Founded in 2011 by Krishna Srinivasan and his wife Hymavathy, Everest Edusys and Solutions with its flagship project Quest Explore Discover (QED) seeks to change the way science is taught and learned at schools in India. Excerpts from an interaction with Krishna Srinivasan, Founder & Chairman, QED
What was the primary reason behind your decision to set up QED?
At the time, I was exiting my last business venture that my wife Hyma, who had earlier relocated to India with our son after a successful stint at Silicon Valley and was pursuing her PhD in technology aided education and contemplating a socially meaningful project, had set up. Her passionate academic zeal with research and product development strengths and my strong sense of adventure came together to create this social venture with its sole focus on quality science education and 21st century global learning methodologies for India. We felt the need to contribute to the community and the logical start point was to address, in our own small way, the quality and quantity issues unique to education in India. This is where my roots and values originated, and this is where my global exposure and connect could add value. The constraints and challenges of delivering change at a grassroot level and creating a sustainable profitable business with social relevance, was what attracted me to the social venture space. Planning, executing and delivering on the demands of a double bottom-line is exciting.
Which things in school science education are you trying to address through QED?
Founded in 2011 by my wife Hymavathy and I, Everest Edusys and Solutions and its flagship project Quest Explore Discover was launched in order to change the way science was being taught and learned at schools in urban and rural India. QED brings fun into the fundamentals of science. Experiential and exhibit-centric learning takes the child up the ladder of blooms taxonomy from recall and knowledge through understanding, analysis to synthesis and application. QED centres promote blended learning by moving from hands-on to digital augmentation and assessments. QED learning methodology is proven to enhance engagement and learning outcomes. All exhibits are mapped to curriculum of all boards and have teacher resource material for seamless integration into current learning and teaching. These models have enabled the students with an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of science and increase their creativity through newer learning methodologies, at par with developing technology. It has also improved the competitive skills of these students in areas like model making, problem solving, and presentation skills. It promotes scientific inquiry, critical thinking, a problem solving mindset etc. and build pride and high self-esteem in them.
What are the most important things that an educator should bear in mind while teaching science?
Teaching science is, at its best, teaching about and connecting to the world around us. Science is often defined as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”. Most of us know but we often don’t realise that close to 230 science concepts get introduced in middle school science – across all boards and curricula. The ability to question when, where, why and how of phenomena, keen observation, eye for detail and a scientific temper are critical to teaching and learning science. At QED, we say “Come with a QUEST, EXPLORE for yourself and DISCOVER truths you will never forget.
We believe science educators should enjoy connecting the history of scientific discoveries and phenomena to applications in everyday life. There are interesting stories behind and beyond all laws and definitions dating right back to the Age of Reason and Enlightenment. Theatre and drama can bring abstract concepts to life. And experiential learning is best suited to this purpose. Educators should keep in mind is that they teach students from different background. In the present environment, students are more technology enabled. Thus, technology has the lion’s share in today’s education system. They are also required to have a high sense of adaptability, and stay up to date with developments in the world of education.
Why do the children need it? Isn’t it already in the text books?
Hands-on learning experience develops better understanding, enables knowledge retention in students’ minds, involves application and deals with real life situations. As QED solutions are interactive, they create a deeper impact and also encourage team work.
What are the focus areas of the company?
QED focusses on both private and government schools. We have touched 1 million students through public spaces, exhibitions, events, science fairs and science days. We have seen rise in engagement, performance, learning outcome, confidence in communication and competitiveness. Currently, over 100 schools including over 20 Chennai corporation gallery (managed science center) enjoy the benefits of active science education through QED Labs and managed science centres.
Help us understand the future plans of your company.
QED, with the vision to touch every Indian child with the our unique experience by 2020, is poised to launch a platform of learning analytics that would complement its current 1000+ curated hands-on exhibits and live science concepts mapped to curriculum. Hyma and I have set out with a mission and purpose to bring a global approach to science education and make it truly relevant to the local context. We knew what we wished to do – “Bring FUN into the FUNdamentals of Science”. We pledge our commitment to bring 21st century learning methods, innovation and quality in education by setting up a QED Teachers Learn Lab as education is the route to create citizens for a better tomorrow.
QED recently launched a unique first of its kind interactive digital augmentation platform in India: Science club. It is a fantastic opportunity for learners and teachers to quest, explore and discover aspects of science that may not always be possible to do within the constraints of a normal school program. The Science Club aims to offer an ongoing exclusive forum that enriches the science education experience beyond the classroom. The platform to share videos, ideas, documentaries, research papers, DIY activities and dramatic, delightful and thought provoking experiments. It is a supplement to the physical exhibit centric and activity based QED learning methodology. In such a short span, we have about 6,000 active users.
Can you give us a brief description of a real case implementation of your program?
Our partnership with Cognizant Technology Solutions to implement our solution is a good example.
• First is with the Cognizant Technologies Company and their employee CSR program called outreach, where we have trained their employees and enabled them with a set of mobile exhibits which they use at their discretion to support their company premises which is in OMR.
• Other association is with Cognizant Foundation. Here the foundation identifies the grass root level NGOs, namely Gandhigram trust, with proven decades of community services and identified their need for the science partner. QED was evaluated as a science partner, approved setting up a full-fledged 100 science concepts based working models and exhibits that facilitate hands–on science learning at the Thambithottam Higher Secondary School, Gandhigram. This program will provide the rural students of the area with an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of science and increase their creativity through newer learning methodologies, at par with urban students.
QED, in partnership with Chennai Corporation and Teachers College Columbia University, benefits nearly 80,000 students and 3,000 teachers with the help of this center. The centre aims to curb the student dropout rates by working on methods to improve their concentration levels while in class, while also working on a system, whereby students attend school more often. This centre will be customised to improve the teaching capability and to assess the student potential by analysing data on student profile, learning behaviour and assessment metrics. The programme will also enhance the learning environment which will motivate students to focus on the career of their choice. The centre will also impart necessary technical education for headmasters and teachers that the 21st century education system demand.
A team of experts, including eminent scholars from the Columbia University Teacher’s College in New York, National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) in Delhi and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru, will advise the centre on its functioning and suggestions will be implemented to improve its efficiency on a periodic basis.