Transformative education: A luxury for rich kids? Part 3

If education is the foundation for how our society evolves into the future – then how do we align this important system to our emergent societal needs?

Leigh Meinert, co-founder and Executive Director of the innovative education institution, Tsiba in South Africa, reflects here on “Why transformative education is essential?”  This is the third of three guest blogs that explore Tsiba as a model for changing education.   TSiBA’s CEO and fellow co-founder, Adri Marais,will talk at a ‘Transformative Education’ conversation to be held at London Business School on 29 October 2013. There is limited availability. For more information and to book your place, please visit


The transformative approach to education that TSiBA adopts is a holistic mode of education that cares, that inspires and that brings the best out in each individual.

Many of you who have followed the two previous posts may have found yourselves thinking, “Well this sounds good but isn’t this a luxury for rich kids?”

All of TSiBA’s students are on full tuition scholarships and none of them come from well-off households. Further, it is not a luxury – society is already paying a very high price for not educating in this way.

Drop-out rates are staggering. One of the reasons for this is that teachers are not engaging young people in classroom – they don’t find their studies meaningful or relevant. Even if they get as far as passing and getting a job, it may well be one that does not engage them fully.

Many people burn out mid-career because they have been chasing goals and values that aren’t their own. People who redirect when they finally discover their passion but lose years that they can never regain. Even worse, countless people never really bring their full self to their jobs or to their world because they’ve never discovered what their passion is, they’ve never asked the right questions, or had the support of a coach or mentor who help them find the courage and the support to follow it. Maybe you are one of those people?

The opportunity cost of not educating for transformation is therefore extremely high – for individuals and our society.

Yet this kind of education need not cost a lot – what is required is a shift in the way we think of the purpose of education and those who are doing the educating: from students as numbers being educated to find jobs to people in a supported learning community finding their purpose.

Students are immersed into a community that practises this new way of being. Self Development and Leadership are hard-wired into the curriculum of any degree. We’ve honed a process called a Portfolio of Leadership and Learning, where students report back to a panel of peers and their mentors, as well as academic staff, on their growth in the past six months and they also self-assess themselves.

We have only been graduating students for 5 years and already we have 5 Mandela Rhodes scholars, the highest accolade for post-graduate students throughout Africa. People regularly come back to us and tell us that our students are “different” somehow; that there is something “special” about them.

I think it is because their education has been transformative and we’ve done this in three ways:

  • We’ve focused on helping our students find their passion,
  • We’ve asked them powerful questions that we don’t have the answers to, because
  • We see our role as that of mentors and coaches.

Educators themselves realise that their continued self-development is as important, if not more important than that of their students. They engage in reflective practise, engage in learning communities with peers and have access to mentors and coaches. Tsiba requires educators to:

  • Dig deep, connect to and revive our own passions,
  • Reflect on questions that we don’t have answers to, alone and with peers, and to
  • Fundamentally change the way that we’ve traditionally thought about our role in the classroom.

In a rapidly changing world that requires each of us to bring all of ourselves to the problems that face us and generations to come, we cannot afford not to set out on this transformative journey.

TSiBA is the kind of learning community that provides courage and support to all.

Imagine a society made up of “special”?

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