“India, the world’s largest country in terms of population below 21 years, has the potential to be among the greatest nations across the world. We need to empower our youth, which can be only done through quality education.” – Priyadeep Sinha, India

When it comes to knowing what it takes to become a successful student entrepreneur, Priyadeep Sinha is an expert. The 24-year-old CEO of ADD-on-GYAN Educational Services and co-creator of Gyan Lab actually started his company in his final year of engineering school at Manipal University in 2010.  So what does Sinha believe are the important qualities for student entrepreneurs? For starters, being both a leader and a team player. And it is clear that Sinha himself is doing that quite well.

Only three years since he founded his company, Gyan Lab – a pedagogy that empowers students to learn through practical, hands-on experiences – has gained significant momentum in India. And Sinha’s childhood dream of doing something meaningful has become as reality, as Gyan Lab’s vision of changing education in India takes shape.

“I think the problems that I faced and saw around me as a growing kid … got me to believe that I can do things to ensure that kids in the future do not have to go through the same archaic education system,” says Sinha. “The current Indian education scenario creates a substandard work force and hinders our overall growth as a nation.”

Gyan Lab’s vision is “to ensure that the fish is never judged by its ability to climb the tree.” According to Sinha, “We aim to create a platform for millions of kids in India to acquire true knowledge in a place without fear, competition and in a manner that they love most – hands-on.”

The education world is taking notice. Sinha led the Gyan Lab team to victories at many respected global challenges, including the Economic Times Power of Ideas 2012, where Gyan Lab was chosen among the top 20 new start-ups, and to a second- place win at the Dell Education Challenge in Austin, Texas. Sinha has also been awarded the “Global Achiever’s Award for Educational Excellence 2012” from the Economic Development Forum. He is passionate about his work, and it shows.

Today, Sinha shares more of his thoughts on what it takes to be a successful student entrepreneur, what inspires him daily, and what he is most excited about in the world of education today. Enjoy!

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education? 

I think my all-time favorite teacher would be Mrs. Mridul Arya who was my Hindi (2nd Language) teacher and also class teacher for Grades 9 and 10. She always encouraged me to be who I am. I had the free reign to think more in her class and she has taught me that excellence comes with extreme discipline.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?

I feel very proud to be the creator and founder of Gyan Lab. What Gyan Lab is essentially doing to the Indian education scenario is that it is creating future human resources that will be much more creative, intuitive and innovative. India, the world’s largest country in terms of population below 21 years, has the potential to be among the greatest nations across the world. We need to empower our youth, which can be only done through quality education. Hands-on learning, in a major way, helps kids unleash their creative potential and increases their appetite for innovation. Currently, most of our human resources are used to do clerical jobs for the major IT and service multi-national corporations across the globe. This trend has to change dramatically. Every Gyan Lab kid who grows up and enters the Indian workforce will be a major asset for the overall development of the nation. This would be the most important thing to achieve for us.

In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cell phones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?

I think what the immense growth in technology and the tech era is doing that is most relevant to education is easy and reliable accessibility of knowledge. Today, kids are born with a natural intuition towards technology and they seamlessly integrate the same in their lifestyle. However, leaving out projects such as One Laptop per Child and Akash Tablets (in India), such technology is only affordable for a very small minority comprising of rich and middle-class folks mostly in the developed world. Technology tools and systems need to be more accessible in the developing world in order to have the power to disrupt the current status quo. Social media is a very strong tool for an education such as ours to tell the world what we are working on, and how is it impacting the lives of kids. Apart from this, our testing system is software that is designed on how can we perceive the intellectual abilities of an individual. lt has been playing a key role in ensuring Gyan Lab is useful for kids and impacts their lives in a positive way by helping their investors (parents and educators) understand factors influencing satisfaction and happiness to that particular child.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

The fact that knowledge is so easily accessible is the most beautiful innovation of modern day. I no longer need to rely on my parents, school teachers or the library for information. I can access it anywhere and everywhere in a form (game, story, video, audio, text) that suits me best and I like most. I think nothing is of more paramount importance than making learning more enjoyable for kids. This is THE most exciting innovation in my view.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Creativity and innovation are the skills I am most passionate about. We are living in a world that will need more people with creativity and innovation within the next five years. We need problem-solvers, ones who can think outside the box without any difficulty. In fact, I am fascinated by the thought that there will be more jobs that need these two skills that those not needing these skills in the next five – six years. This makes me strongly believe that the future workforce must be allowed to retain the gifts of creativity and innovation that every kid is born with. As Picasso rightly said, every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
I would give every child the power of the Internet and a handbook of innovation to accompany it.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

Education is valued as the difference between having a good life and a troubled life in India. There is a huge value given to education, but there is widespread disparity, which is making the whole situation very lopsided. India has over a million government-owned schools, which shows the sheer volume of requirement in the country apart from about 100,000+ private schools.

How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?

The teaching staff is poor in quality, either completely without or with very little training. The government-owned schools have outdated infrastructure and private schools are not affordable for everyone. Learning has little or no value. The whole focus of school education is to score most marks in examinations and join a top-ranked institute for higher studies. Rote learning is rampant and the real meaning of education is lost. This is where Gyan Lab is working to change the way of learning in the country and make true learning possible. In the PISA+ 2009 test by OECD, Indian states Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh finished right at the bottom of all the 74 participating regions showing the deep lack of proper education in our country. There are massive structural changes required to get India to the kind of education China, Japan, Singapore and the Scandinavian countries impart. We are doing our best in the segment, so are a few other companies with a very honest motive.

About Priyadeep Sinha

@PriyadeepSinha

  • Birthplace: Patna, Bihar (India)
  • Current residence: Bangalore, Karnataka (India)
  • Education: Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical), Post Graduate Diploma (Education Tech) – pursuing
  • Website I check every day: entrepreneur.com, ted.com, yourstory.in
  • Person who inspires me most: Steve Jobs and Elon Musk (can’t just take one of those names)
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Travel for me is always about work but the journey makes it a pleasurable experience. I will be travelling to Pune or Kota in India next sometime in the coming weeks!
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? Well, I am just laughing at this point of time looking at some of the spelling errors you get to see at so many places in India (for example, an image of a shop where chilled beer has been spelt as ‘Child Beer’!)
  • Favorite book: The Godfather (by Mario Puzo)
  • Favorite music: Hindi (Classics of 70s), Linkin Park, Poets of the Fall, etc.
  • What is the best advice you have ever received?
    I believe that the finest advice I have ever received would be to believe in myself and do things that make my presence meaningful. I do abide by the same.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: When I was a kid, my father told me a Sanskrit statement: “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana,

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani.”

It means: “While you have the right to perform an action it does not entitle you to the benefits. Do not let the benefits guide you and make you greedy. Pure thoughts will make your actions flawless.”

This has guided me to work hard and persevere towards my goals without ever thinking about what I would get in return.

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