Learning is defined as ‘any relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of practice and experience.’ However, many believe that our traditional education system of rote learning doesn’t effectively bring in the desired behavioural changes. However, today, several edtech startups are bringing in innovative and creative methods to ensure that learning gets fun and informative.
One among these is knowledgeXP, incubated out of ISB Hyderabad. It is a company that is focussed on promoting experiential education in schools across the country. They conduct workshops with school students through activities derived from the latest research in experiential learning.
Journalism to management
The idea came to Varun Kumar while he was still a journalist. While covering educational stories for CNN IBN, Varun realised that there is immense pressure on schools and teachers to complete the syllabus making it difficult for teachers to focus on the different kinds of learners in a classroom.
“Encouraged by the introduction of CCE, an evaluation mechanism that promotes holistic assessment rather than assessing students purely on the basis on their exam results, I believed that India was ready for experiential education and the rote system of learning could be replaced with holistic education,” says 29-year-old Varun.
In order to understand the different skills that are associated with business, Varun decided to pursue an MBA at the Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad. At ISB, he got the opportunity to further develop his business idea.
Working and understanding the market
Varun says he conducted extensive market research and gap analysis by talking to the heads and students of over 45 schools in different parts of the country. “It’s one of the reasons why our conversion ratio is high in a competitive and saturated market like Delhi,” adds Varun.
He examined every aspect from content, to duration to the price schools were willing to pay for the programme. The workshops are aligned to the school syllabus, and the team works with the teachers to address the needs of the students. “Our workshops are based on CCE and IB guidelines. We are a scholastic company that focuses on academic outcomes from these workshops,” says Varun.
He adds that knowledgeXP’s mission is to make a difference in the lives of children by expanding their horizons and providing education that goes way beyond textbook learning.
The team and challenges
The team comprises seasoned academicians and psychologists who have extensive experience in experiential education based on the findings of famous psychologists such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, David Kolb, and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. The team is currently engaged with over 25 top schools across Delhi-NCR and are now going national with their Leadership Workshop.
The biggest challenge that they faced was changing the mindset of the schools and educating them about the importance of experiential education. Through numerous presentations and several discussions with school heads, Varun says they have now been able to explain the importance of experiential education, and schools have started being receptive to this new form of education.
“Also, waiting endlessly in the school lobbies for principals is a part and parcel of my life now. However, I’m glad that all the patience and hard work has paid off since knowledgeXP now has an arsenal of loyal clients,” he adds.
The programme and its workings
At knowledgeXP, every programme is customised based on the demographics of that school and after every programme, there is a rigorous feedback process that helps them get better. They claim their programme gets a rating of 4.5 out of 5 based on experience, instructor quality and quality of activities.
“Also, we are trying to make an ecosystem to promote experiential education so we work very closely with the faculty who claim that our customer service is better than most education companies that they have to deal with,” adds Varun.
What the team essentially does is take a portion of the school curriculum and convert it into different activity-based modules. Within the module, the students explore the different aspects they would like to learn about. The students are then exposed to different activities based on their groups and age. These activities enable the students to learn via sensorial exposure – through outdoor activities like trekking, sports, or even collaborative work.
The course then conducts some reflection and retention exercises based on the learnings that the students have had.
Traction and growth
knowledgeXP started with three schools, and in a little over a year, they have built partnerships with 25 schools across Delhi – NCR including The Sri Ram Schools, Delhi Public Schools and Sardar Patel Vidyalaya.
With the overwhelming response in the first few months of inception, the company has aggressive expansion plans across the country. We are now launching in Agra, Dehradun, Jaipur and Chandigarh in the North, Mumbai in the West and Kolkata in the East in our first phase of growth.
The revenue model is based on the programmes and workshops that the schools choose. Though the team refused to share their revenue figures, they claim to have seen growth of 300 per cent from 2014.
“We are taking the Leadership Workshop by knowledgeXP national and we are also in talks with the government to introduce the programme in government schools across the country. The idea is to ensure that every child starts liking school and is not just literate but educated,” adds Varun.
Across the globe, the world is slowly moving away from the rote learning system to an experiential education system. This ensures retention and faster learning. It also makes learning fun. According to an IBEF report, over 70 million students will enrol in Indian high schools in less than 20 years. Therefore, it becomes all the more imperative to focus on retention and other methods of learning.
However, when schools and teachers have strict guidelines and timelines to work around, experiential forms of learning and teaching can be difficult and time consuming. Not only do schools and organisations have to create new tasks and activities, they need to get time off regular school timings to implement the plans.
Also, one of the biggest challenges most Indian schools face is the lack of the right infrastructure; setting up workshops here might be challenging. Another aspect of the problem is the cost implication as not all schools can afford participation in such courses. Startups like knowledgeXP might even have to tweak their modules to suit different schools across different backgrounds and parts of the country.