TMNP – Closing Gaps in Gifted Education
Vinayak Bhavan, 510 Sadashiv Peth, Pune – 411030, INDIA. www.tribalmensa.org | www.facebook.com/tribalmensa
The word ‘gifted’ is synonymous with enormous, naturally endowed talent or skill. However, for many underprivileged children, this giftedness is never identified or nurtured to reach its full potential.
The Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program is a globally recognized, specialized program of Mensa India that identifies and mentors highly gifted underprivileged children in the remote rural areas of India. Since our inception in 2003, we have tested over 40,000 children and successfully nurtured nearly 4000 kids to become potential society leaders. Since 2017 TMNP is focusing on underprivileged gifted girls specifically as they are the nurturers of any family.
This journey has not been a walk in the park. There are several challenges we face on an everyday basis while mentoring these children, especially girls. The reasons are many, ranging from rural mindsets to societal pressures. The traditional norms of generations are persisting that the role of girls to assist in their homes which holds more priority than education by itself. Secondly, education can be discontinued for various reasons by the parent if the girl child needs to be of assistance at home or to be married and beget children.
TMNP’s Approach: TMNP has always looked for solutions even in remote and harsh situations, creating activities and nurturing programs that have embraced challenges instead of fighting them to overcome hurdles. This would imply that TMNP has been able to take cognisance of the social norms of the rural area, the limitations of expanding nurturing beyond certain mindsets of girls in a conservative community. The kind of educational courses that girls should and can take may be gender specific and may not appeal to the intellect of the girl. Nevertheless, this leaves only few options open for them to pursue due to the disadvantaged background and community norms. TMNP has always worked around the geographical, social, and political fabric of that constituency. Farmer’s daughters can work towards being leaders in education, propagate health, awareness towards higher studies or sharing psychological strength towards other rural younger students. The biggest challenge hampering the development of gifted underprivileged girls is the social mindset. Having never been exposed to global perspectives through education, rural communities are often reticent about sending girls to schools, let alone pursue higher studies or travel for jobs.
From the time we started, we decided to devise solutions that were non-academic and rooted in traditional Indian culture, such as our ancient Vedic knowledge. All our programs are based on ancient Indian philosophy and its precepts. This ocean of knowledge holds the key to developing strong, balanced, socially aware leaders who can transform society.
Challenges Faced by Gifted Underprivileged Girls in Rural Areas: Several challenges are created by the current educational, social, and economic systems that hold gifted underprivileged girls back from achieving their potential.
- Educational sector, evaluations based on performance in examinations instead of actual knowledge retentions,
- Social sector: Gender biases on the social front, preferences for boys than girls. Early marriage or dropouts.
- Economic sector: Financial instability due to agricultural hardships and priority towards housing, health and social customs like marriages and births which is more prominent financial liabilities than education.
Most of these children are first-generation learners, coming from low-income families who have relied on traditional professions for earning a livelihood. For many parents, investing time and effort in a long-term plan for their child when there is immediate work to be done at home seems like a waste of time, making it difficult for young girls to nurture their giftedness and pursue their dreams.
Conditioned by this mindset, the priorities of girls in rural areas are different as well. It is not that they are not ambitious; they just have never had the correct exposure to the abundant opportunities awaiting them in the world! Defying social norms is a challenge. Not all challenges are external, though; gifted underprivileged children have other internal sources of anxiety, fear of failure and achievement at any cost as money, time and learning is a constrain. These include low self-confidence, low self-esteem, peer pressure, personal insecurities, a high amount of self-criticism, negativity about self, and no goal setting. This results in poor physical appearance, disregard for self-care, and poor academic performance.
Some cases at the other end of the spectrum result in students with extremely high expectations, different definitions of development, comparison to outside standards, and adoption of a Westernized lifestyle that creates a huge gap between their family professions and their perceived goals. Unrealistic academic goals that don’t match the socioeconomic position of the families, pilot, doctor, defence, nevertheless these goals are achievable financial and social fabric hinders this dream.
The lack of proper mentors and appropriate counselling keeps these gifted, brilliant young minds from realizing just how much they can contribute to society if only their talents were to be nurtured the right way!
TMNP addresses these root causes that erode the prosperity of rural civilizations and attempts to provide solutions that create self-motivated leaders of tomorrow. Instead of fighting every social barrier, we mould gifted students to adapt to the ecosystem and still create practical growth modules that will help the society they live in.
TMNP – Closing Gaps in Gifted Education: Rooted in the principles of Vedic Ecology, TMNP is an innovative endeavour to combine the principles of self-sustainability and empowerment of the youth at a grass-root level.
