Young Instructor Leader (YIL) Program

It is always a pleasure to see a child light up when they have the chance to experience the Agastya YIL Program.

– Mr Mayachari, Block Education Officer, Hubli Rural

Impacting young lives

When asked how the Young Instructor Leader (YIL) Program at Agastya had helped him, 14-year-old Sateesh beamed with confidence, “I’m not afraid to speak up anymore!” 

No one would have expected such a poised reply from Sateesh just a year back. Severely lacking in confidence, Sateesh did not even dare to consult his teacher about his schoolwork. As a result, his grades frequently placed him at the bottom of the class and Sateesh constantly harboured thoughts about dropping out of school.

Today, Sateesh helps his sister with her homework, and frequently takes time out to tutor the younger village children. His fluency in Kannada - the regional language - has cemented his status as one of Agastya’s most exemplary YILs, having taught close to 400 students in the presence of 30 teachers at the science fair at Gudupalli School. Sateesh also demonstrated the preparation of oxygen to the India Prime Minister’s National Knowledge Commission team when they visited Agastya.

And Sateesh is just one of the many beneficiaries of Agastya’s YIL Program. Like him, many YILs come from a rural background. Despite this, they have formed the largest group of winners at the annual Intel IRIS Fair (Click here to read about our 2011 winners – Bhargavi and Jyothsna!). 

Change in attitude, change in behaviour

Agastya believes that hands-on learning can increase retention, awaken one’s innate critical-thinking skills, and trigger the self-belief needed to propel an individual to rise and act responsibly. Through the activities offered in the YIL Program, Agastya hopes that YILs will ultimately transform from passive to active learners and from followers to leaders.

Wonder how students are selected for the Program?

Youths ‘Illuminating Light’

In the initial years of implementation, the YIL Program has focused primarily on peer-to-peer teaching activities, in which each YIL is tasked with training 5 young instructors for the Agastya mega science fairs. During this process, YILs are actively encouraged to create their own teaching-learning methodologies to better guide and manage their instructors and help them with their learning These processes allow YILs to develop management skills and set their path towards becoming effective future leaders. 

Besides mentoring others, selected YILs also have the chance to interact with scientists and other inspirational leaders through events organized by Agastya. At these events, students get the chance to hone their critical thinking skills through interacting and learning from leading experts in the field. Students can then bring back the knowledge they have gained to school and share it with their classmates and teachers, bringing about a multiplier effect.

In recent years, the YIL Program has evolved to encompass activities that go beyond science education to focus on the holistic development of students themselves. These activities include: Information Technology (IT) classes to expose rural children to the use of computers; ecology walks to raise environmental awareness; and educational visits to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to acquaint them with real-life social issues facing their community. It is hoped that exposure to real life community issues and their solutions sensitize YILs and kindles a sense of social responsibility. A wide range of YIL activities nudges them to become proactive grassroots leaders who are willing and able to improve the welfare of their community.

Thus, Agastya hopes that YILs will blossom into all-rounded, holistic individuals with a passion for both academic and non-academic issues.

Grooming the young leaders of tomorrow

Through the various activity-based, experiential learning opportunities, the 6,000 graduates from the YIL Program thus far, have been transformed into agents of social change throughout the many states of India. Agastya makes a constant effort to keep in touch with these YIL alumni so as to continue providing support to them as they become leaders in their own right. 

YIL Uma is an example of how continuous support can help. The liberating hands-on stimulation and peer-to-peer teaching that she experienced in the YIL Program enabled her to become the first girl from her village to join an engineering college – an institution traditionally dominated by males. However, Uma nearly lost the opportunity to further her studies when her parents could not afford to pay the monthly college tuition fee of Rs 300. Fortunately, being a YIL gave her a chance to apply and secure a scholarship under the Agastya Scholars Program. Currently excelling in her third year of Engineering course, Uma hopes to become a teacher in the future to promote creative Science to more students. As of today, Agastya has given out scholarships to 450 students

An interview with YIL Seema and her school teacher offers a glimpse of what the YIL can achieve: “After being in the YIL Program for a year, Seema now speaks well and without self-consciousness, and not surprisingly, has won an inter-school public speaking competition on the subject of My Aspirations – What I want to do in life.” To which Seema added on enthusiastically, “I want to work in the state government so that I can help alleviate poverty in my community!”

All these testimonies serve as an encouragement for Agastya to constantly improve the YIL Program so as to raise rural productivity and play a role in nurturing future leaders, innovators, and technologists for an economically prosperous and sustainable rural India.