A trailblazer in educational innovation, Ritesh Rawal aimed for a complete overhaul when he ventured into the sector. Challenging the status quo existing for more than a decade, this edupreneur founded Dudes and Dolls – The Cosmic School, Delhi-NCR – a transformative cosmic school for pre and primary education – in 2012. Sharing his vision, he states, “All our initiatives undertaken in the past years are a clear reflection of innovation and transformation in education. Driven by an inspiration to do things differently, I believe this approach is required to solve existing problems in the sector and make the system more practical and relevant to the current and future context.” India is the youngest country with 35 crore children in the age group of 1 to 5 years. It is very important to have a strong early childhood education for children to be able to perform well in higher grades. “At our school we have come up with a curriculum where we have integrated vocational training and academics,” declares Ritesh.
Ritesh is striving to disrupt the Indian education system with innovative yet sustainable solutions based on exploring the uniqueness of each individual rather than by comparison. Unique infrastructure, curriculum design, student development programmes and branding while recruiting a team of educators and administrators are some of the many features of Dudes and Dolls. Instead of being open for admissions in large quantities, the school has been designed to accommodate 250 students with the support of around a 50-member team. Dudes and Dolls also innovated and implemented the path-breaking Six Sigma methodology to encourage quality education. When asked about his inspiration, Ritesh states, “Experience and at times inexperience can be defined as the best mentor for me. The initial motivation to transform education came from my own experience coupled with an unconventional mindset right from my childhood and a self belief that we can get the first mover advantage in any field by challenging the status quo.”
The education sector in India is estimated to reach US$101.1 billion in FY19, according to a latest study by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF). An estimated investment of US$200 billion is required by the government to achieve its target of 30 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for the higher education segment by 2020. The government is also planning to promote the education sector to help increase the share of overall services’ sector in the GDP of the country, the report states. Sharing his views on rote learning, Ritesh adds, “Rote learning is the ability of our brain to remember things, it is based on a fundamental that human mind can remember everything. Therefore, the focus is on memorization. Only a few students can be good in memorization, not all. Therefore, it can impact a limited set of students. However, innovative methods, which involve learning by practically involving students in the entire process of learning, impact a larger set of students. The offshoot of methods which involve students are, that after ending one topic, students are curious to know more about many other topics as well and that’s a big differentiator.”
A Fresh Chapter
The launch of a new school ‘Adhyay’ (Nursery to 12) is also in the offing. Ritesh states, “For any initiative to be successful, it is important to invest the initial years in creating a system, build own practices and try to create a mark for self. When I reflect on my journey, I’d say the school is growing as per our plan and has also exceeded expectations in certain parameters like student and parent satisfaction.”
In an endeavour to address emerging trends and patterns in the education system, Ritesh and his team were involved in extensive research to understand the challenges. The concept launch of Adhyay is scheduled in September 2019 with unique, practical and relevant solutions for the sector. Sharing his ideas on structure of the social sector with respect to education, Ritesh explains, “The role of the government is to create policies, the role of schools is to implement the education curriculum and teach students, and we, who are passionate about education transformation, are responsible to build a bridge and enable the ecosystem by sharing our learning. But a lot of forces working towards this objective are either criticizing the policy or the implementation system. To bring about social reform, we will have to appreciate what has already been done and align our initiatives with the geography and demography.”
Ritesh has also established a social enterprise known as Ritesh Rawal Foundation (RRF) initiated to address problems curtailing the socio-economic growth of the society and deliver sustainable solutions for inclusive education. In an endeavour to influence policy changes, he launched ‘Learning by Doing’ movement that focuses on experiential learning by transforming learning from ‘knowledge-based’ to ‘activity-based’. Currently operational in the rural areas of Haryana and Rajasthan, this initiative has been implemented in collaboration with local government structures for achieving standardization. RRF is also running a national campaign to capture new ideas to promote them. He says, “We have plans to initiate a project called ‘Innovation in Education’ that will nurture the innovations taking place in the education sector.”
In ‘Learning by Doing’, RRF has created an innovative starter kit to government schools under the project area and aims to implement its ideas by collaborating with local government structures and later on influencing at the policy level with an objective to achieve standardization. They have already touched base in over three states in the rural districts. This nationwide movement aims to cater to 1 lakh students across India. In ‘Future of Education’, research is being conducted to identify trends and patterns related to the future of education.
At Dudes and Dolls, special emphasis is laid on each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. “Without any environment of competition among students, we realise each child is different and we want them to grow in their own unique way,” avers Ritesh. RRF has also worked with government school teachers. The young reformist now plans to expand his mission of changing the Indian education system by venturing into Plus 2. “We plan to launch our Plus 2 school, Adhyay, by 2021 and introduce a curriculum that aids the holistic development of students,” says Ritesh. Claiming that Adhyay will be a one-of-a-kind school, Ritesh hopes that the dismal state of education in India is improved at the earliest. “However noble our intentions are, we are too small to bring about a pan-India change. The government has to come into the picture,” declares the edupreneur.
Ritesh aims to work primarily on child development. His social initiative has so far impacted 15 schools in three districts. His quest to understand more about best in-class quality systems of the world triggered him to get trained in Japanese management systems, wherein he completed a rigorous certification as a Six Sigma professional. With an ardent desire to continue learning through experiential practices throughout his life, Ritesh continually strives to strengthen his contributions towards nation building. On a lighter note, automobiles, latest trends in technology and lifestyle never fail to excite the young game changer.
India has been a pioneer of innovation in the field of education, feels Ritesh. “In fact, the amount of wisdom ancient India education system has given to the world is remarkable. Unfortunately with time, and in order to try and achieve all at once, we started mixing things up, and education as an industry became a commodity. We were much ahead of US and China, and I still don’t think we are less competitive. It is important to get our basics right and experiment in the field of education with a purpose in mind, rather than just to make the offering more attractive to the consumer,” he concludes.