TMNP works to identify potential mentors and leaders from the underprivileged community at a young age and nurture them, focusing on making villages and tribes self-dependent rather than moving out to the cities for empowerment.
We make gifted tribal children aware of their high levels of intelligence and its potential uses, nurture that intelligence and foster a positive attitude towards societal problem-solving, which will lead to self-fulfilment and service/contribution to the country.
These are some of our unique giftedness nurturing programs, devised after careful thought and consideration, as well as the challenges they overcome.
1. TMNP VAMA Project: Conducted for gifted female students, TMNP Vama is the first and longest-running project for underprivileged gifted girls worldwide. We identify and nurture gifted girls in the age group of 12 to 15 years and provide complete financial support for their future educational endeavours.
In addition, we also support and nurture their families to free them from the traditional responsibilities of the household.
Gender inequality and lack of resources force many girls to drop out of school, as they do not receive adequate financial support. VAMA helps gifted young girls to further their education without the worries of financial liability.
2. TMNP Sanskar-Chamu Project: Societal norms often restrict gifted married girls in rural areas from getting a job or travelling for work.
Sanskar-Chamu aims to empower these gifted underprivileged women who have to take up the responsibilities of a home and family after their education while maintaining propriety in society.
Designed to provide better financial stability and psychological and social well-being, Sanskar-Chamu is a project that furthers the noble work of teaching. The program helps young, gifted; married women set up study groups and playgroups to teach children about Indian morals and values along with academic inputs.
Being gifted individuals themselves, they are in a better position to identify the latent talents of other gifted children and create an ecosystem where they can thrive!
TMNP G-Class Project: One of the FIRST gifted exclusive class in a regular school was incorporated to nurture the brilliant, gifted children in the class. The G Class program for underprivileged gifted girls is the first of its kind at the national and international level.
The Gifted Class (G-Class) comprises all the gifted girls identified in the school and sees the implementation of giftedness-nurturing activities, self-assessment, and self-development programs that inspire the young gifted girls to continue their education and pursue holistic brilliance.
TMNP Panchakosha-based Development and Nurturing: The Panchakosha based nurturing, and development model is TMNP’s first-of-its-kind giftedness nurturing module exclusively based on traditional Indian Vedic and Sanatana principles and philosophy.
The Panchakosha Model is one of our most significant contributions to giftedness nurturing systems, with its indigenous, culturally embedded non-academic roots.
It is a holistic approach that establishes a relationship between the body, mind, nature, the soul, and the Supreme Being. All physical, mental, emotional, behavioural, and spiritual attributes are nurtured under the principles of the five Koshas, viz., Annamaya Kosha, Pranayama Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vidnyanamaya Kosha, and Anandamaya Kosha.
It helps underprivileged gifted children realize their potential, enhance their confidence in their capabilities, and strengthen their emotional and social skills.
TMNP-Learn and Earn: Another offshoot of the Panchakosha model, this activity empowers students to think of ideas with economic viability. The gifted students are encouraged to identify potential activities that can be monetized based on their assessment and identification of their strengths and dominant characteristics.
Tribal Mensa – Implementing Effective Modules for Giftedness Nurturing Tribal Mensa has developed these programs for giftedness assessment, identification, nurturing, and counselling after 15+ years of active work in the field. Rooted in traditional Indian principles, backed by scientific evidence and real-world data, they have been validated and proven repeatedly.
In the last 15 years, we have aimed to consistently contribute to nation-building through identifying, nurturing, and empowering every underprivileged gifted child in India so that no gifted child is ignored in our country.
Today, TMNP is working to establish a platform for underprivileged gifted children across India for developing & utilizing their full potential. With this dissemination of information, we hope to empower any educator in the world to understand and successfully implement these programs to develop gifted children in their society.
TMNP- Trigunatmak Jeevan Sankalp (Tripartite Life-Goal Setting): Gifted children have varied interests, diversity, and curiosity, making it difficult for them to focus on a single career in life and choose a life goal.
TMNP conceptualized the Trigunatmak Jeevan Sankalpa, where information is gathered based on the giftedness characteristics, personality traits, and behavioural characteristics of the gifted student.
Based on a collective assessment of all these traits, the child can make an informed decision regarding his/her life goal.
TMNP- The Concept of ‘Daan’ (Donation): Indian philosophy advocates various types of donations as part of the final rituals of a deceased individual. TMNP proposes a radical take on the traditional concept of donations by encouraging people to think of this as an opportunity to help someone, not just an obligation.
