Amrita Patwardhan is Head of Education and Sports portfolio of Tata Trusts. She has led development and implementation of two five year strategic plans for Education at the Trust and is responsible for strategic direction of the education portfolio. She has represented the Trusts on National Mission on Libraries, has been on committees appointed by Ministry of Human Resource Development and National Council for Education Research and Training to review national programmes. Amrita was a teacher in a primary school, volunteered as a teacher educator in tribal schools and researched impact of displacement on children at Clark University, United States. Amrita has done her MPhil in Education from Delhi University. Early literacy, children’s literacy and social justice are her areas of special interest.
Dhir Jhingran is the Founder Director of Language and Learning Foundation. He has worked in the primary education sector for over two decades, within and outside the government. As an officer of the Indian Administrative Service, he served as Principal Secretary, Education with the Government of Assam and as Director in the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Mission Director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as well as the District Primary Education Programme. In addition, he has handled several other profiles, such as Senior Advisor to UNICEF India, Asia Regional Director and Chief Program Officer with Room to Read and Country Director, TESS India. He has made significant contributions to the development and implementation of early grade reading programs in several countries in Asia and Africa and several states in India. Dhir has authored two books based on empirical researches in primary education that he conducted and has contributed to many books and journals.
Lakshmi Lingam is a Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Lakshmi Lingam was the Deputy Director at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), in Hyderabad from May 2011- May 2016 and prior to that she was Dean, Research and Development at the Institute.
Lakshmi is an academic leader, administrator and a well-known gender specialist. In the year 2015, Lakshmi was selected to participate for the Fulbright-Nehru Education Administrators Fellowship programme. She was a Fulbright New Century Scholar (2004-5) exploring the subject of Global Empowerment of Women. Lakshmi was an Indo-Shastri Visiting Scholar associated with the University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada (2011); Visiting Fellow, Gender, Sexuality and Law Fellowship program, School of Law, Keele University, Keele, North Staffordshire (2007). She has research collaborations with various Universities abroad.
Lakshmi Lingam is on the Curriculum Advisory Boards of several Women’s Studies Departments in Indian Universities as well as Technical and Ethical Advisory Board member of NGOs. In addition to her outstanding teaching and research activities, she has contributed to gender and equity mainstreaming activities of Government departments in a number of states in India. She was the General Secretary of the Indian Association for Women Studies during the period 2000 -2002. Lakshmi was a member of the National Resource Group of the Government of India, Mahila Samakhya program for women’s empowerment under the Ministry of HRD.
Lakshmi has undertaken several national and international development research and evaluation studies, published extensively and has travelled widely within and outside the country on academic pursuits.
Maxine Berntsen first came to India in 1966, and spent two years teaching at Vivek Vardhini College in Hyderabad, staying at the home of Dr. S.D. Satwalekar, principal of the college. While in Hyderabad she also started studying Telugu and Marathi. In 1963 she returned to the U.S. to do course work for a Ph.D. in linguistics, and in 1966 she returned to India to do the field work for her dissertation on sociolinguistic variation in the speech of Phaltan, a taluka town in Western Maharashtra. Along with competing her thesis, she also collaborated with Jai Nimbkar in developing a set of ten books to teach Marathi to adult non-Maharashtrians. From 1970 to 1999 she went to the U.S. every other year to teach Marathi to students from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest who were preparing to spend a year in Pune. In 1978 she renounced her American citizenship and became an Indian citizen. That same year she started working with out-of-school children, and in 1984 founded the Pragat Shikshan Sanstha (PSS). The PSS had three components: Apli Shala, a support programme for Dalit children; Kamala Nimbkar Balbhavan a full-time Marathi medium school; and an Outreach Programme, which later became the Centre for Language, Literacy and Communication.
When the TISS M.A. in Elementary Education programme was being set up, Maxine and Jane Sahi developed the course in First Language Pedagogy, which they taught from its inception until last year. In 2012 she was invited to join the new TISS campus at Hyderabad as a Professor Emerita. At present she is teaching one course in TISS, and heading an ELI project to adapt for Telugu the reading approach she had originally developed for Marathi.
She has received many awards for her work, the most recent being the Marathi Abhyasak Puraskar, an award from the Maharashtra government for her work in Marathi. A sketch of her life and work was also included in the volume, Daughters of Maharashtra. For her 80th birthday in 2015, Sujata Noronha and Jane Sahi brought out Threading Texts within Contexts – a selection of her poetry and her writings on language and education.
