Srinivas shares his views on India's current education system and talks about what roles platforms such as StayQrious can play in the current environment
Our current ‘production line’ inspired education system won’t work anymore. We are entering an era where our children have to be trained to become lifelong learners and original thinkers. This means, in addition to mere subject knowledge, it is important to help kids develop essential skills, mindsets, attitudes and, most importantly, teach them the ‘art of learning anything’. This is something that most of our schools today do not teach or measure, says Aanand Srinivas, Founder and CEO, StayQrious.
StayQrious, an ed-tech startup, claims to be India’s new operating system for education that helps kids gain important skills and attitudes that schools don’t teach and exams never test. In an exclusive interview with Sanjeev Sinha of FE Online, Mr Srinivas shares his views on India’s current education system and talks about what roles platforms such as StayQrious can play in the current environment. Excerpts:
What gaps do you see in the current education system? How does StayQrious give an alternative? What is StayQrious?
Much of what our children learn in schools today will be irrelevant for the jobs of the 21st century. As famous historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Hahari describes, they are going to be ‘Learning Nomads’. He says that we currently use a ‘production line’ inspired education system from the 19th century to stuff our children with a truckload of facts in the hope they can get a job that they can keep for the rest of their lives. This won’t work anymore. We are in fact entering an era where they have to be trained to become lifelong learners and original thinkers. This means in addition to mere subject knowledge, it is important to help kids develop essential skills, mindsets, attitudes and most importantly, teach them the ‘art of learning anything’. This is something that most of our schools today do not teach or measure.
StayQrious aims to transform the existing education model using insights from learning science and behavioral economics into learning spaces that are 10X more effective and engaging for students. This is very different from the current structure and hence the term ‘operating system’. The subjects we teach (Science & Coding) are weaved with essential skills and mindsets as the latter cannot be taught or practiced in isolation. We want to create a new generation of kids who are original executors and not just obedient executors.
Platforms such as StayQrious are available after school hours. Do you think such skill training should be part of those hours so that a child is not overburdened? Are you working with schools?
While that would be ideal, there are many barriers to achieving this today and we shouldn’t let that stop children from gaining access to important knowledge and skills. Also, the notion that learning or classes will be an additional burden for kids highlights a major drawback in our education system. We need to make learning fun through immersive and engaging methodologies. Traditional teaching methods kill the spontaneity which makes the process overbearing for students. I feel children will feel overburdened only if we fail to engage them. Children show more interest in learning, when they learn in an environment designed based on learning science.
What is your take on the new education policy? How do you see your platform playing a role in pushing digital education in the country?
I am glad India is taking steps in the right direction with the NEP’s holistic and integrated approach for education. In fact, I particularly appreciate their proposal to reduce curriculum content to core essentials and make coding a mandate from Class 6 onwards. Talking about the first, most schools teach subjects like a list of portions to “cover” and students don’t end up getting enough time to really master the few super-core concepts. Students should spend an inordinate time on the core concepts and master those, rather than equal time on all the portions.
When it comes to Coding, it is crucial for young children to understand the technology-filled world around them and become masters of coding literacy so that they can thrive in the new technology-led world of tomorrow. These proposed reforms will take time to be implemented due to the vastness of our country, nature of the changes and naturally slower adoption when it comes to a physical setup. It is easier to incorporate these reforms and reach out to students so that those who are studying today would not miss out on quality education that the country is promising to the kids of tomorrow. That’s what we have done at StayQrious. Both our coding and science courses are designed with this vision, to help children stay laser-focused on the core concepts and develop not just academically, but holistically.
There are so many ed-tech platforms. Some make tall claims as well. What makes StayQrious different? What parents should look for when they’re selecting an ed-tech platform for their children?
Yes, there are many Edtech platforms out there serving different needs with unique tech-enabled solutions. However, the core problems still exist whether in an offline or an online setup. Children continue to accumulate learning gaps that affect them in their higher grades. Moreover, the learning environment continues to be unpleasant, leading to a drop in interest levels as kids go from one grade to another. While there are many solutions, no one has yet solved them.
The way to solve these problems is by creating a mastery-based framework that detects the learning gaps early on and by providing feedback and support at the right stages. Second, we need to teach kids evidence-based learning techniques so that they are capable of learning on their own. Third and most importantly, create a judgment-free and enjoyable learning environment. StayQrious is the first mastery-based school that does these.
How do you gauge the effectiveness of your platform? What are the metrics? How do they benefit children in the current school system?
Unlike general courses that seem to teach a lot and test a few things, our curriculum is super focussed on mastering the core learning objectives. We use backward design principles to create our curriculum. Meaning, we first think of the learning objectives that we want a student to master, then we plan assessment to check whether a student has actually mastered the objective, then we design the learning experience and practice material. This process ensures that we always teach the core and measure mastery appropriately.
We measure mastery of the students at multiple levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. This ensures that our students not only remember things but they understand it and can be creative with it. We do this through quizzes, vivas, projects, special activities and more.
You raised $2 million in seed funding last year. How the funding was utilised? Are you planning to raise more funding? If yes, how do you plan to utilise it?
The funds are primarily being utilized in improving our product, hiring and training coaches, building coach-aid tools, and curriculum.