Indian teacher Ranjit sinh Disale winner of Global Teacher Prize 2020


Disale made an extraordinary announcement that he will share half the prize money with his fellow top 10 finalists.

A teacher from a small hamlet in the Western state of Maharashtra is the latest to win the coveted $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

Ranjitsinh Disale, who transformed the life chances of young girls at the Zilla Parishad Primary School – Paritewadi, Solapur, Maharashtra, was named the winner of the Global Teacher Prize on Thursday.

After being crowned winner, Disale made an extraordinary announcement that he will share half the prize money with his fellow top 10 finalists. This means the other nine finalists of the prize will receive $55,000 each, a first in the award’s six-year history. Disale was selected winner from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.

‘Teachers are real change makers’

Disale’s name was announced by English actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London.

In his acceptance speech, Disale said the pandemic has exposed education and the communities it serves in a multitude of ways. “But in this hard time, teachers are giving their best to make sure every student has access to their birthright of a good education,” he said.

“Teachers are the real change-makers who are changing the lives of their students with a mixture of chalk and challenges. They always believe in giving and sharing. And therefore, I am very pleased to announce that I will share 50 per cent of the prize money equally among my fellow top 10 finalists to support their incredible work. I believe, together, we can change this world because sharing is growing.”

Covid-19 hero announced

The ceremony also included special recognition to UK Maths teacher Jamie Frost who had gone above and beyond to keep young people learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Frost was awarded the $45,000 Covid Hero Award for designing the DrFrostMaths programme, which became a lifeline for students shut out of classrooms all around the world.

At this year’s ceremony, the Varkey Foundation has also announced the launch of the new Global Student Prize, a $50,000 sister prize to the Global Teacher Prize, which will open applications and nominations in the new year.

Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Global Teacher Prize, said: “Congratulations to Ranjitsinh Disale for winning the Global Teacher Prize 2020. By sharing the prize money, you teach the world the importance of giving.”

What’s the Global Teacher Prize

Established by the Varkey Foundation, the Global Teacher Prize was launched in Dubai in 2014 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

When Ranjitsinh arrived at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in 2009, it was a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle shed and a storeroom. Most of the girls were from tribal communities where school attendance could sometimes be as low as two per cent and teenage marriages was common.

For those that did make it to school, the curriculum was not in their primary language (Kannada), leaving many students unable to learn at all. Ranjitsinh was determined to turn this around, moving to the village and going to great efforts to learn the local language.

Ranjitsinh then not only translated the class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments. By analysing their reflections, Ranjitsinh would change the content, activities and assignments in the QR coded textbooks to create a personalised learning experience for each student. Further to this, he upgraded the QR Coded Textbooks with an immersive reader and Flipgrid tools to aid girls with special needs.

As a result, there are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school. The school was also recently awarded the best school in the district with 85 per cent of his students achieving A grades in annual exams. One girl from the village has now graduated from university, something seen as an impossible dream before Ranjitsinh arrived.

Ranjitsinh then went on to create nothing short of a revolution in the use of QR coded textbooks throughout India. His school was the first in the state of Maharashtra to introduce them and after submitting a proposal and successful pilot scheme, the State Ministry announced in 2017 that they would introduce QR coded textbooks across the state for all grades 1 to12.

Following the success, India’s Ministry of Education asked NCERT (National Council of Education Research and Training) to study the impact of QR-coded textbooks and how this can be scaled up nationally. In 2018, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javdekar announced that all NCERT textbooks would have embedded QR codes.

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