IIT Delhi graduates Ritesh Singh and Akshat Goel have developed an app that creates an amazing communication channel between parents, teachers and students.
Pankaj is a resident of Chhapra in Bihar. He is a very bright student with a keen interest in academics. His parents, however, are not educated and do not have much understanding of the need for them to be involved in their son’s education. For them, it is school alone that can help their child succeed. They never ask Pankaj anything about what is going on at school — whether there is any co-curricular event that has been organized, if the teacher has any message for them, or if he is happy with the facilities provided by the school. Other than a parent-teacher meeting (PTM) held once every year, there is no interaction between them and the school at all.
But things are changing ever since they attended a presentation in Pankaj’s school where two young men spoke to parents about how they can be a part of their wards’ education, and why communication between parents and teachers is crucial.
Ritesh Singh and Akshat Goel, graduates from IIT Delhi, met the parents during the school’s annual PTM. They introduced the parents to Eckovation, a mobile app that can help them be in constant touch with the teachers at school and remain informed about all important school activities.
Pankaj’s parents, who don’t know how to read, now listen to messages from the school teachers and principal through the audio feature of this app, and are always up-to-date with the important aspects of his education. They have downloaded the app on their older son’s phone and use it constantly. Most of the other kids at Pankaj’s school also have at least one smartphone in the family.
The App and How it Came Along
Eckovation connects teachers, students and parents in real time. The app is free for everyone and can be downloaded even on the most basic Android phone. It also works with a limited internet connection.
The app is a great way to initiate and increase interaction between two very important institutions of a child’s education – home and school. The founders began working on it after they realised that there is a huge communication gap between teachers and parents, which, in turn, hampers the growth of students.
Ritesh, who belongs to Chhapra, joined IIT Delhi in 2008 to study mechanical engineering. At college he came across many students who had studied in some of the top schools of Delhi. “There was a stark difference in the way they conducted themselves — the way they talked and the way they were always ready to explore new things,” says Ritesh. During his first year, his roommate from Delhi mocked one of his class reports, saying it was similar to what he and his classmates used to make in Class 5 at school.
“I realised then that the kind of education these people had received was different from what I had gotten at school, and it was primarily because of the kind of environment and exposure they were provided with,” he adds.
Ritesh started discussing the unfair differences in the education system in different cities of India with his friend Akshat, a resident of Delhi. The two observed, for instance, that tier 1 city students participated in extra curricular activities much more than students from tier 2 and 3 cities.
Why the difference? What was it that even the good schools in tier 3 cities did not have access to? Why was there no demand for extra-curricular activities by parents in smaller cities? Questions like these motivated the two curious students to work in the field of education in whichever way they could.
The more they looked, the more they felt that one of the main reasons behind this difference was the complete lack of communication between parents and teachers in smaller cities as compared to the schools in the bigger metros.
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This was how the idea of developing a platform that would connect parents, teachers and students came about and the duo started working on it.
How does it Work?
The app has three stakeholders: parents, students and teachers. The initiator is the teacher who can create a group. This group is very similar to creating a group on WhatsApp, except that only those who have the group code can be part of it. Also, in order to maintain the privacy of teachers and parents, their numbers are not displayed.
Once parents and teachers are part of the same ‘group’, there can be endless communication between them in the form of written texts as well as audio and visual messages. This makes it possible for parents to never miss out on any announcement, examination detail, study material update, co-curricular event participation, etc.
The Research & Development
Ritesh and Akshat visited many schools in big and small cities to get a feel for the differences in education and activities at these institutions. Ritesh also spent a few months in Chhapra, trying to identify the gap there — his research validated their concerns about the lack of communication between parents and teachers.
To get started, and to provide a platform for communication as quickly as possible, they first introduced a messaging (SMS) platform in June 2014, through which schools could interact with parents in the form of bulk texts. For instance, if there was a sports meet at the school, a common message could be sent out to all parents informing them about it. However, the SMS platform had many restrictions; parents who could not read, for example, were unable to utilise this platform to the fullest. Hence, after more research and refinement, they finally launched Eckovation in June 2015.
Current usage and future plans
Two months after the launch, the app has about 1000 downloads and is being used by over 50 teachers in Bihar, Delhi, UP, and some other places. Five professors from IIT Delhi are also using it. Additionally, about 30,000 students are using the SMS platform and they are slowly shifting to the app.
Ritesh and Akshat had put in about Rs. 7 lakhs from their own pocket to develop the app. They are now looking for further funding.
They are also planning interschool interaction. This way, students in tier 3 cities can learn from teachers in tier 1 cities. For this, they are in talks with organizations like Bansal classes in Kota, and a few teachers who can dedicate some time to share their knowledge.
However, Ritesh and Akshat do not want the functionality of the app to end with school students only. There are many people who opt for unconventional schooling methods, like open schools. Hence, they are also collaborating with organizations like Avanti Education Program, and National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) to facilitate peer-to-peer communication among open school students.
“We all know the importance of education. Education is what leads to a better life and a better society. Hence, we started Eckovation, with the vision of educating a billion people using the power of the internet and mobile phones,” concludes Akshat.