On Saturday Afternoon, Rishabh Khanna, Cognitive Scientist and Co-founder of Suraasa sat down with TechGraph for a wide-ranging interview. We discussed the Suraasa journey, the impact of COVID-19 on the teachers, and more.
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TechGraph: Can you let our readers know more about Suraasa?
Rishabh Khanna: Most of us have been a part of the formal education system in the early years of our lives. We all work towards growth and career progression. But have you ever noticed how many of your teachers and professors were in the same position for so many years?
This is exactly what we observed when we were researching teacher skill frameworks and career pathways. At Suraasa, we are empowering educators every day by helping them grow in their careers. We make this happen using a mix of 3 aspects:
Upskilling: Education, like every other industry, is very dynamic. The technology, the students, what the students need to be taught keeps changing rapidly. It is as important for a teacher to acquire the right skills (beyond subject knowledge) to excel in their career, as it is for an engineer, designer, artist, or entrepreneur.
Mentorship: Teachers realize the need for upskilling. But they don’t know how to approach it. How should they be planning their career? What should their next step be? Only a few know that. To solve this, we have onboarded trainers with decades of teaching and leadership experience to guide teachers in their careers.
Employability: This is one of the primary goals. Employability leads to jobs and livelihood. So many people are willing to teach at international schools, but they, unfortunately, get rejected at the CV shortlisting stage only. To solve this, we help teachers build their profiles, prepare for interviews, and we even bring schools onboard as partners to hire our learners for free.
Through a mix of the above 3 aspects, we have been able to successfully transform teachers’ careers and school performances since the time we began.
TechGraph: How did ‘Suraasa’ happen? What was the story behind the launch?
Rishabh Khanna: The team of leading cognitive scientists, educationists, and visionaries behind Suraasa started working on education research almost a decade ago. We made it our life’s goal to improve the school education system. It all started with end-to-end learning solutions for all stakeholders in a school, including teachers, students, parents, and management.
We met 200,000 educators, students, and parents from more than 100+ cities and 1500+ schools during the research. The findings uncovered that modern learning requires modern pedagogy methods, and undoubtedly, teachers play the most vital role in this. As we turned our ears to the teachers, we learned about a teacher’s career struggles and aspirations.
It was then that Suraasa, the goddess of knowledge, was conceived for teacher transformation and the continuous growth of educators.
We launched Suraasa in 2018 and brought in leading educationists, cognitive scientists, thought leaders, and technologists to build a world-class teacher education technology system that enables teachers to learn comfortably, teach happily and grow exponentially.
TechGraph: What does Suraasa look like these days?
Rishabh Khanna: After 2 successful years in UAE, we piloted in India a few months back and have seen a market response better than we had anticipated. Being an impact-focused team, we have been consistently onboarding more schools as well on the Suraasa platform to support our teachers with employability.
On the product side, we are developing and launching more programs as we learn more about our teachers and their needs.
TechGraph: How do you feel ‘Suraasa’ stands out from Firki, Google Teacher Program, NCERT NISHTHA, and others who are already in this business?
Rishabh Khanna: How we have been doing things differently is that we are not here to just upskill teachers but to help teachers grow in their careers.
While there are platforms out there that provide courses for teachers, our focus is also on the employability and mentorship aspects. It’s not just about doing a course but also looking at a course as a part of an entire growth pathway.
I think that the value that we are trying to deliver is very unique and very close to why someone enters any profession in the first place.
TechGraph: What according to you is the scope of teacher training platforms like this in the Indian market?
Rishabh Khanna: I think that the scope of teacher training platforms in India is huge. The demand for teacher training depends on the demand for teachers. There are 15-20 lakhs schools in India. Every year, almost 1.1 million teachers apply for B.Ed programs.
Now that we understand the problems faced by teachers in their careers, growth-focused teacher training becomes extremely critical. Otherwise, what happens is that teachers enter the profession with no clue how to approach their career, face stagnant growth, and quit the career.
A lot of youth who are passionate about teaching end up not pursuing it because they feel that there is no or low growth in teaching. But, if they are given proper training and guidance, teaching can become a very attractive profession.
TechGraph: The last year has been challenging for every sector. How did you deal with the pandemic?
Rishabh Khanna: During the first wave of the pandemic, a lot of teachers realized the need for upskilling themselves and they opted for our programs. We also saw our teachers getting jobs and promotions, even during the pandemic.
However, when the second wave hit, we saw a drop in enrolments since the paying capacity of people was adversely affected. We have partnered with financial institutions to provide loans to our learners so that they don’t need to worry about paying the entire program fee upfront.
Now, since things are improving, we are observing an increase in the number of enrolments.
TechGraph: What is the roadmap for Suraasa going forward?
Rishabh Khanna: We plan to launch our masters’ level qualifications for teachers at further stages of their careers soon. We are also working on launching our job platform soon on which schools will come to hire, and teachers will come to get hired. It will open our platform even to those people who don’t enroll in any of our programs.