“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
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