says Viswanathan.
The social impact organisation had an organizational shift to India in 2020 to focus on RTT’s work in India. It is focussed on improving teaching-learning outcomes in government schools. Currently it has offices in Panchkula, Itanagar, Ahmedabad and Gurugram.
Newspeg. Last July (2022), RTT signed a tripartite agreement with the state government of Arunachal Pradesh and NITI Aayog to provide FLN (foundational literacy and numeracy) programmes to all 3,061 government schools statewide.
This is the second FLN upgradation agreement initiated by RTT. In 2021, it inked a similar agreement with Haryana’s education ministry. Moreover, RTT is designing a framework for teacher education institutes across Haryana. Largely funded by the Larry Ellison Foundation, RTT provides free-of-charge services to state government schools.
History. An English literature alumna of Lucknow and Ravenshaw universities, Viswanathan quit the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA and AS) in 2008. In a career spanning two decades in the IAS, she rose to position of Senior General Manager Finance of the Prasar Bharathi Corporation of India. After that she served in senior leadership roles with Oxfam India, the London-based VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) India, Microfinance Network India and UNDP. In 2020 she accepted the offer to head RTT.
RTT overview. RTT was registered in the UK in 2007 by Sanjeev Gandhi, a London-based technology whiz, investor and second-generation immigrant. The social impact organisation’s initial engagement was with four tribal districts in Valsad visited by mobile classrooms. In collaboration with several local NGOs, RTT set up learning resource centres in these districts supported by school teachers from the UK who trained para-teachers to develop FLN skills of neglected children and enable drop-outs to return to school.
In 2019, RTT signed an agreement with the Gujarat state (BJP) government to improve teacher training in government schools. RTT partners with the Gujarat government on World Bank/AIIB funded Mission Schools of Excellence (SoE) project as “the Academic and Technical Support Unit to transform 20,000 schools”.
Direct talk. “Over 50 percent of India’s school-going children are in government schools. Therefore, our focus is on improving government schools especially in educationally underserved regions of the state. To reap India’s demographic dividend, greatest attention must be given to government schools. During the nationwide lockdown of schools for 82 weeks, we designed several modules for home learning and emergency education. This experience has enabled us to improve new technologies-enabled pedagogies and expand RTT’s institutional capability and reach,” says Viswanathan.
Future plans. Viswanathan is looking forward to engaging with more state governments in the near future. “We are in talks with several other north-east governments which are very impressed with our whole school improvement model. I intend to have a couple of model schools this year,” says this cheerful and optimistic education leader.