Whose Knowledge Is It, Anyway? Sanyukta Bafna | Teachers College Columbia University

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Whose Knowledge Is It, Anyway? Sanyukta Bafna
(M.Ed., Curriculum and Teaching)


Life Before TC:

After graduating from college in India, Sanyukta Bafna, a business major from a family of lawyers, spent two years teaching 4th and 5th grades in Mumbai for Teach for India (TFI). She spent an additional year serving as a program manager, which included being the TFI math coach for all of Mumbai.

Why TC:

Despite the skepticism of some of her family members, Sanyukta decided to devote herself to being an educator but “felt a responsibility to learn more about teaching.” A friend told her about Teachers College.


TC Takeaway:

“I expected to learn specific pedagogical practices, but it has been so much more than that,” Sanyukta says. “We've focused on ideas such as hidden curriculum – questioning what is the knowledge being imparted, whose knowledge is it, what are the unintended messages from how the school is structured and how teaching is enacted.” She became particularly interested in issues of gender and social justice. “I’m very interested in the idea of Girl Power. We tell girls they can be anything but we don’t talk about the complex layers of it. What if someone is does not fit the norm of traditional girl power? How does it affect how they see themselves in relation to the environment in which they exist?”

Sanyukta is particularly grateful to Adjunct Professor Stephanie McCall, who “pushed me to take more challenging courses, to contextualize my writing to my experiences in India, and who generally saw potential in me that I didn't see myself.”

Encouraged by McCall, Sanyukta wrote her master’s thesis on “The Illusion of Choice” in an all-girls Islamic school, returning to Mumbai to explore how the messages girls receive about religion and gender affect their college and career choices. She herself is not Muslim, but did attend an all-girls school – and had worked primarily with Muslim girls while with TFI. 


What’s Next:

Now Sanyukta is returning to India to join a new school curriculum and consulting firm started by 2008 TC alumnus Siamack Zahedi (M.Ed. ’08). Her goal: To liberate school curricula from stereotypes of religion and gender so that girls are empowered to realize their full potential.

“When it comes to curriculum design, not enough people in India are talking right now about how social differences such as gender, religion and disability influence schooling and curricular practices,” she says. “How are we defining a concept like femininity or choice? How does that affect young girls and women who don’t see themselves reflected in the norm? I want to jumpstart that conversation.”

Published Monday, Jun 6, 2016