With an aim to make schooling years meaningful and joyful, Yeshwanth Raj Parasmal, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of 21K School, tells Education Post’s Tanay Kumar the difference in the schooling education of India, the UK and the US.
Your post-graduation was in Education Management from Southampton University. Please tell us about this stream of study, and if there is a similar study available in India?
I did my MBA, specializing in Education Management, from the University of Southampton. Back in 2006-07, this was the only University in the UK (none in India) that offered Education Management as part of an MBA. Most other universities offer MA or M.Sc. in Education Management.
I wanted to study and learn best practices about strategic planning, HR, Operations, Marketing & Branding and Service Quality in the specific context of educational institutions. My class cohort included students from some of the top universities and edtech space from around the world.
Unlike MBA, MA and M.Sc. had a more academic focus. I was fortunate to have been selected by the School of Management based on my experience and career track record. Today, we have a few universities offering MA and M.Sc. in Education Management or Administration in India, but I haven’t come across an MBA Program.
You had done your schooling at a high school in Bengaluru. How was the schooling then and what lacunae must India address first in achieving efficient public education in India?
I studied at Baldwin Boys High School, Bangalore and am a proud alumnus of the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE). I did my Karnataka Pre-University Program (Grade 12) at Sri Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain College (SBMJC), Bangalore. In those days, there was little awareness and understanding of skillbased or competency-based education; the focus was mainly on knowledge. I am grateful to all my teachers today. I stand on the shoulders of those giants in teaching-learning.
Indian schooling system has made great strides since the announcement of the National Education Policy in 2020. After 17 years, we now have a new school curriculum – the foundation stage curriculum was announced last year. I was extremely pleased to read the curriculum frameworks focus on competencies and skills. It’s a remarkable change since the National Curriculum Framework in 2005. In my view, the National Credit Framework announced last year is the greatest educational policy change. The entire ecosystem – including parents – is more aware of the need for skill-based learning and assessment. However, the challenge is implementing it in physical schools, mostly under the fee bracket of Rs. 4000 per month or less. Some of the more progressive schools offering international curricula are doing a better job, but 85% of Indian Schools are in the affordable category, and that’s the challenge.
How does 21K School help Indian students in their education and how does it differ from other stakeholders?
A person spends 16 years of his precious young age in schools. If you think about it, these 16 years lay the foundation for her success or failure in life. What she will achieve in her life is dependent on what kind of schooling she has. I strongly support the research that has established that natural intelligence and abilities can be developed and enhanced over time. You don’t have to be born a genius to make it big. Sure, there are exceptions, but your schooling, environment and exposure can well change the trajectory of your growth in life.
That is why at 21K School, we aspire to make the 16 years of schooling meaningful and joyful. We focus on improving learning outcomes using technology to shape better life outcomes. We do this by reimagining schooling:
- We have reduced the time of schooling by cutting off travel time. This gives students five extra hours daily to focus on pursuing her passion
- We offer a choice of three different curriculums for students to chose
- Two different batch timings to meet their need
- We have built a truly global, secular classroom with no backbenchers
- The focus is on skills and competencies with project-based and inquiry-driven learning
- Lastly, we are making schooling affordable. Studying Cambridge or Edexcel, UK Curriculum for under Rs. 70,000 per year (including travel and all other costs) is unheard of nowadays.
We have seen our students develop a global vision and a growth mindset. I am not surprised that over 200 students have published their novels. Many of them are excelling at the national level in sports, music and arts.
21K School is providing formal K-12 education in Britain and the US as well. Please tell me the differences and similarities in K-12 education in India and the rest of the world.
Private Schooling abroad is very expensive as they invest in resources and pay good salaries to their teachers. A typical private school abroad would charge fees of $6000 to $12000 per year, compared to average fees in India, which is less than $500 per year! It’s a striking difference in fees and quality. However, it is a myth that higher fees mean a better quality of schooling.
I can tell you from my experience that globally, every parent is the same – they want schools to deliver better education. They want better learning outcomes in all subject areas. I have never encountered a parent who says don’t make my child learn skills or don’t make him smart.
In the last three years, talking to thousands of parents has made us realise that the Indian curriculum is very popular abroad, especially in non-English speaking countries. Parents abroad, of Indian origin, and Foreign Nationals, have very high regard for the CBSE and CISCE Boards.
Strategum Eduserve Private Limited was co-founded by you. Please tell us about ‘Curriculum As A Service’ and how it benefits schools?
That’s right. Along with Nupur Yeshwanthraj, I started Strategum Eduserve Private Limited in 2007 after I returned from the UK. Strategum Eduserve is one of the few education advisory and management companies that helps clients establish and manage preschools to universities. It has done amazing work across India, managing over 75 educational institutions. It started SWAP21 – curriculum as a service model for preschools to support non-franchised preschools to compete better with franchise schools with systems, recourses, curriculum and more. It saw great adoption and scaled well in the pre-covid era.
If Indian schools should stop some old practices that are no longer relevant, what are those practices?
That’s an interesting question. I think schools must start focussing on the child’s learning rather than teaching. Once you start thinking about “Is the child learning”, I am sure every teacher will become a facilitator and a super mentor. This requires a change of mindset – unlearning and relearning.
Please recommend some books, documentaries or even films that motivated and taught you at a great level.
The best book related to school education is the Ethics of Excellence by Ron Berger. It’s a short book but very impactful. I would also strongly recommend the book written by Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success. The Habits of Mind are the student attributes we also implement at 21K School.
John Dewey’s Experience & Education is a classic that must be mandatory reading for every educationist. Deeper Learning – beyond 21st Century Skills, edited by James A Bellanca, has an excellent compilation of some of the best articles on 21st-century skills.