For instance, instead of utilizing the money that would have been given for some rituals or death ceremony (that are currently not applicable) towards the departed soul can be spent towards someone who is living and can benefit. The person could contribute a bicycle to an underprivileged gifted child, enabling him/her to travel/commute faster.
The intent is to promote awareness about the needs of these gifted underprivileged children so that affluent donors might think of empowering such students and hence contribute to educating and nurturing them.
TMNP- Trishakti Assessment: According to Ancient Vedic philosophy, three energies are required to perform any action or work. These are, Ichha Shakti or the power of desire, Jnana Shakti, or the power of knowledge and, Kriya Shakti power of action.
In Tri- shakti assessment, we find out why the gifted student unable to study well or perform academically. These are the questions we raise and discuss to facilitate efficient academic opportunities.
TMNP-Swadhyay (Self-study): Swadhyay or self-study is an activity where we give gifted students the tools, techniques, and training to study effectively on their own.
From lesson planning to self-assessment, we help them cultivate enthusiasm, energy, and motivation for self-study. These sessions also encompass pointers on overcoming challenges, understanding the scope of the subject, and developing a habit of studying by oneself, and maybe become lifelong learners which helps them become better students for life.
TMNP-Gatiman-Gatisheel (Accelerated Training Module): TMNP assesses gifted students for two types of performance – academic and non-academic. We have observed that while students may sometimes not perform well academically, they perform exceedingly well in activity-based exercises that demand creativity, diversity, and ingenuity.
Furthermore, to translate this non-academic performance into academic excellence, we devise creative ways of explaining academic concepts and use methodologies that can be different than just academic format like project based etc. It creates interest among students about the subject, leading them to understand essential concepts with ease.
TMNP-Ashtang Samupadeshan (Eight-fold Counseling): TMNP has developed an eight-fold counselling module that addresses every aspect of the gifted student’s nurturing.
It includes giftedness assessments, pre-and post-nurturing counselling, self-awareness and self-identification, Panchakosha-based nurturing, mentoring based on Vedic and Puranic philosophies, coping strategies and mechanisms rooted in Indian tradition, and Sanatan teachings.
There is a great deal of emphasis on developing the proper thought process, habits, ideas, and guiding principles that hone the child’s overall personality at a very impressionable age.
TMNP-Bharati Program: TMNP’s Bharati Program is founded on the premise of empowering young girls to be active drivers of their future by planning life goals from a young age, after a due assessment of their skills.
We provide the necessary financial help, mentoring, and networking opportunities required by the participants to achieve their goals. Based on the concept of the four D’s – Doer, Destination, Dedication, Device, the Bharati Program for nurturing underprivileged gifted girls is genuinely one of its kind in the world!
TMNP-Kapila Nari Program: There is a distinct lack of awareness about female hygiene and complex health issues in rural areas, leading to early deaths and a high mortality rate.
The Kapila Nari program intends to create awareness about diabetes and heart disease, in rural areas, especially with the help of gifted girl students from remote nursing colleges and medical schools.
We conduct extensive workshops educating young women about these subjects and also provide international certifications of the workshops in which they have participated.
TMNP-Self-Identification: The Panchakosha model of assessing giftedness characteristics is based on holistic, non-academic testing principles, which identifies gifted children’s positive and negative characteristics.
It assesses the physical, interactive, intellectual, psychological, emotional, creative, social, and spiritual traits of gifted children, which aids more personalized and nuanced counselling in the future. Put this in in point 4
TMNP-Assessment of Traditional Life Principles: This activity takes a leaf from Indian mythology, quite literally! Children are often told stories of gods and goddesses in Hindu mythology, encouraging them to accept these deities as ideal personas to be emulated.
Nevertheless, whom should gifted young girls look upto these ideals? Should their role models be from the modern era, or should they be the eternal ideals stemming from the Sanatana tradition? TMNP discusses these concepts and helps young gifted girls identify whom they should choose as role models.
TMNP has developed six giftedness workshop modules, of which four have been published. The 6th module is the workshop on the Assessment of Traditional Principles. This workshop encourages thinking about our Gods and Goddesses from various perspectives to analyze their traits and flaws and imbibe the divine qualities. This approach may be relatable as religious gods and goddess and their teaching are still relevant for this community.
TMNP-Study of Ethics and Morality: In a world that is gradually sinking into immorality, TMNP encourages gifted students to explore the thoughts and concepts of ethics and morality for themselves. Through stories, incidents, characters, poems, narrations, articles, and activities, we help students understand the true meaning of ethics and morality, eschewing the bookish definition.
Dr. Narayan Desai,
Founder, Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program