Transformative education: Teaching for tomorrow Part 2

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 “What transformative education looks like?”  This is the second of three guest blogs that explores Tsiba as a model for changing education.   TSiBA’s CEO and fellow co-founder, Adri Marais,will talk at a ‘Transformative Education’ coversation 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


In my first blog, I defined transformative education based on its three distinctive characteristics:

  • It is education that helps people to find their purpose.tsiba logo
  • It is education that asks more questions and gives fewer answers and,
  • It is education that requires teachers to become mentors and coaches.

Ten years ago Adri Marais, Gia Whitehead, Graham Lashbrooke and I set out to start an institution of learning, called the Tertiary School in Business Administration (aka TSiBA), that fulfilled these characteristics – it had the power to transform, individuals, communities and the Nation.

We opened our doors for our first students in 2005. All students majored in Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Self Development. The curriculum, was grounded in powerful questions. When our students arrive in the first year we ask them to engage with the question, “Who Am I?” In the second year the guiding question is, “What Is Success?” In the third year it’s, “How Do I Add Value?” and in their fourth and final year, the question becomes “What is my purpose here”? At TSiBA we ask more questions and give fewer answers.

Shortly before our students graduate we take them to the mountains to engage deeply with themselves. They spend two days and nights on their own with no distractions. It’s a deeply challenging process that readies them for entry into a turbulent world by providing access to that still spot within themselves where their own answers reside. We cannot prepare them for every eventuality – we believe that we can support them best by providing them with the ability to draw sustenance from within.

We believe that our role as an educator is to be a mentor and a coach. Provide students with someone who is in “their corner”. This means quietly bearing witness and giving encouragement as they search to find their own answers. In the process definitions like “teacher” and “student” begin to blur because the students teach the teachers – we learn together. 

This approach has borne fruit – TSiBA produces transformative leaders and entrepreneurs – including 5 Mandela Rhodes Scholars and a Kofi Annan Scholar. these impressive results place it far ahead of established institutions. Indeed, after visiting their campus, Professor Otto Scharmer of MIT observed, “TSiBA is a living example of a new breed of business schools.”

Yet, it is on the individual level that the power of transformative education can be felt most keenly.


Cindy, a TSIBA student, fell pregnant in her first year at TSiBA. Within a year of pregnancy and birth Cindy lost her grandmother (who had raised her) and her father (who was brutally murdered). Cindy lost the two people who were going to help her to raise her child. However, she did not drop out. Cindy completed her studies in the minimum time.  Despite the pressure to get a well paying job, Cindy decided to pursue her passion, uncovered at Tsiba.  She wanted to give back to other students and the community – or in Tsiba terms (“Pay it forward”).  She piloted a course that taught unemployed people career and computer skills and became a Community Trainer – giving others the gift of education that she had received.

Cindy’s story is an outstanding example of the first element of transformative education, it helped her to find her passion – not just a job. Indeed, she created her own job and is now helping others find theirs.  She could do this because she was connected to her own purpose, asked the right questions and had the support of the coaching and mentoring environment at TSIBA.


My third blog in this series will look at how practical it is to implement and scale this kind of education. It provides a business case for transformative education.

Written by Leigh Meinert, co-founder and executive director, TSiBA Education

TSiBA’s CEO and fellow co-founder, Adri Marais,will talk at a ‘Transformative Education’ event 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

For more information on Business Education at London Business School please visit


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