Aneesh Bangia, Co-founder, Open Door: There could be an Einstein sitting in each classroom
Open Door is the most disruptive and innovative start-up in the country which is transforming the education system with their creative approach. Their two main approaches consist of Mastery Assessments and Thinking Classrooms in over 200 schools where more than 120000 students are learning by thinking and questioning. They have partnered with schools in India, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. Not just this, but the firm has received a lot of positive feedback from parents continuously on how their children’s education has taken a good turn! Here in conversation with the founder, let’s read more about Opendoor education.
Do you believe that there is a lack in the education system we have today?
Aneesh Bangia: If you walk into the classroom of any school, you will notice a teacher trying her best to explain a concept. You will also notice 30 children looking at her. Each of these children has a brain that is capable of thinking. Some of these children understand quickly and some need extra time. But when most children are capable of understanding many of these concepts on their own, why do teachers keep explaining everything to them?
Period after period, day after day, year after year, teachers are busy explaining concepts, dictating notes and letting children know what the right answer to each question should be. Although teachers are trying their best to ‘teach’, they end up depriving students the opportunity to think.
Understanding a concept requires thinking. It requires challenging our own assumptions and applying your understanding in different situations. Understanding requires effort and time. Every time we go through the process of understanding, our brain is made to work. And every time we accept information as it is, our brain works less.
There could be an Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton sitting in each classroom. Instead of producing original thinkers, our education system has become a perfect system for creating adults who do not think critically or originally. Open Door uses interesting questions to make children think and to explore a concept from many directions.
Do you believe that creativity and today’s educational practices don’t go hand in hand?
Aneesh Bangia: What makes creative people different?
A lot of people think that creative people are a completely different breed and that they think of only fresh ideas. But, research shows otherwise. Research shows that anyone can be creative. Any one who can think of several ideas and different approaches to solve a problem is a creative person. What makes creative people different is that they evaluate each idea and modify them repeatedly. And the more this skill is honed, the more creative we become.
Creativity is most easily developed at a young age, in the years that we spend in schools. Students can develop questioning skills and creativity while learning many concepts in schools. What is the purpose of teaching ‘Algebra’? To learn Algebra? Not really. Children develop a strong problem-solving skills and growth mindset through the study of Mathematics. What’s the use of studying about ‘Light’ for most people? Not much. But the study of science develops questioning skills and metacognition. The study of Mathematics and Science (and this is true for aspects of other subjects as well) is an opportunity for educators to not just teach about the content but to also to develop skills that make anyone creative.
The many years that we spend in schools is a wonderful opportunity to develop creativity in children. However, in most of the schools, we limit concepts like Light to some paragraphs and diagrams. By allowing children to accept information as it is and not making them explore the concept from different angles, we inhibit the creativity of the students.
When we talk about education in Indian government schools, what’s your take on this?
Aneesh Bangia: Education in Indian Government schools have several known challenges, such as high drop-out rate, shortage of good teachers and lack of understanding of basic concepts. If these known problems are solved, then the students in government schools can be as successful as the students in private schools.
However, since Open Door works only with private schools currently, we understand the problems and solutions in the private schools system better.
You are working with over 1 lakh students and 200 schools across India. Tell us about this.
Aneesh Bangia: Open Door implements two programs – Mastery Assessments and Thinking Classrooms in over 200 schools where more than 120000 students are learning by thinking and questioning. We have partner schools in India, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. We receive a lot of positive feedback from parents continuously on how their children love our questions and Open Door’s questions have made their children reflect more and ask more questions at home.
Through a series of enjoyable and high-quality questions and instant feedback, teachers notice their students gaining in-depth understanding. All this, without the children needing a physical device. This program allows students and teachers a second chance to demonstrate success, thereby keeping both teachers and students naturally motivated to show an improvement in learning.
Thinking classroom is every Science and Math teacher’s dream come true. Imagine a classroom where teaching begins with a questions, teacher engages children in gamified discussions and where students deliberate on thought-provoking case studies. Thinking Classrooms is a set of interesting discussions, think-sheets, activity kits and case studies that blend easily with your teaching. Transform your classrooms into ‘Thinking Classrooms’ – a place where children think and enjoy learning.
How are you planning on expanding globally?
Aneesh Bangia: Currently we are focused on delivering a powerful product to each school and ensuring that children in our partner schools develop thinking habits. We are also focused on building a self-motivated team that can help us become a global company in the future. We currently work with schools in India, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. In the near future, we will work on partnering with more progressive schools in India and Middle East before expanding to other countries.
Would you say the OpenDoor is something out of the box?
Aneesh Bangia: Open Door is the most disruptive and innovative start-up in the country. While all other companies are making incremental changes to the education system, Open Door is trying to transform the education system. While all other companies are trying to achieve short term goals such as to make a subject interesting or help children learn a particular subject better, Open Door is trying to make children lifelong learners. While most other companies are looking for funding, Open Door is focused on building a self-sustained company.
Even in the school system, Open Door is the only company that:
- Does not solely focus on students or teachers. While it improves students, it also makes sure that teachers improve on important skills such as question design, critical reading and concept appreciation.
- Shows clear data on improvement in student learning to the school management throughout the year.