Learnt English hearing sports commentary; want to define online schools of tomorrow: Byju Raveendran

At TiECon Delhi-NCR, Byju Raveendran, Founder-CEO of BYJU'S, spoke about edtech in a post-COVID-19 world and how his company plans to define the online schools of tomorrow.
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Speaking at TiEcon Delhi-NCR 2021, Byju Raveendran, founder of India's largest edtech startup (BYJU'S), shed light on the future of schools in a post-pandemic world.

"We'd like to play a role in defining the online schools of tomorrow with our tech-enabled platform, self-learning content, and a teaching layer on top," he said.

Byju reckons self-learning or active learning is key to a good education. "I am a self-learner who went to a small government school, and didn't have access to quality teachers. I am not saying this to dramatise my story. But I had to self-learn, and there was an advantage," he said.

The edtech entrepreneur went on to recall how he learnt English while listening to football and cricket commentary on the radio. "May be that's why I speak fast because I thought that is how English is spoken... In commentary, they speak fast," Byju shared. 

The founder of what is now the world's second-most valuable edtech firm revealed that BYJU'S added 45 million free users on its platform in the last 12 months. That is the same number of users it had added in four years prior to the pandemic.

"The sector is clearly at an inflexion point because of the pandemic," said the founder, "For the last five years, the biggest challenge for edtech startups was to create awareness around online learning. It eventually took a crisis like this for all stakeholders in education to adapt to this form of learning."

Byju went on to share that teachers and parents are now accepting "this format [online learning] as mainstream". 

"Maybe our classrooms will change for the first time in 100 years. What happens before class and after class will be done online," he said.

Most edtech founders believe that even though schools will reopen and physical classrooms will come back in some form post vaccine rollout, learning will never be fully analogue again.

BYJU'S believes that figuring out the sweet spot in "blended learning" will be the key.

"You cannot replace the corridor time, the playground time, and the life and social skills you learn in school with online education. You can teach maths or science better online, but the people who make an impact in the real world are those who've learnt both — inside class and outside class — well," Byju stated.

Despite the dramatic growth of edtech in 2020, "there is still a long way to go before we can call it a success", reckons Byju.

"We can only call it a relative success for now. Forget access to the internet, one-third of the students in India don't even have a smartphone. So, the digital divide is real," he explained.

However, the "glaring" gaps in physical school infrastructure will create more opportunities for edtech. With India's abysmal teacher-student ratio of 1:35, "personalisation is impossible in offline classrooms", the founder stated.

He added, "There is no $100 billion education company in the world. There is no playbook for success in this space. That's both an advantage and disadvantage. It gives you the freedom to do a lot of things and you make mistakes. But the key is to keep your failures small, and go big and raise the bar when you find relative success."

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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