Another Ed-Tech Start-up? Why?

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Truth be told, this wasn’t the first blog post I had planned for PlayAblo but considering that it is the elephant in the room I figured let’s get this addressed first.

The idea for PlayAblo sprouted in a chance conversation with a close friend about the Indian Education system and the experience our children go through. My oversimplified understanding is that the current education model in India has its genesis in the British Raj. The system was setup to help the British rulers create army of clerks to better manage & administer the governance of the colony. When India became independent the education system continued as is. So we’ve continued creating clerks ever since who work great as long as there is well defined structure and system of processes to be followed but the model starts to creak when the students are expected to think independently/innovatively to solve problems as opposed to the follow the directions in the text books (Remember those open book tests we got in school? Those were the toughest!)

OK so this is obviously an uncomfortable situation out there. But is there a problem hidden in it that needs to be redressed? Turns out there is. A rather big one. And I dare do another oversimplification of that problem description:

1. Children are born very creative & curious (Do you know any child under the age of 7 or 8 who is not forever asking ‘Why this?’ or ‘Why that?’ and each ‘Why’ followed by a few more?)

2. This natural disposition of children to extend their thinking conflicts directly with our education system that focuses on a well defined model & structure, also fondly referred to as ‘rote learning’.

3. As a result, the curiosity quotient of children goes down rapidly as they move from grade 1 through 5.

4. However, by the time they are in middle school they’ve cracked the problem. Our children now understand how the system works and move through it efficiently by following the set methodologies and scoring ranks.

5. Unfortunately, this is the wrong problem that they have solved. They’ve let go of their curiosity & creativity in exchange for cultivating rank chasing instincts.

To me this is a massive problem. More like an epidemic. And 200 million students (just in India) are exposed to it every year. Lest this is controlled we will not be able to move away from the clerk churning assembly lines across the nation.

So how can this be fixed? To begin with, let us pause and reflect at this question for a bit. It is important to appreciate that this problem has manifested in its current state of enormity over many decades. This machinery has a lot of hard locked gears that you can’t just wave a magic wand over. Think of the journey from a portable two-in-one stereo to the iPod Nano. One, it will take time. Two, multiple models will have to be tried and maybe clubbed together. Third and most importantly the solution will have to work in collaboration with the existing system to ensure that the instinct of our children to ask questions is not lost. It is my firm belief that if we give our children an environment and an eco system that fosters and encourages asking the right questions, all else will take care of itself. Yes, as simple as that!

So there it is. Here is where it all boils down to. Questions. Not answers. The intense need for exposure to the right questions, for in the words of E. E. Cummings: ‘Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question’

To get to the best answers, we have to embark upon asking the right questions. Eagerness to ask questions is the beginning of the exciting journey of problem-solving and innovation. Questions act as a trigger to ignite our imagination. We have understood that asking questions not only helps us motivate ourselves but also holds the interest and attention of all those who interact with us. Learning how to act and on our questions will steer us toward solutions and creative developments and discoveries. Einstein, Aristotle, Isaac Newton understood this and so did many others…now it is our turn.

In my next post I will detail our approach on building this ecosystem of the right questions and how we think it can work in collaboration with the existing education system.

Dheeraj Sharma
Founder & CEO (PlayAblo)

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