GyanLabs and Kidovators are all set to nurture the talented kids in India. Priyadeep tells us HOW
Our kids are the future of the nation. And, how we nurture them TODAY determines their TOMORROW. Though there are many flaws, still our education system is considered one of the best in the world. Today, innovation and creativity are one of the major driving forces in any field. And, to nurture that and bring out the creative side of young talents in India, Priyadeep and his GyanLabs team started Kidovators Creativity Olympiad, one of India’s biggest Creativity Olympiad.
Such endeavours are so important in our current setup and these people are doing such a commendable job that their story is worth sharing.
Priyadeep spoke to BananiVista about the education system in India, his motivation, and journey with GyanLabs and how Kidovators – Creativity Olympiad is helping nurture the young talents of our country.
[BV]: Tell us something about Priyadeep as an individual. Share some defining moment from your childhood.
[PS]: Well, I am an educator and entrepreneur running my start-up for the last 7 years. You can say that I started my career during the final year of my undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering and have nurtured GyanLabs since then. I hail from Patna and have lived in about 5 different cities for my schooling. Growing up, I was a natural introvert and it was only towards the end of the primary school that I opened up and started speaking properly to my classmates. Even today, I have my inhibitions in speaking to new people other than when it comes to my work when I am totally a different person. I love spending time alone which is something I do by habit every day and it helps me collect and organize my thoughts. I am also a huge connoisseur of coffee and my day is incomplete without a good strong coffee or iced latte.
Childhood was definitely a great experience for me and a great learning ground. My parents believed in inculcating life skills education along with academics which meant that I paid for my own school fees right from Grade 5 onwards, learned about the Stock Market in Grade 6 and made a solo travel to my grandparents’ place (around 400 km away) on completing Grade 10. I lived in Mumbai from Grades 5 to 7 and traveled to different places in the city alone, using the local trains or BEST buses. In fact, while I was in Grade 5, I was unable to avail the school bus services due to the paucity of seats and traveled back home from school which was about 5 to 6 km away on BEST buses. I was always treated almost like an adult at home where my opinion always mattered to my parents and it helped me discover myself as an individual.
[BV]: How did GyanLab start and what is its primary mission and vision? What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
[PS]: The dream started when I was in Grade 9. It was the beginning of my loss of interest in school education because I felt a massive distance between what education meant to me and what I was learning in school. Over the next 4 years, as I completed high school, my disinterest and discontent in school education grew more intense. During this time, I also saw many of my classmates and friends with a similar opinion. Some of my friends who I knew to be extremely intelligent and clever were tagged to be laggards in the classroom. There was something wrong with the education system. I landed up in Manipal and the scenario did not change much. I completely lost all interest in the systemic studies at college. I knew I had to do something about it and do my best to help as many young people as possible in making meaning out of school education.
This was bundled along with my interest and ability to present business plans. Throughout 3 years in Manipal, I had presented at and won multiple business plan challenges. During the 7th semester, I along with a couple of my friends came across a notice of the b-plan competition of the newly formed Manipal’s Business Incubator where the winners would be allowed to start up in the Business Incubator. I knew this was a great opportunity for me to start up and not sit in the placement process. We presented GyanLab at the competition and even though we only finished 5th, we got an opportunity to start up. We took up on the offer and in doing so became the 1st student start-up to be incubated at Manipal.
From the challenges that we have faced, one thing that I learned is that the education is the hardest sector to thrive as a start-up in and anybody who takes the plunge and survives long is scarred and battle-hardened. The challenges keep changing as the journey progresses. Initially, it was all about how to convince highly experienced educators regarding the value of our work since I was just out of college.
Then, the challenge changed to how to build the right team with the right skill sets who are willing to battle long to make the relevant impact which then transitioned into convincing external investors that education and Kidovators are the right sector and organization to invest in.
Currently, we are going through the next phase of challenges which include convincing a large number of stakeholders who will value the skills. We are pushing for the benefits which will majorly show only when these kids grow up and join the workforce.
[BV]: Tell us something about Kidovators and how did you conceptualize it.
[PS]: What started as Kidovators Creativity Olympiad Challenge was a mere lucky stroke. It was late 2013 and our original model of setting up maker spaces in schools had reached a non-conclusive end and we were on the verge of pulling the plug on the program. This was owing to multiple reasons such as high cost of setup, extremely poorly thought out fee structures and high maintenance costs including personnel. We had a lot of our inventory left and had little clue what to do with the same. It was around that time when my then co-founder, Sonali suggested that we start a national level challenge for school kids and give these kits away as awards. We also had complete cognizance of multiple competitions around academics running in India and Kidovators doing the exact same thing would not make sense.
So, we created a three-step program where Round 1 is an aptitude test, Round 2 is a telephonic interview and Round 3 is the Grand Finale where students are given different existing national and global problem statements to solve in groups. We ran this program from 2013 to 2016.
