Indian Education Reformer Honored as Koldyke Fellow

February 10, 2014
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is honoring Kiran Bir Sethi with its Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship for her efforts to generate innovative solutions to education challenges around the globe. Sethi is founder and director of The Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India, and founder of Design for Change and aProCh.

Sethi is visiting Chicago this week and will meet with civic, media, business, and academic leaders to exchange ideas about education policy and teacher training. She will deliver The Chicago Council’s Seventh Annual Patricia Blunt Koldyke Lecture on February 12, and will participate in a panel discussion on combatting violence and empowering youth on February 13.

Sethi’s interest in education began when she realized her son’s educational experience – being punished for deviating from the text book or for taking charge of his own learning – was true for most students in India. Trained as a designer, Sethi used her knowledge of the design thinking process to create an educational experience guided by common sense.

She founded The Riverside School in 2001. Its lesson plan focuses on creating curious, competent, future citizens. It now enrolls almost 300 children and has franchised its curriculum widely.

Sethi’s other initiative, Design for Change, is a global movement that empowers children to be the change they wish to see in the world. It has spread to over 35 countries in three years, and to more than 25 million children across the globe – including as far afield as Brazil. “If children are empowered and made to feel that they can take matters into their hands, they will change the world for the better,” said Sethi.

Sethi's latest project, inspired by the children of Riverside, is called aProCh, which stands for "A Protagonist in every Child." Fighting the stereotype of modern kids as rude and delinquent, aProCh looks for ways to engage Ahmedabad's children in modern city life, and to revamp cities to make room for kids to learn, both actively and by example.

Sethi has received numerous honors, including the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008 and the ‘Call to Conscience’ award from the King Centre at Stanford in 2009. She was a speaker at TEDIndia in 2009, and was chosen as one of the 12 Thought Leaders of the World by the Culture of Peace Forum in New York City in 2011. She is a member of the board of Teach for India, founded by Shaheen Mistri, the first Chicago Council Koldyke Fellow. She received her diploma in visual communication from the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India.

As the 2013 Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellow, Sethi seeks to gain perspectives on Chicago’s best practices that will enable her to effect meaningful and sustained change in India and beyond. She also is looking forward to opportunities to discuss Indian education and society with Chicagoans.

The Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellowship is funded by the Koldyke family to recognize a social entrepreneur between the ages of 30 and 45 who is working to transform his or her society through innovative solutions to pressing educational problems and inadequacies.

To learn more about Chicago Council fellowships, visit

Watch Kiran Bir Sethi on WTTW's Chicago Tonight from February 10, 2014: