Circa 2013, sitting in front of a job at a call center, Vivek Vashist, an electronics engineer, received a phone call regarding his selection at the reputed Teach for India fellowship that was trying to bridge the education inequity gap. After the initial excitement, he was pushed to reflect on how he landed up at the call center interview in the first place. He felt like a failed product of the Indian education system.
Soon, in his 20s, the Hisar-born engineer began his explorative journey with a passion of a teenager. He worked on building a real-world simulation experience for children during his tenure at Teach for India fellowship, making it the first step of discovering the Imbue Education platform. Other than being a Teach India alumni, Vashist has worked at Goldman Sachs, where he handled human capital management and also served as the secretary for the Indian Youth Climate Network. In his latest exploration, he was a part of a study with Stanford University, where he led a team to understand the state of technical higher education in India by conducting primary research across colleges.
The Noida-based alternate education startup, Imbue, believes in non-traditional ways of teaching. Unlike schools that limit them to a standardized curriculum, Imbue helps kids to think beyond the four walls of a classroom and use their creative minds to come together, identify problems that they are passionate to solve, brainstorm solutions and acquire knowledge across domains in the process of problem-solving.
“We focus on taking these children away from a grading system which constantly pushes them to study to score rather than study to learn and apply. We instead build an environment where they are encouraged to work as a team, and none of their ideas and efforts go unheard and unseen.”
8 to 2 pm classroom to 9 to 5 cubicle
The children fail to understand the relevance of standard education, which remains very superficial due to the lack of experiential knowledge. They are further assessed based on standardized exams, which shift the focus from sustainable learning to scoring and route learning for exams. Such a system restricts expression, exploration, and innovation by a child. This leads to 12 years of schooling, making the majority of our young minds confused and under-confident.
“We believe children are born artists and childhood is an age of exploration and inspiration rather than a 8-2 school that prepares them for a 9-5 cubicle,”
said Vashist, Founder at Imbue Education.
Idea & inspiration
Vashisht’s idea was to create an educational space for children, where they understand the significance of what they’re learning, that is enriching and captivating while creating an impact on their lives.
Essentially, the startup aims at being Netflix for education. Netflix helps one watch whatever he/she wants at whatever time and in any preferred language. They believe that once these choices are made available for the students, they can make learning addictive for the students- provide them a platform to learn whenever they want, where ever they want, and in any preferred language.
“We will be Oyo of offline schools and Netflix for kids.”
Vivek took inspiration from a group of kids who built a house as their school project, entirely executed by the students. The house was then donated to a homeless man.
“Back in our country- the students are still making the projects on thermocol sheets, and they are thrown away as soon as they are graded.”
Challenges faced in the outset
It was extremely tough to find the initial set of parents who were willing to expose their child to experiential learning. Vivek, along with his friend, designed and printed 2,000 pamphlets and distributed them one by one, going from door to door. However, only two people signed up for it, but it was only after seeing the progress shown by the two students that more parents were convinced to join the movement.
Currently, in its nascent stage, the firm has been operational for 11 months now, in which it had been able to work with around 350 students. It raised seed funding at the ideation stage from Mr. Vikram Jiet, the CEO at Maccaferri Environmental Solutions.
Imbue Education has been recognized as an education startup by the government of India and has also been nominated for the top 500 startups of the year 2018-19. The company aims to build skills of problem solving and creativity in 1 crore children by 2030 by providing them experiential education to create a healthy and sustainable future.