A rejection some 22 years ago for ‘lacking interpersonal communication skills’ at an interview for admission to a MBA course in Delhi, was a traumatic memory that Shivram Choudhary, founder of edutech startup, codevidhya.com and Euro International School, Sikar, never got over. So, after completing a PG in English Literature and training as a teacher and even working as a lecturer for a few years didn’t erase that experience. He always thought about it and then reached a conclusion that right kind of schooling is key to preparing you for your dreams. Now, through his enterprise, he wants to help school children learn the coding language and other skills. Autar Nehru spoke with him:
It sounds very great that you could think of starting an important investment and idea from a place like Sikar. The region is traditionally a coaching hub, people usually get into that business, but not you?
Education has been an area of interest for me since long and I had realized that good schooling doesn’t mean good academics alone. So, when I decided t quit my job and set up a franchise preschool in 2003, I started to feel confident that I can experiment. Finally as we have become a K-10 school with CBSE-affiliation, we started implementing skills alongside academics for our students. We are working on communication, interpersonal skills, coding and now we have introduced entrepreneurship. I am moving to create my ‘ideal’ school.
That is fantastic and a good track. Now how did codevidhya happen? It is an independent business?
Yes. I started this company in 2016 and it all happened because of my quest to empower school children. It so happened that I attended a leadership workshop by motivational speaker and author, Robin Sharma of Monk Who Sold His Ferrari fame in Canada in 2015. Among various ideas discussed was code language for children and as I someone passionate about education wanted to know more about it. Everybody including likes of Mark Zukerberg was talking about coding as a third language. So, I started researching for it, I went to UK, Finland, USA and went to schools, stayed there to see what they are doing. UK introduced coding curriculum in 2014 for schools, two years later USA followed suit. So, I was convinced this is futuristic and very much required for our children in India.
I will again come to mention Sikar. Was operating a tech company at Sikar feasible? How did you manage to pull it off?
Yes talent acquisition was a challenge. But what we did is that we hired fresher engineers, got them mentored by industry experts and piloted the curriculum in two schools initially. We took feedback from industry, teachers and students. And finally we prepared curriculum for all classes upto class X, much ahead of CBSE, which has now got coding curriculum for secondary classes. Finally, we have of late moved to Jaipur because our operations have expanded and we really want to become an online skill university platform.
Tell me about your current footprint and offer including cost?
We offer a structured curriculum of coding language from class 1 onward and are present in 30 schools as of now. Of these 10 are outside Rajasthan in Bengaluru and Coimbatore. Apart from physical textbooks, we offer online support, training of teachers, coding challenges, projects and skill certification. We charge Rs 1000 per student per annum.
In terms of coding languages, what is the order like?
Age appropriate coding as per international practice is what our curriculum offers. So you will be moving from html to java, C, C ++ , python etc. In terms of projects student make app, websites, portals and other solutions.
How does knowing coding language help school students?
Let me put it like this. If you learn it in school say from class 1, so when you reach say class XI or in higher education, where you have to chose a stream, you will sail easily if you have interest in computers. It is equivalent to training of several years, it makes you even job ready because you have already done real world problem solving and live projects. But other than this, the important thing that it does is to change in attitude and thinking. Student starts to think through design thinking, computational thinking , problem solving and collaborations. All these are skills for life in this new age.
Some people think that those good at mathematics must have an advantage in coding as well?
That is not a necessary condition. Student from any stream can be good coder if he has logical thinking, and critical thinking besides knowing the coding language. In fact, artists can do more work on screen than paper through coding to give just one example. Coding is becoming a universal language and as a way of solving societal challenges.
So you say, sooner than later, every student will have to understand coding?
AI, VR, IoT etc are going to be face of learning and work. And all involves coding. So unless you are proficient and competent in it you can’t compete with the world. India has this problem of copying ideas and not innovating new ideas. This is a major concern, so with offers like ours, young minds may break that notion in future.
Well taken, finally let’s know about your future plans?
As I said, we want to move this platform to a higher pedestal. It will be skill enhancing and skill development platform, a kind of skill university offering various course. Promoting tech entrepreneurships and other skills in a big way. We will soon start individual subscription of our platform so that anyone can learn. And spreading in schools will continue.