By Beatrice Loh
According to a recent survey by India’s Ministry of Finance, India is now the world’s fourth largest hub for start-ups. Driven by “hyper growth” in technology and software products in the country, there are now over 3,100 startups. Despite a significant portion of these startups belonging to the tech industry, there has also been increasing social innovation that is benefitting the less privileged in Indian society.
The Indian education sector is one such beneficiary of the startup boom. Some of the major problems in the sector include a high dropout rate due to lack of availability of schools in remote areas, lack of awareness and child labor among the lower income population. According to UNICEF, the net attendance ratio at the secondary school level for males is only 58.5 percent, whilst females fared even worse at 48.7 percent. However, startups in the education sector are slowly tackling some of the sector’s biggest issues and bringing education to more and more students every year.
Here are 3 ways social startups are improving education in India:
- 1. Increasing accessibility
One of the biggest problems in the education sector is accessibility. Many students in rural areas are unable to attend classes due to capacity constraints in local schools. It is also common for poorer students to find jobs to help their families pay for basic necessities, with education taking a backseat. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by the ASER Center released in January earlier this year showed that in rural areas, 15.9 percent of boys and 17.3 percent of girls within the 15 – 16 years old age group are currently out of school.
Bharat Calling is a social startup dedicated to bridging the urban-rural gap in higher education. According to studies carried out prior to starting the company, 86 percent of students drop out after the 10th class due to poverty, distance of educational institution from home, lack of information and motivation, inadequate transport facilities, quality of teachers, social environment and many other factors. Bharat Calling provides information about the best institutes in India and also trains students for competitive exams. They also resolve logistical issues that students face to travel to other cities for such exams. The venture that initially covered only one school has now spread to 142 schools and has even been endorsed by the Indian government.
Social startups target different levels and needs to increase access to education. Sudiksha Knowledge Solutions was created to provide high quality, easily accessible early childhood education for low-income children across India by setting up low-cost pre-school centers in low-income urban and semi-urban regions. Avanti Learning Centre provides low-income high-school students in India with an affordable world-class science and mathematics extracurricular education program. Hippocampus is a unique startup that helps schools run and maintain libraries, train teachers on how to get students involved in library activities and establishes low-cost, community-focused education centers with a unique curriculum.
- 2. Increasing interactivity
Social startups in India are also looking to make classes more interesting and amp up motivation in the classroom. Many critics of the Indian education system disparage the rote learning approach that has been used in Indian classrooms over the years, as it fails to instill creativity, curiosity and innovation.
Experifun has created an innovation-based learning platform called inClass for urban and rural schools to radically transform science teaching and learning in classrooms. Experifun inClass is based off curriculum designed by the Ministry of Education in India and has an arsenal of innovative science gadgets and products that bring interactive and exploratory learning to classrooms without needing extra infrastructure or setup. Everest Edusys is another company that aims to wean children away from rote learning to learning by doing. It plans on setting up laboratories where students learn scientific concepts through touch and feel and activity-based tools. Skyfi Labs was created for university level students to transform “textbook geniuses” to employable engineers by providing access to practical, hands-on training.
Other innovative startups are Classle and Butterfly Fields. Classle blends social networking and e-learning, transforming traditional classroom learning into collaborative online education. It is an online platform that connects teachers and students from institutions across the world. An online library, quizzes and workshops are interactive elements that draw students into their material. Butterfly Fields focuses on making learning more enriching, engaging and fun by creating learning kits specific to each grade and subject.
- 3. Increasing parental involvement
Startups in India are also making it easier for parents to be involved in a child’s education. Children of less educated or less connected parents tend to be disadvantaged, as these parents tend to make poorer choices for their child’s education.
“Choosing the right kind of education for a child is still an ordeal. Lack of awareness among parents, less visibility of schools/extra-curricular classes and lack of financial prowess or online presence of an institute have led to the situation where parents are crowding only specific schools and classes, oblivious of other good places where a child can be admitted,” said Aarthi Ramasubramanian, co-founder of Eduraft, in an interview with VCCircle.
Eduraft aims to bridge this gap by providing information about schools and institutes that do not regularly feature in the news for oversubscribed applications. Data is collected by the company based on a specific city and distributed to parents through the website, where information, tools and resources are available. Allied services such as tuition classes and extracurricular activities are also available.
Some startups cater specifically to the planning of a child’s future. Eureka Career Kits has developed a testing kit that helps determine school children’s career aptitude. Sold to parents, the kit helps them better plan their children’s careers and avoid potentially wrong paths. Based on experiential learning, it makes inferences and suggestions on the child’s way of thinking and suggests suitable career paths.