“What was so refreshing about spending four days with leaders of Teach for Lebanon, Teach for China, Teach for India and all the others was the fact that, since 9/11, I’ve spent so much time writing about people who are breaking things and so little time covering people who are making things. This was a week with the makers.”
When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Friedman joined CEOs, staff, teachers, and alumni from across the Teach For All network at the 2013 Global Conference in Yunnan, China last week, he was struck by the pervasive sense of optimism and commitment. “[I]f raw idealism and willingness to take up the hardest challenges count for anything, you have to be hopeful.” he wrote in column published in today’s New York Times. “Traveling here last week was like spending four days with 32 Malala Yousafzais from 32 different nations.”
At the conference, hosted in Tengchong County in Yunnan’s rural Baoshan prefecture, Friedman immersed himself in Teach For All’s global approach to addressing the problem of educational inequity and firm belief in the power of transcending borders to share best practices and accelerate change. Through visits to the village schools, conversations with outstanding social entrepreneurs, and engaging with teachers and alumni committed to educational opportunity, he experienced first-hand the network’s model of cultivating leadership, in the classroom and beyond.
Throughout the journey, Friedman was impressed by the constructive approach of the network’s teachers and staff: “National governments have not figured out how to tap into the idealism of young people,” Teach For India’s Sandeep Rai explains. “You come out of college and you really want to change something. I thought that after two years I would be in and out, and eight years later I’m still here.”