The Schools Have To Make Students Future Ready

Naveen Mandava- Co-Founder and Executive Director, at IMAX Program, Speaks to BW Education through an online interview

Naveen Mandava- Co-Founder and Executive Director, at IMAX Program

Q. India is facing a lack of job growth. The future looks bleak for current jobs. There will be entirely new categories of jobs coming up. What is the role of school education in tackling these future challenges?

In the long term, only if our schools prepare our students to be future-ready, will we be able to ride the upcoming employment challenge. Based on The Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum, we have highlighted 4 areas which should be ensured by schools for their students to be future-ready.

1. Complex problem-solving

2. Creativity 

3. Critical thinking 

4. Emotional intelligence

Schools should partner with the right curriculum player who can support the creation of these skills. On our part, we are in touch with the industry for long-term trends and review our curriculum content to ensure these skills get more coverage.

Q.But recently, based on the ASER reports, there has been a lot of hue and cry about the lack of understanding the basics in maths and reading skills in our school children. What can we do to improve these?

It is true and quite alarming. I remember teaching grade 5 students who couldn't do subtraction with carry over, e.g., 4137 - 3769. There were grade 4 children who struggled with words such as 'something' and 'always.'

Many reasons have been spoken of, but our understanding from the ground and working with lakhs of students is that there is no regular feedback loop between the teacher and the student. 

Currently, a teacher finishes a concept and asks the children, "Have you understood it?" Students in the first couple of rows answer yes, and the teacher moves on. However, suppose there was to be a low-cost, tech-based quiz where the teacher asks a question and is able to know who answered correctly and who didn't. It would give immediate feedback to the teacher about her teaching, and she can give additional practice questionsto the students who did not understand the concept. This would be a game-changer. If we are able to have this feedback loop for every teaching period in every school, government or private, it would revolutionize our system and ensure that the focus is on every child mastering the learning outcomes.

 We have been working on this continuous feedback loop and the early results are very encouraging.

Q.How does your product work in school education?

The IMAX Program includes textbooks, workbooks, school exams, feedback reports and individualized practice worksheets along with teacher manuals and teacher training modules.

The uniqueness of the programme is in using the regular school exam data to provide individualized remedial worksheets. To ensure smooth integration with schools, the technology platform works at the backend to deliver exams, reports and practice worksheets in print. The feedback loop of exam-practice ensures that the key learning gaps are identified and bridged, thereby maximizing learning. 

We are currently working with more than 5 lakh students, specifically pre-primary and primary grades.

Q.Because of the access to exam data in schools, IMAX Program is in a vantage position to understand key gaps and provide solutions. How do you approach it?

True, we have reinvented school exams to capture data on every individual student's capabilities so that the learning loop can be completed through personalizedprogrammes.

However, because of the large-scale data, we are also able to see specific areas where students need support. For example, reading fluency and basic maths skills.

To tackle theproblems in these areas, our Product Research& Prototyping Team has looked at best practices across the world. We know specific practices that can lead to dramatic improvement in these areas. For example, we know that working on phonemic awareness skills can lead to improvement in reading fluency and working with Concrete-Representation-Abstract approach in maths can lead to dramatically better results in basic mathematical skills.

Q.IMAX Program is one of the few startups in school education who have been quite successful. What are your insights on how edtech startups can succeed?

Education is a complex system and hence solving from one stakeholder's perspective will not result in success. Education companies need to solve the problem from a system perspective keeping multiple stakeholders (student, teacher, parent, promoter) in mind.

Q. Overall, what is the vision for IMAX children?

Our vision for our IMAX Program children is that they emerge future-ready with a sense of agency. They will be telling themselves, "I can choose and decide to impact the world around me." Our purpose is to ensure students of IMAX Program have these capabilities before stepping into the future. These capabilities extend from ensuring sound basics as well as skills like complex problem solving, creativity, critical thinking and emotional intelligence.

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