Brainfeed in conversation with Santosh Kumar, CEO, 21K School, about homeschooling In India and use of technology for transparent learning
Is there a lot of untapped potential for homeschooling in India?
There is a niche segment of students and parents who believe in homeschooling and unschooling. Broadly, there are two categories of students opting for Homeschooling. The first category includes those parents who differ in their opinions about the contribution of traditional schooling and rote learning driven systems that is so much prevalent in Indian Schools. This section of the parents expect more from education than just text book driven, information loaded transfer of knowledge. They expect real work education that is meaningful, joyful and meets the requirements of the future.
In the second category, you have students for whom homeschooling is the best option. These are the students who spend a lot of time pursuing their chosen career path at a very young age – it could be sports, visual arts, performing arts and more. Homeschooling also becomes essential for students with medical conditions or physical disability, who are unable to travel regularly to physical schools. We have also seen students enrolling with us where parents are with transferable jobs. In a real sense, the homeschoolers can be the torchbearers of new education system In India is if can be replicated at a scale, which is what we are aspire at 21K School.
The online homeschooling offers transparency in the education system which was missing earlier.
How can online learning in India bridge the attainment gap?
Online Learning can offer a tech-driven solution to offer quality education to overcome the challenges of access, equity and quality in India. How else does one hope to provide the thousands of good, skilled teachers to meet the rising demand for schools. It is easy to build infrastructure but very difficult to recruit a qualified and competent teacher. The New National Education Policy paints a beautiful future for the Indian Schools and Education System at large, it is aspirational and something that we all must race to achieve the goals set in there.
However, I see the availability of teachers as the biggest challenge in the path. This can be overcome by using technology and online learning solutions. Technology will act as an enabler for teachers and students in accessing specialized content well beyond traditional books. This will bridge a critical gap – elevating educators’ role from imparting received knowledge to working as co-creators of knowledge, as coaches, and importantly – as mentors.
At 21K School, we use a lot of data analytics and systems to understand the progress, strengths and weakness of the child. Such a profound system is going to be a work in progress always. We are constantly learning and adding new features to ensure that we can offer a truly personalised learning program for each of our students.
We have included Photography and a unique curriculum on Aesthetics as part of the course. We intend to introduce courses on Bio Mimicry and Design Thinking also in the future.
What are some of the flawed techniques schools have been practicing to engage children into e-learning?
The requirements, dynamics and model of e-learning is completely different from that of a physical school. What worked well for a traditional school will almost never be suitable for an online school like ours. Thanks to the experience that we have on Board that understands the challenges of both physical and online schooling, we have been able to create a model that efficiently and effectively generates a learning experience similar to students in a physical school, however without its limitations.
We have been able to achieve with just 3 hours of regular classes what Schools achieve with over 8 hours of students’ time (including travel time). This is a substantial saving of time. A quick calculation will inform you that it means a saving of almost 1050 hours over an academic year of 210 days. Could you imagine the possibilities of what a student can achieve, learn and grow in this free time?
Students can pursue their hobbies, read novels, create YouTube Videos, Write Blogs, learn speed-reading, attend coding classes, learning culinary skills, socialise more and spend time with grandparents at home or elders in Society. The possibilities are many and inspiring.
21K School has Digital Media & Arts in its curriculum…
Yes, Digital Media and Arts is an important aspect of one’s learning. It is important for students with varied backgrounds to understand and appreciate the role of aesthetics in daily life. It is not only about drawing beautifully, or carving a beautiful sculpture. There is more to it. Can a student understand the importance of good formatting in a word document that they submit? Can she work on making a presentation look better before submission? These small things must be learned and understood right at the schooling years and not in an MBA Program. The foundation for such thinking and appreciation comes from digital media and arts that we teach our students right from Grade 1. We have included Photography and a unique curriculum on Aesthetics as part of the course. We intend to introduce courses on Bio Mimicry and Design Thinking also in the future.
We follow a simple dictum of “Teaching For Understanding”. When a child understands the concepts, he not only remembers but is also able to use those concepts in real life settings.
What are some of the learning pedagogies followed?
We do not offer any innovative learning pedagogies. We follow a simple dictum of “Teaching For Understanding”. When a child understands the concepts, he not only remembers but is also able to use those concepts in real life settings. The focus is always on what a child has learned rather than what a teacher has taught. Of course, this is achieved by making learning very activity-based and experiential.
21K School accommodates students whose parents have transferable jobs. If you could explain us why online schools are a better alternative than frequently changing schools?
Online School offers a learning continuum that will remain the same throughout the school life. The frequent change of schools means a change in Board, Curriculum, Teachers, Coordinators, Assessment Rubrics, Teaching-Learning Methods, and of course Friends.
The continuity of growth and development is hampered as it naturally taking a few months and quarters to get adjusted to the new eco-system. It may or may not be good for the child’s mental health and well-being. Besides, there is an additional cost of admission fee, anxiety over admissions, changes in mid-term, loss of academic time and gap in learning over time. These challenges are overcome with an online school like 21K School.