Rekha Pappu teaches at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad in the Azim Premji School of Education and the School of Gender Studies. Her research interests are in the areas of education, development, women’s studies and cultural studies. She has published in these areas in academic journals/books, magazines and newspapers. Narrative finesse in all forms – spoken, written or through the visual – and as fiction or non-fiction, fascinates her.
Rekha was the Coordinator & Director of Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad (1997 – 2003) and also the Convenor of the Andhra Pradesh Social Watch (2004 – 2005). She has been a Fulbright-Tata Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA (2001), a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, UK (2003) and a Key Technology Partnership Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney (2015). She has undertaken study projects and impact assessments for a range of organizations including Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Netherlands; German Agro Action, Delhi; Oxfam, Hyderabad; Tata Trusts, Mumbai and the Centre for World Solidarity, Hyderabad. She is the Project Director of the Early Literacy Initiative.
Shailaja Menon is Professor and Programme-in-charge of the Early Literacy Initiative at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, a unique initiative dedicated to raising awareness and building knowledge about the teaching and learning of early literacy in Indian contexts. Concurrently, she also works as visiting faculty in the area of Language and Literacy at the School of Education, Azim Premji University, Bangalore. Shailaja has completed her BA (Psychology) from Delhi University, M.Sc. (Child Development) from MS University, Baroda, and her Ph.D. in Literacy, Language and Culture from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Prior to joining Azim Premji University, she has taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and at Jones International University. She leads a longitudinal project, Literacy Research in Indian Languages (LiRIL), investigating the teaching and learning of early language and literacy in Maharashtra and Karnataka. She is a co-editor of the volume: Childhoods in India: Traditions, Trends and Transformations (Routledge, forthcoming).
At Azim Premji University, Shailaja offers courses related to early literacy, children’s literature, child development and learning, curriculum and pedagogy in the early years, and research methods. Shailaja is also a key anchor of the bi-lingual children’s literature festival, KathaVana, that is hosted annually by Azim Premji University (2012-present). She has served on the jury for the Hindu Literature for Life awards for Children’s Literature (2016; 2017), and Sir Ratan Tata Trust’s Big Little Book Award (2016). Shailaja’s publications have appeared in international and Indian journals, and she serves on several advisory committees that are currently shaping policy and practice related to early literacy in India.
Sunita Singh is the Director (Officiating) and an Associate Professor at the Centre of Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD). She completed her Ph.D. from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (Language and Literacy), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MA and MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Linguistics. Her doctoral dissertation titled, “Changes in Literacy Beliefs and Practices of a Kindergarten Teacher: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study” examined the changes in a kindergarten teacher’s beliefs about instruction, delivery of instruction, and the teaching context over three years as she taught students in an inclusive setting. Prior to joining CECED, she worked as an Associate Professor at Le Moyne College, Syracuse. In her research, she has worked extensively in schools, with teachers, families and in communities. Sunita Singh has published chapters in books and articles in several international peer reviewed journals. She is on the editorial board and a panel reviewer for several international journals. At CECED, she is a faculty mentor for various projects related to language and literacy and early childhood education and development. She also teaches courses in language and literacy and early childhood curriculum in the School of Education Studies, AUD.
In the Early Literacy Initiative, Sunita Singh will be coordinating a research study titled, “Community Literacies and Schooling” which builds on the understanding that literacy practices are shaped by the sociocultural lives in the community and the power dynamics in the society. She will also be involved in teaching courses, advocacy and networking in the area of early literacy.
Zakiya Kurrien is the co-founder and presently Director Emerita of Centre For Learning Resources (CLR) in Pune. She has been a teacher and teacher educator both in India and abroad. Her professional work spans multiple areas in the development and education of socio-economically disadvantaged children, and includes the designing of curricula, training programmes and varied materials for Early Childhood Education as well as Elementary Education. The strengthening of teachers’ domain knowledge and pedagogy in the areas of language development, emergent literacy, early literacy learning and mathematics continues to be a strong focus in her work. She has developed comprehensive print and video training materials and teaching-learning materials for preschool and primary levels which are translated in a number of Indian languages, and served as a resource person within government and NGO educational initiatives. She is also an author-cum-editor of graded storybooks and non-fictional reading materials for young children.
Zakiya Kurrien has served on national and state-level committees related to educational policy and programmes, and provided consultancy to international organisations. At present she is an active member of the Alliance for the Right to Early Childhood Development and the Technical Committee of the Education Track of Pune City Connect.