This Ranchi startup is changing the definition of education

Today on this World’s Education day, we want to share with you the story of Ruchi Jhawar and Anju Modi the entrepreneurs who worked hard to change the form of education through their innovative after-school programme.

This Ranchi startup is changing the definition of education

Whenever we think about education, the first thought that strikes our mind is our school. School is the starting part of our lives where we used to spend 6-7 hours daily. But schools are more than just studies they are like a module which shapes the child’s overall growth. Imagine what Harry Potter would be if he didn’t went to Hogwarts. Providing kids with a more innovative, experimental and creative approach, childhood friends Ruchi Jhawar and Anju Modi are co-founders of Cogitus, a higher-order thinking after-school programme.

Cogitus was founded in 2017, it is a Latin word which means ‘to think’. The duo helps students improve their creativity and better order thinking skills at centres across the country. Schools in India often focus on theoretical learning that rarely helps a child with their overall development. Children have started believing in rote memorization.

The startup was started with aiming to give children a more creative and innovative shot at learning. Headquartered in Ranchi, the startup has centres in Bengaluru, Pune, Indore, Satna, and Surat. It also has a marketing centre in Dubai.

Creative thinking and problem-solving must become a habit for kids to excel within the rapidly changing environment of the 21st century. However, traditional education still doesn't specialise in these vital skills. This is what led to the creation of the Cogitus after-school program that promotes higher-order thinking amongst children of the age bracket 4-14 years. They say their modules shift the learning focus from “prescription and testing” to innovative thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.

Initial journey

Ruchi and Anju were schoolmates back at Daly College in Indore and went on to graduate from Leicester Business School in the UK. Since day one, both of them have had a keen interest in education and sometimes brought it up in conversation, wondering how they might bridge the gaps within the education system.

Eventually, they got married in different cities and kept their passion for education going by running their own after-school programmes. But their dissatisfaction with the education system peaked after they were raising their children. This realization led the duo to start working on a programme that would give children a fresh perspective, and encourage them to think beyond the ordinary.

"We realised that while the world was talking about developing 21st century skills, our education system remained focused on rote learning and acquisition of knowledge. The Indian education system still doesn't encourage reflective thinking. Children are supposed to accept whatever is thrown at them, without thinking or questioning," the co-founders say.

Learning to explore

Based on the co-founders' belief that mastering the basic skills of mathematics, reading and writing are no longer enough, the startup encourages children to think, analyse, reason, solve problems, and innovate.

Children learning at Cogitus Children enrolled at Cogitus are taught using an annual programme developed by a worldwide team with experts in various subjects, and has four core modules:

Cogitus Mathologic, which strengthens a child's decision-making and problem-solving skills through engaging games, spatial puzzles, placement mats, abstract questioning, and more.

Cogitus Explore, which consists of collaborative and interactive sessions that help kids understand the similarities and differences within the world around them, through lessons about mapping, navigation, geography, culture, and current affairs.

Cogitus STEAM, which is an "innovative and contemporary" curriculum supported educating students in science, technology, engineering, arts, and arithmetic, taught in an integrated manner with an emphasis on real-world application.

Cogitus Create, which helps enhance a child's imagination, increase exposure, enhance the spectrum of thought, and improves problem-solving abilities. It encourages out-of-the-box thinking and asks children to create new products, advertisements, architectural designs, and much more.

Classes at the startup are held once every week for one-and-a-half hours across five age bracket divisions. Students have the option of enrolling for yearly or half-yearly courses. So far, the startup claims to possess enrolled over 500 students. Each centre features a student-to-teacher ratio of 8:1 and works on a franchise model.

The co-founders say that the teachers at Cogitus are "passionate about kids, dedicated, open minded, energetic, and ready to listen and accept."

Handling challenges

The concept of an after-school programme that does not involve rigorous tuitions and emphasis on scoring the very best grades is comparatively new in India. This made beginning within the alternative education space tougher.

Anju and Ruchi said, "Our main challenge has been making parents understand and accept the importance of upper order thinking and moving from being marks-oriented to honing thinking skills in children. Parents still encourage standard rote learning, and most of them are still living in denial of the 21st century workforce requirements.”

However, they need been overcoming this through seminars, camps and events that mention the relevance of upper order thinking in today's world. Another challenge has been coordinating programmes since the team at Cogitus is spread across different geographies. On how they're getting past this hurdle, the co-founders say that video conferencing has been a boon, which they need steadily developed a “multi-zone work culture”.

Going forward with a vision to develop higher-order thinking in children across the world by the year 2020, Ruchi and Anju decide to further expand nationally. Over the next year, they also aim to start centres in countries like UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. To other budding entrepreneurs, the co-founders have some simple advice: "Work within the field you're hooked in to. Challenges will arise, but if you're clear about pursuing your goals, you'll find creative solutions. Think big and don’t work with prejudice."