WizKlub is a Bengaluru based ed-tech startup that builds cognitive excellence for school children through its HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) and SmartTech programs. WizKlub’s Founder and CEO, Amit Bansal, is a serial entrepreneur with over a decade of startup experience across three Ed-Tech ventures; and ten years of corporate experience across strategy, business development, technology, product management and marketing for consumer and enterprise technology products across India and North America. His earlier ventures include Xcelerator and PurpleLeap. In an exclusive interaction with K12 Digest, Amit Bansal talks about the Indian K12 Education System, the impact of technology, his thoughts on NEP 2020 and many more.
How do you view the Indian K12 domain? Where does it stand with respect to the rest of the world?
Indian K12 space is by far the largest market in terms of the number of students. The Indian K12 education system faces the unique challenge of relevance and quality. While most developed nations have moved to an education system that focuses on developing core skills necessary to succeed in the coming decade, the Indian education system is still obsessed with “knowledge” instead of higher order skills like application, problem-solving, evaluation and productive creativity.
Many EdTech players such as BYJUS, Toppr, Vedantu are mainly trying to address the issue of “Quality” by providing a better learner experience around learning subjects like maths and science, the issue of developing core skills for future are largely unaddressed.
Studies around the world including the “Future of Jobs” report by the World Economic Forum” list the top skills necessary for being a successful professional in future as Analytical Thinking, Active Learning, Complex Problem Solving and Critical Thinking.
Unfortunately, in the Indian context, more than 99% of the parents don’t even know their kids’ development on these skills that are going to determine how successful the kids are going to be when they grow-up!
As an ed-tech player yourself, how do you think you and your peers can create a difference in K12 education?
WizKlub is committed to the cause of developing skills that are relevant for the coming decade. Most of these skills can be easily developed in the early years, starting as early as five years. The need of the hour is to be aware of what these skills are and how we can help our children develop these skills as parents and educators.
I see that lot of our peers also understand how critical it is to develop these skills but sometimes tend to focus more on what the parent would buy easily compared to focusing on what is really good for the child. However, I see a lot of new-age edtech firms focussing on skill-based learning compared to rote or practice-based science and maths learning.
What are some of the trends that you predict the K12 education domain will see in 2021?
We see that technology adoption even by schools and school educators in the coming year. Last year was the first year when parents actually got to see what happens in a classroom, and it was not a very rosy picture! Even the so-called marquee schools were exposed to mediocracy of learning imparted in the classroom. Most of the schools have realised the value of using technology to deliver a higher quality of learning experiences for the students.
This year, we see the emergence of hybrid learning when schools finally re-open their physical classrooms to students. We would see more outcome-based learning with the use of more scientific assessments and use of online interventions to augment classroom learning.
This year, we see the parents would be splitting their kids learning paths between online and offline learning. Extra-curricular activities that require high touch, such as sports and performing arts like dance and music, would largely be done in offline classes. However, in co-curricular programs such as critical and creative thinking programs, coding classes, robotics, the design would be done largely in an online mode. Essentially, programs that deliver higher value when conducted online would continue to be delivered online instead of moving back to a neighbourhood centre which has limited efficacy.
What degree of impact do you think AI can make in K12 education?
AI is going to impact lot of areas in education. In theory, all of us agree that each child is unique and has her set of abilities that can make her shine like a star. However, the only way to identify the unique set of abilities and create a custom path matched to the interest and abilities of an individual learner can only be done through AI.
At WizKlub, we start by identifying the ability of every child and create unique personalised learning path based on the same. This approach gives us an extremely high learning efficacy as each learner gets challenged at the right level making learning fun and engaging at the same time.
There are lot of other areas where AI would bring in efficiencies as well. Automating tasks such as evaluating formative assessments to identify gaps in learning not only saves a lot of teacher time for more student engagement, it also provides high level of accuracy and predictability.
Similarly, conversational AI also would bring in huge value where every student would be able to have an extended version of the teacher on voice assistants like Alexa. WizKlub predicts that conversational AI would be the next big wave in learning and is investing in making all its offering enabled through conversational AI as well.
What are your views on personalised online learning? How can we ensure its effectiveness when it comes to young students?
Personalised learning is the most effective way to make a learner realise her potential. There are 2 primary aspects that need to be considered while personalising the experience- Interest and Ability. There need to be an ongoing assessment of both interest and ability and the learning path needs to be dynamically adjusted.
Whether it is a young student or a person in fifties, the learner never realises that the path is personalised. The learner just keeps getting learning interventions that keep the learner interested and the learning efficacious.
It is hard for an individual teacher to give such personalised learning experience without using technology. AI actually creates unique learner profiles and can practically create unique learning paths for each of those profiles. The role of the teacher needs to be reimagined to be that of a facilitator of learning than someone who is disseminating knowledge.
Do you think NEP 2020 will create waves of change in 2021? Would you please elaborate your thoughts on this?
NEP 2020 is a great intent in the right direction. The policy recognises the need to bring these skills at the heart of learning process rather than focusing on the amount of knowledge memorised. However, the current school system is designed for disseminating knowledge rather than build skills. The current format of the classroom is “teacher talks” and “student listens”. Skills, however, require the learner to “experience” than to just “hear or see”. Critical Thinking, logical and creative thinking are skills that a learner acquires by going through the experience of going through these skills. I take the analogy of swimming. One can learn about swimming by watching videos but in order to develop the skill of swimming, one needs to go through the experience of going into the water. Our current education system is more geared towards teaching students “about swimming” than “how to swim”.
NEP 2020 is a step in the right direction. However, it is difficult to predict the timeframe by when it would be fully implemented in its spirit.