At a time when the country was celebrating the 125th birth anniversary of its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Delhi-based social learning platform Eckovation on November 14 honoured Nehru’s affection for children and his vision for their education by launching a unique open-school learning programme on mobile phones.
Started in collaboration with National Institute of Open School (NIOS), founded by a group of Indian Institute of Technology alumni, Eckovation’s ‘Open School’ programme aims to further the cause of education for all by allowing discussion sessions through mobile devices.
Eckovation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ritesh Singh said the initiative would expand teachers’ reach beyond a regular classroom of 30 to 50 students. “So far, a teacher could interact with a limited number of students during a session. We will connect them to a larger section of students, who will benefit from their knowledge. Besides, through the open-learning mobile platform, experienced teachers will share their experiences with others in peer-learning groups. This will ensure quality education in a self-sustainable way.”
Asked about the effectiveness of a mobile-based education platform in India, Eckovation Chief Technological Officer (CTO) Akshat Goel told Business Standard: “The idea is to bridge the communication gap among the stakeholders in a child’s education – the student, parents and teachers – outside of classrooms, through tools like smartphones. We call it mobile-based ‘social learning platform’. In India, the concept has been a hit wherever it has been tried.”
He explained that the backbone was built around ease of communication through mobile devices and apps. “The exponential increase in smartphone and internet penetration in India has been a key driver for us. People now are more familiar with chat apps than they were a year or so earlier. With more education administrators getting attuned to the use of smartphones as a communication tool, more people are adopting our platform.”
On the ‘Open School’ initiative, CEO Singh said: “We are inviting all stakeholders to be part of the social-learning group. Students will get an opportunity for better learning. And, through the platform they will be able to hold peer discussions across cities and towns of India. This will bring students in places with inferior education infrastructure on an even keel with those getting better facilities.”
To illustrate the disparity in India’s education system, he said: “I, for example, come from a rather underdeveloped town of Bihar, where we did not have good institutions to impart quality education. But Akshat (referring to the CTO) was more fortunate; he received education from some of the best schools and colleges in Delhi.”
For parents, Singh added, it would be an opportunity to become integral part of their children’s education.
On choice of the education sector for their start-up, Singh said: “The divergence in India’s education system is one of the factors deeply affecting human development here. Some 230 million students in India in the K-12 segment (kindergarten to 12th grade) are still not fully catered to with good education, thanks to a dearth of basic facilities and good educational institutions. Besides, there is a need to engage with all stakeholders. That was the motivation for us to choose the education sector – for us, it is both a social responsibility and business opportunity.”
For Eckovation, Singh added, we carried out extensive research among more than 30,000 K-12 students in Tier-I, -II and -III cities, such as Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Chhapra. Product development started only after we had a fair idea of how we could bridge the gap, and was completed in four months.
Speaking on the market and opportunities for the Open School initiative, Singh said the base of 230 million K-12 students was the target audience. Goel added that the company was aiming to have one billion users by 2020 under its ‘Big Billion Study Group’ programme.