Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO, Next Education India Pvt. Ltd, an alumni of IIT, Bombay, an entrepreneur and investor with a passion for technology-backed business ideas, started his journey with Next Education India Pvt. Ltd in 2007 (Hyderabad) with an outlook to transform the fast-growing educational company into the most respected academic services provider in India.
Beas Dev Ralhan, in an interaction with Ekta Srivastava, Education Technology…
Please tell us something about Next Education, its concept, and journey so far.
I co-founded Next Education India Pvt. Ltd. in 2007, along with Raveendranath Kamath. The organisation was formed, anticipating technology to change the face of education in India. We invested the first two years on research and development. One of the key findings of this research was that the curriculum of Indian schools was not age-appropriate. Hence, the first requirement for us was to develop a strong content team. It took us close to four years to create the content, during which approximately Rs 600 mn was invested.
Next Education’s first product, LearnNext, a self-learning solution, was a hit when we launched it. It still has more than 65% renewal rate. However, the market for LearnNext is very limited due to stiff competition from various schools and tuition centers, and that triggered the launch of Next Education’s flagship product, TeachNext, for schools.
Please tell us something about, ‘Workshop for Principals’.
School leaders are entrusted with the task of making this generation of learners ready for their future; children have to be job-ready. In this paramount task of theirs, we try to provide them with some insights into challenges in development of schools and the changes needed to overcome them. The ‘Principal Workshops’ help them identify areas of improvement such as data governance, classroom diversity and shift of power, among others. Conducted in an interactive and competitive game format, the workshops provide inputs to the principals on adopting a healthy environment, focusing on staff development, connecting with parents and embracing new techniques and pedagogies. In short, we help school leaders master a practical framework for school management.
How is Next Education planning to add value of IT to the Indian education system?
Next Education has always striven to update teaching methodologies, and provide relevant and improved curriculum to the learner. It incorporates the latest technological developments to enhance the user interface. For instance, Spring Framework is being used for it is a lighter framework that can accommodate several modules such as IOC, AOP, DAO, Context, Web MVC and ORM. It provides comprehensive infrastructural support for developing our web applications. Apache Spark, Apache Storm, Drools, etc., are some of the other technological innovations adopted by Next Education. Again, slowly and steadily, we have added various products to our portfolio and become a complete K–12 education solution provider. LearnNext caters to students, whereas TeachNext caters to both students and teachers. Our other product, NextERP is school management software that brings all the stakeholders on the same platform.
Do you think India has adequate technology usage and adoption in the education sector? What more can be done in your opinion?
In India, most of the schools still rely on offline modes to impart lessons and manage their administrative functions and responsibilities. To begin with, it would be a positive step towards development in education if schools were to take up partial technological aids in the classroom.
The transformation from classroom learning and tuitions to non-traditional online learning aids is not easy. What challenges did you face?
Infrastructural unpreparedness is one of the reasons that have delayed the implementation of online learning aids, and we too were affected by it. For instance, the productivity of a digital classroom is affected by power cuts. Again, dearth of good quality teachers is a major impediment in imparting quality education. It is important to keep teachers abreast of all technological developments in the education sector so that they can use the digital teaching aids comfortably. We, on our part, organise periodic teacher training programmes.
What technology initiatives do you see gaining maximum ground for Corporate Training, Vocational Education, and Skills Training?
All these are well–researched and oft-talked about topics. Permeation of technology and gadgets has successfully done justice to technological innovations. However, in the case of corporate training, the learning and development team, usually entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the learning needs of the employees of the organization, has a much standardised approach to learning. Organisations could also attempt to benefit from adaptive learning by incorporating it in their training methodologies. Through the performance of an individual, artificial intelligence can design a learning solution, particularly tailored to their needs.
Similarly, is it skill development or vocational training, personalised learning can come handy.
What support do you plan for the government’s skill development initiative?
In the last few years, the government has taken initiatives in the skill development front. However, all these initiatives have been directed towards graduate and post-graduate students. Ideally, such skill development should start at a much earlier age, when the mind of a child is like clay which can be moulded easily and can assimilate information. At this impressionable age, they would largely benefit if they are introduced to computing, communication and numerical skills. Hence, we expect the government to formulate policies and allocate sufficient budget to develop life skills among children.