Making Education Effective Again

This is a Guest Post by Nitesh Salvi, Co-Founder, Director at Plancess.

Untitled2015 witnessed a flurry of investments in the education space with a dream to solve the problem of illiteracy and employability. Several players have focused on building the perfect solution but for a self-motivated student. However, the irony remains that students are rarely self-motivated.

There exists an irony in the way the education sector is raising money from the venture capital community. And here is the reason for this:

  • Parents are looking for results that can be objectively measured. They want their child to score better and higher than their peers kids. Rarely do we come across a scenario where the parents are interested in knowledge, applicability and such aspects which are immensely important to call someone ‘educated’
  • Educational Institutions are centres for educational excellence and supposedly made in the not-for-profit format. However, the industry is spending more money on infrastructure and facilities rather than on development of curriculum and holistic student development
  • The venture capital industry is made up of ‘capitalists’ and the baseline goal is to ensure growth or profitability. Their model of working revolves around finding the right Product-Market fit and accelerating growth once that has been achieved. Unfortunately, the market is made up of customers who are parents and the right product is assumed to be one which helps them ‘score better’ and not necessarily ‘learn better’
  • In Spite of an industry that is being pegged at multibillion dollar valuations, the output is majorly unemployable. As an analogy, imagine a business where only 15% of the produce is useful and the rest need to be ‘processed’ to be useful for the market.
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This raises a big concern on how are we measuring this industry and is the ecosystem really functional? And if not, what are we doing wrong?

The issue lies in how we are defining the problem that the organisation is solving.

GOAL 1 : We want students to score better so that they can get into the institute of their choice

GOAL  2 : We want to promote a way of learning that teaches students to think independently and apply their knowledge to solve real problems

UNFORTUNATELY, a large share of the industry is driven by success metrics that are business oriented and hence the GOAL 1 is a favourite. Infact the true version of GOAL 1 that most don’t mention is:

GOAL 1 : We want students to score better so that they can get into the institute of their choice so that we are paid handsomely by parents

Now there is nothing wrong in this approach too, if and only if there is some nobility still attached to this goal and the statement reads like this:

GOAL 1 : We want students to score better so that they can get into the institute of their choice so that we are paid handsomely by parents for the value that the student has derived from the learning experience

A multitude of startups are working towards building the most efficient solution for scoring marks, some of them are focussing on learning and application of learning. But still there are many that are missing out on some very important factors:

  • A learning experience that is truly personalised for each and every learner.
  • An approach that promotes experiential learning through self-discovery.
  • A blend of quality instruction design that is facilitated through technology and not the other way around.
  • An engagement model which provides the right incentives for actions which promote application of your learning.
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Ironically, not even one of the 4 points that have been enlisted above are novel. They are all learnings from other industries. For that example, think for a moment why students love games, cartoons and movies. Each of these are touching upon the 4 points.

Take the example of a simple game like mario or pacman or even ludo for that matter. The incentives are aligned to drive behaviour in a positive direction which is towards a higher score or level or completion of the game. There is flexibility available for a player to try different ways to play the game and make intermediate decisions which are driven by self-discovery.

Take the example of movies or cartoons or even a book which has witnessed rave success.. The delivery is decided by a director or the author who understands the audience and crafts a script that will keep the viewer or the reader hooked onto it.

Now imagine that the game and the movie coming together into a cinematic yet interactive experience which keeps a student so glued onto the learning experience that they are extremely interested, curious and intrigued to move forward in the experience. An experience like this will not only be effective, but will be fueled by a student’s curiosity in a subject which makes him explore and apply concepts.

If someday this model goes mainstream, then we will have moulded GOAL 1 into GOAL 2 and have built an ecosystem which works for the industry by providing them individuals with able and trained minds rather than just high scores. And surprisingly, there are examples from other industries and players like Google which will prove that nothing that has been suggested in this article is novel except the ecosystem that would be created by blending things which have already been done in other industries.

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