Kiran Bir Sethi


"We have lied to our children: they are not the future, they are the present"

Kiran Bir Sethi on how education can change the world in four steps.

Learn about the movement created in India that encourages children to be creative and enterprising.

Teach children to have an "I can" attitude

My name is Kiran Bir Sethi and I am from India. I originally trained to be a designer. When I worked as a designer 26 years ago I was a recent mother. When my son started school aged five, I thought the teachers would love him as much as I did. However, I soon realized that this was not the case and that at school he was just another pupil. I knew they wouldn't understand him, so I decided to do something about it. I could just have put him in a different school and left it at that. What I did instead was think about starting a school myself. So, that's what I did. I started a school at my house and my aim was to help children be able to say "I can" and be treated as individuals. I converted my house into a school 16 years ago.

I still remember a lot about the first children who came to the school. Almost everyone learns to say "I can't". At school we're taught to listen to adults, not to have ideas and to sit down all the time. This is something children are made to do for fifteen years. Later, we're surprised when they're not creative, empathetic or responsible, but this is how we've taught them to be. The aim of both the school I founded and the Design for Change program is to help all children believe in themselves and realize that they can do this today.

The Design for Change initiative is currently operational in sixty-six countries, including Spain. Here, some six, seven and eight-year old superheroes have built a golf course at their school.

We are the only species on the planet capable of critical and creative thinking. We are the only species on the planet that can empathize. And that's what makes our species unique. However, it's something that must be learned. Which is what Design for Change is all about. We need to be more human. People need to have more humanity, as that's what the world needs. if you tell someone they're incredible, you automatically think you're not as good as them; therefore, it's better to criticize them. When I look into a child's eyes, I remember the time I was seventeen years old and first arrived at my design school. I felt I was alive for the first time. My teacher looked at me and listened to me. This had never happened to me before. I didn't know what it was like to be listened to.

Design For Change is like a recipe, a formula or a framework. Design For Change involves four simple steps: feel, imagine, do and share. We call it FIDS for KIDS. That's the English acronym. Each step equals something, like a formula. When you get a child to "feel, imagine, do and share", you see that they are more able to believe in themselves because they have chosen to act on what concerns them.

Know more about Kiran Bir Sethi

Educator and social entrepreneur. Kiran Bir Sethi is the founder of the Design for Change (DFC) model. This movement is operational in more than 60 countries and has reached more than 25 million children. The aim of the movement is to link what children learn in school to helping communities improve by following four simple steps: Feel, Imagine, Do and Share. The United Nations has welcomed this initiative as part of its Global Goals framework.
What is Design for Change? The method involves four simple steps: feel, imagine, do and share. We have seen that children feel pride and start to believe in themselves more because they have chosen to act on what concerns them. That's the first step: feel. We ask them what they get upset about and listen to what they say, which is a good way to show a child you respect them. Imagine means asking a child to think of a positive change or way to achieve the best outcome. The "do" part means putting this into practice. And the fourth step (which I think is the best one) is to share what you've done with others so they realize that they can do it as well. We spend fifteen years telling our children that they don't have a choice and that they have to listen to us. Then we're surprised when they're not creative, empathetic or responsible. It's because over these fifteen years they've learned to believe that they can't do things. Our aim is to show each child that they can do things and that they can do them now. Not when they're older, stronger or wealthier.

"Just as you would train the muscles in your body, you also have to train your 'I can' superpower and empathy muscles"

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