“We work with 40,000 young peo­ple across states”

Aakash Sethi, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Quest Al­liance in­forms about dig­i­tal con­tent he cre­ated to in­cul­cate new age skills in schools

PCQuest - - CONTENTS - Jy­oti Bha­gat jy­otib@cy­ber­me­dia.co.in

What has been the main fo­cus for Quest?

The fo­cus has been on self learn­ing, es­pe­cially when in the 21st cen­tury how do you build those learn­ing mind­sets, which is re­ally look­ing at ca­reer de­vel­op­ment and ca­reer guid­ance, dig­i­tal lit­er­acy. So what we have done is pub­lished about 150 hours of dig­i­tal con­tent. Which is then pack­aged in our Rasp­berry pi server, which is a Rs 3000 =s server and then all that con­tent is pack­aged in the Rasp­berry Pi and shipped to about 400 dif­fer­ent train­ing cen­tres across seven states. NCR, North-East, Assam, Na­ga­land, in Bi­har, Kar­nataka, Ker­ala, Tamil Nadu, Gu­jarat..

What is this con­tent about?

The con­tent is all about 21st cen­tury skills. It in­cludes dig­i­tal lit­er­acy, how to ac­cess in­ter­net, how to use the in­ter­net lo­cally for learn­ing. It has ca­reer guid­ance, how to go about bet­ter de­ci­sions on how to choose the life ca­reer that is rel­e­vant to you. We be­lieve there’s a lot of fo­cus on tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion or tech­ni­cal skills train­ing but the gap re­ally is in what we are call­ing the 21st cen­tury skills which in­clude com­mu­ni­ca­tion, think­ing, self aware­ness, de­ci­sion mak­ing. We be­lieve that teach­ers them­selves strug­gle to ac­tu­ally have some of th­ese skills. We got to create blended learn­ing…

How many cus­tomers are there across th­ese seven states?

Right now we ac­tively work with about 40,000 young peo­ple across th­ese states. Al­most 3,500 teach­ers. We be­lieve it’s not just about the con­tent. It’s re­ally about work­ing with the teach­ers and work­ing with the ed­u­ca­tors, for them to make this mind shift. Have you tied up with those state govern­ments?

Yes. The DGT. The de­part­ment of em­ploy­ment and trade. That’s who we work with and in the Bi­har ed­u­ca­tion project coun­cil, BEPC. We work with state govern­ments across six states in the de­part­ment of em­ploy­ment and train­ing, we work with the Bi­har ed­u­ca­tion project coun­cil, and Delhi govern­ment on the school side to do this roll out. Since you are spread across th­ese states, the dis­sem­i­na­tion of con­tent must be in the lo­cal lan­guages. Yes. We have some of our ca­reer fac­ing con­tent and life skills con­tent in six lan­guages. That is English, Hindi, Gu­jarati, Tamil, Kan­nada, and Malay­alam.

Other than govern­ment and non-prof­its, what has been Quest’s busi­ness model?

Our busi­ness model has been to re­ally work with tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies who can bring grants. Who can bring their skills. Who can bring their so­cial cap­i­tal in re­ally cre­at­ing con­tent, cre­at­ing pro­grams for youth. We have not nec­es­sar­ily looked to charge the young per­son or the train­ing in­sti­tute or the NGO right now. We have tar­geted tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, banks, who are in­vest­ing se­ri­ous amounts on CSR.

Who are the tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies and banks you have part­nered with?

We work with Ac­cen­ture, Cisco, LinkedIn, Mi­crosoft of course, Bank of Amer­ica, Bar­clays, JP Mor­gan. It’s a mix of tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, banks, and we also work with some global foun­da­tions, in­ter­na­tional youth foun­da­tions.

Pri­mar­ily, most of th­ese tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, is it part of their CSR ac­tiv­i­ties?

It starts with CSR en­gage­ment but it also slowly goes with their tech­nol­ogy R&D teams. For ex­am­ple Ac­cen­ture helped de­vel­op­ing some of the off­line de­ploy­ment strat­egy. The ar­chi­tect team for so­lu­tions, we have also been get­ting ad­vi­sors from the learn­ing and de­sign teams, who come in and help think about learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences for young peo­ple us­ing some of their IP to re­ally con­tex­tu­al­ize to our prob­lem state­ments. It’s been an in­ter­est­ing way to also look at build­ing the busi­ness model where it’s not all about char­ity. It’s also about strate­gic phi­lan­thropy in a way it makes sense to the com­pany’s brand.

With Mi­crosoft it’s been a six year part­ner­ship. We have built a dig­i­tal lit­er­acy cur­ricu­lum. We are teach­ing the chil­dren the ba­sics of pro­gram­ming us­ing scratch. You don’t need to have to write a lot of code. Just un­der­stand how the pro­gram­ming works by do­ing drag and drop. They make their own games. They make short films. Us­ing scratch they build an at­ti­tude to­wards tech­nol­ogy. They over­come their fear about I can do and I can solve prob­lems on the com­puter as op­posed to only con­sume in­for­ma­tion. That’s the move we are mak­ing long term to build those skills of dig­i­tal flu­ency where you are not just con­sum­ing in­for­ma­tion but you can an­a­lyse, in­ter­pret, take ac­tions from the in­for­ma­tion that’s al­ready be­ing pre­sented to you. That’s the move for next five years to fo­cus on dig­i­tal flu­ency.

AAKASH SETHI, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Quest Al­liance

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