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Bollywood Star and University of Worcester Graduate Tells of Her Challenge to Improve Education in India

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A top Bollywood film star, who graduated from the University of Worcester a decade ago, returned to share her efforts to change young people’s lives in India through education.

Dr Swaroop Sampat, who was crowned Miss India in 1979, travels across India training teachers, while also campaigning to get more children, such as those in tribal communities or street children, into the classroom.

She studied for a PhD in Education at the University of Worcester, which, she said, gave her the confidence and skills to help others in her native country.

“What I teach in my teacher training is what I got from Worcester,” she said, on her recent visit back to Worcester. “So it’s as if I’m giving back to the world what I received from here – and I have received a lot. I strongly believe that what I am today is because of the University of Worcester.”

Swaroop serves on the Central Advisory Board of Education, the highest education board in India, and the Save the Children International Governing Council.

She combined data collection and teaching in India with study at Worcester for her PhD, which looked at the role of drama in enhancing life skills of children with learning difficulties at a school in Mumbai.

“What I have realised is that motivation, self-esteem - the emotional side of learning - is very important for specific learning difficulties because they may be able to meet the challenge only if they believe they can do it,” she said. “I teach children communication skills; I raise their self-esteem; I empower them to be able to study or to stand up for themselves and to speak for themselves.”

Swaroop’s PhD paper has been widely read internationally and she has spoken at conferences around the world.

“My studies helped me in so many ways,” she added. “There was a line in my PhD that said ‘I’m going to change the lives of all the children in my country’ and you think ‘how is that going to happen?’. But the kind of confidence I got as a researcher and as a teacher only happened here and because of that I have been able to take all my post-doctoral work onto a totally different level.

“Now I am known, not only in India, but my work is known even in other places. This only happened because of Worcester and the people I met and how they made my experience so positive.”

Swaroop returned to Worcester to give education professionals the benefit of her experience at the University’s Bridging the Global Education Gap conference.

The conference, part of the Institute of Education’s work internationally, looked at developments in education in disadvantaged communities all over the world. As the keynote speaker, Swaroop told of her experiences in educating people in isolated or rural communities in India and the challenges she faced.