Ranjitsinh Disale, a school teacher from Maharashtra, was announced the winner of $1-million annual Global Teacher Prize 2020 on December 3. He won the recognition for his efforts to promote girls' education and trigger a quick-response or QR-coded textbook revolution in India.
Prize organisers said Disale was honoured for having “transformed the life chances” of girls at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in Paritewadi in Maharashtra.
Who is Ranjitsinh Disale?
Disale is a primary school teacher from Paritewadi village in Maharashtra's Solapur district. He initially wanted to be an IT engineer, but after plans did not work out, his father suggested teacher training as an alternative. During his time in teacher training college, he saw that teachers are the real change-makers in the world, and decided to become one.
When Disale joined as a teacher at the Zilla Parishad Primary School at Paritewadi in Solapur in 2009, it was a dilapidated building, sandwiched between a cattle shed and a storeroom.
He saw that the curriculum was not in the students’ primary language, Kannada, making it difficult for many to achieve expected learning outcomes. Additionally, most girls were from tribal communities that did not prioritise girls’ education, and the practice of teenage marriage was common.
He took on the task of turning things around and ensuring the textbooks were available in the local language for the pupils. He not only translated the class textbooks into Kannada but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments.
The impact of his interventions has been that there are now no reported teenage marriages in the village and 100 percent attendance of girls at the school. The school was also awarded Best School for the district in 2016, and 98 percent of students achieved their expected learning outcomes before completing the school year.
Disale's school became the first in Maharashtra to introduce QR codes and after submitting a proposal and successful pilot scheme, Maharashtra in 2017 announced that it would introduce QR coded textbooks across the state for all grades.
The government had named Ranjitsinh Disale 2016 Innovative Researcher of the Year. He also won the National Innovation Foundation’s Innovator of the Year award in 2018.
The first teacher in history to share Global Teacher Prize money
Disale made history as the first winner to share his prize money. In his winning speech, Disale said that he would share half the prize money with his nine fellow finalists, meaning they will receive just over $55,000 each.
"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 percent 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, he said.Disale was selected in the final 10 from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries. The Global Teacher Prize is paid out in equal instalments over 10 years, with the Varkey Foundation providing winners with financial counselling and support through an ambassadorial role for the profession.