Interview

More than Infrastructure, Strict Regulations Can Play a Bigger Role in Changing the Face of Education

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Through sheer perseverance and focus, Vikas Kakwani, Founder, Anytime Anywhere School, has come a long way from the narrow lanes of the old Meerut city where he was born and brought up. After graduating in Electrical Engineering with Honours from IIT(Roorkee) in 1993, he completed his post-graduation in Management from IIM(Lucknow) in 1995, majoring in Marketing & Finance.

Since then he has worked in leadership positions for 20+ years across FMCG, Telecom & Real Estate sectors in India & Middle-East, in Marico, Coca-Cola & Aircel in India and Damac Properties & Scion International in Dubai.  

He is a geek, a technology lover and has generally stayed ahead of the curve when it comes to awareness, implementation and early adoption of tech. He believes in living in Today and his favourite quote is “You are not dead till you die”.

Kakwani in an interaction with Ekta Srivastava, Education Technology talks about his venture Anytime Anywhere School (AAS)…

Data security is as crucial as national security, what will AAS do to protect it?

AAS is a start-up that has just launched. For cloud services & data storage, we use global service providers who are well known for their secure servers that follow the best commercially available encryption services. We need to be extra careful as our users are children. Internally, the data is accessible only to a select & trusted few.

How do you think specialized certifications will add value-add for high skilled workforce?

In India, all recognized certifications are for classroom learning while on the contrary, 80% of bread-earners are self-employed. This makes specialized skill based certifications imminent. Today, if you were to call for a plumber or an electrician, there is no way for you to know who is better. Specialized certifications for skilled workforce will help better workers earn more.

How is AAS planning to add value of it to the Indian education system?

Education using ‘IT’ as a medium will replace traditional way of education sooner rather than later. In no time, we will be using various ‘IT’ tools from a now simplistic computer & tablets to smart phones which are becoming ubiquitous and more versatile, subsequently to using AR (augmented reality) & VR (virtual reality) to eventually using AI (artificial intelligence). This will happen much faster than we can even imagine today.

The transformation from classroom learning and tuition to non-traditional online learning aids is not easy. What challenges did you face?

Of course, it is hugely challenging. The challenges spread across all the blocks which need to come together to give shape to this entity called online education. Let’s look at them one by one.

Statutory

In India, education falls under the not-for-profit category and is totally regulated by the government. In a country where almost 50% children drop out of Primary school leading to 8.5 cr children not going to school, this kind of control is counter-productive. Just like any other product or service, if education is deregulated, lot of investment will come in with some players vying for margins and some for volumes thereby benefiting everyone by improving quality and accessibility.

Educators’ blinkers

A number of educators who have spent scores of decades in the education field believe online education is a flash in the pan. These belong to the same set of prejudiced groups that never believed computers would take over the world or like Nokia and Blackberry who could never get rid of their blinkers while Apple took over the world with its iPhone.  It is important to keep an open mind and keep trying. Let people keep experimenting as one never knows what would work that can change the world.

Driving Behavioural Change

Over generations we are made to believe that schooling can happen only inside four walls and under a roof. The child needs to be dressed up in school uniform and be under the supervision of teachers. Bringing about a shift from this mindset to an anytime anywhere education is a tough ask. We forget that before the advent of British-style schools, we would get trained and educated in gurukuls and in the field. It’s however just a matter of time like the frog in hot water fable. When did we start using online banking? Or GPS? It just happened. Online education breaks one from the shackles of fixed location and fixed time. However, we would need to put lot of energies behind educating people in adapting technology as a medium to acquire education.

All-round development

Schools or other physical institutes provide LEARNING & PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT in a 60:40 ratio. While online education will provide the 60%, some offline programs & activities need to be created to cover the balance 40% of personality development that comes from inter-personal interaction & practical knowledge and exposure.

How, in your opinion, will AAS add value to education in a country where rural areas have such a high rate of dropouts?

AAS is the anytime anywhere school which has been launched exactly for the purpose of addressing school drop outs. The reasons for drop out are genuine and that is why all attempts at trying to bring these children to school have failed. AAS takes the school to these children and helps them study on the go, anytime, anywhere, at home, at their father’s shop or in the fields. We have done demos in small villages where with 4g connectivity, AAS works perfectly well.

In terms of infrastructure, do you think the government can do anything for aiding this adoption?

Government’s objective is to make the country population literate. In this pursuit, the government should welcome all initiatives in that direction with open arms. Historically, all industries have excelled once the baton has been passed on by the government to the private sector albeit under a watchful eye, automobile, airlines, banking, telecom to name a few. It is time now for the government to get rid of the draconian laws that define how a school should be and instead let the market decide how education need to be imparted and consumed. So, I would say that more than infrastructure it is the regulation in which the government can play a bigger role.

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