However, a major problem that we had with the program was a lack of dedicated focus areas and being all over the place. In a meeting with our Board Member, Mr. Madan Padaki in early 2016, we came up with the idea of looking at new age skills that will have a solid impact and value for today’s school students who will also be the future human capital. It was around this time that I stumbled upon the Future of Jobs report. Some more research into this showed us that while skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration among a few others were spoken of by almost everybody, there are no dedicated programs and continuous learning platforms around these topics. We also learned that only one in ten students felt creative in the classroom and that while schools desire to introduce 21st-century skills and core competencies, they lack the expertise and resources for the same. Our talks with corporates also helped us understand that these skills are what they will look for in the future workforce as automation aided by a growing global expertise in artificial intelligence will take away large numbers of mainstream jobs that we humans currently do.
With this ammo, we took our plunge into taking 21st-century skills and core competencies to school students through the Kidovators Platform. As part of the platform, we have our online app that includes online self-paced learning modules on creativity and upcoming modules on critical thinking and other skills as well as our Creativity and Critical Thinking. Olympiads and a series of spotlight challenges. I strongly believe that within the next 3 – 5 years, Kidovators will be the go-to platform for school students across the world for all 21st-century skills and core competencies. Inadvertently, it is also becoming the confluence of all stakeholders of education (students, educators, parents, corporates) when it comes to future of learning and that is something we are extremely keen on growing further.
[BV]: The current education system in India is a lot different from what it used to be. What are the THREE most distinctive changes you have seen and its impact (are they for good or bad)?
[PS]: I don’t think that education or the way of learning has changed much over the last few decades. What has changed though is the amount of technology intervention that is taking place? There are a few small-scale changes taking place such as the opening and presence of a few alternate schools which is a very encouraging sign, but their low adoption is a matter of concern. Another great change in the system is the rise of homeschooling for kids where parents are taking great initiative and platforms like NIOS and IB are allowing the same to happen. Another change that is slowly finding its footing is the growing importance of life skills education – however, it has a long gestation period ahead and the only way to accelerate will be to educate parents on its need.
[BV]: How does Kidovators reach or interact with educational institutions and parents?
[PS]: We at Kidovators are currently working with around 80 plus schools and our reach in most cases is directly through emails and physical invitations.
[BV]: According to you, what are the TWO most important and immediate changes required in our educational system?
[PS]: The realization that the current school system and curriculum are far from what is needed in today’s scenario and overhauling it is probably the most important change needed. The other big change that I believe is changing the system from a classroom centered one to a child-centered one where teachers are freed from the burden of assessments that can be pushed to technology interventions and can focus on being quality facilitators in the classroom.
[BV]: What is the USP of your endeavour and do you have competitors in your field as well?
[PS]: Our USP is that we are not educating kids for better marks today, we are honing their skills for a better life tomorrow using geography and curricular agnostic learning programs. Creation and operating our programs require lots of effort, time and money which is a natural barrier to entry.
Every program/product that eats the bandwidth of a student and wallet space of a parent is our competitor and we are aware that every student has limited time in a day and every parent has a threshold for education spending.
[BV]: How GyanLab and Kidovators strive to bring a change or influence the educational system in India?
[PS]: Our efforts through Kidovators Creativity Olympiad is to educate stakeholders of education (including students, educators and parents) the growing importance of adaptability and problem-solving skills for kids who are our future human capital. Adaptability, for us, is the combined ability of an individual to showcase skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and more for any situation that an individual faces or comes across in her / his life. The world we live in is going through a massive overhaul in the kind of work that humans will do because automation supported by the artificial intelligence has started taking over many process-oriented jobs and this will have a much deeper impact on the world by the time our kids become the workforce. We are aware that it is a daunting task that we have taken up and our hope is that a lot of other people and organizations will join the mission over time.
[BV]: Tell us your thoughts or observations about the young talent pool in the country as you have seen and interacted with a lot of students and how should parents nurture them?
[PS]: I think they are more aware of who they are and what they want than what we did in our childhood. Modern kids have a lot of strength and belief in their hearts. It is an encouraging sign. However, the present education system and parents are a bottleneck for these kids when it comes to learning what matters. What parents need to realize is that these kids who are all born post 2000 are digital citizens and have a completely different behavior structure than their parents. Instead of curbing the kid’s natural instincts, it is the parents’ greatest responsibility to see to it that their natural instincts and skills are nurtured and grown which is beyond the scope of the present education system. I keep emphasizing on this at every parent session I speak at and I hope that someday soon most parents understand the importance of this.
[BV]: Where do you see GyanLab and Kidovators in the next 2 years?
[PS]: Probably present in at least 6 – 8 different countries including India and impacting over 50,000 students’, parents’ and educators’ lives globally.
[BV]: TWO innovative things GyanLabs/Kidovators did for social media campaigning.
We present real, raw stories, images, and videos on social media.
[BV]: What do you love to do the most apart from your work?
I think music and books are two of my favourite things so reading and listening to music as well as singing are things that I really love doing.
[BV]: The best child talent you have come across till date.
Too hard to pick one but I have seen thousands of exceptionally talented kids which makes me truly believe that the future of our world is in super great hands.
[BV]: ONE thing that you have learned from your competitors.
Don’t care about competition, just focus on doing your own thing.
[BV]: A piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs in your field.
Just take the plunge, fail fast, be hungry and foolish and always, always keep learning.
Kudos to him and his team!
BananiVista wishes him more success and milestones in his journey ahead.
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