'Have you ever been a teacher?' That's a question you've got to expect when you propose an new -age academic curriculum to city principals twice your age. And 10 years ago, when Chitra Ravi went out on a limb to approach schools with her modern ideas of 'interactive education' – the EZ Vidya way – she had no background in education whatsoever. "I was a management graduate and at the time I was helping my husband with his interior design firm," she recalls. But with a clientele of 500 schools across the country now, reaching 300,000 elementary school goers – it's clear that whatever she said back then in those early conversations, convincing school principals to get on board with her ideas – she got their attention. "And it's not easy to get people to take you seriously when you're a woman," she states matter-of-factly, having forseen that 'effective communication' is the key.
We jump into how the journey came to be in the first place. "I think it started at home when I saw my elder daughter coming home from school unmotivated." This led to a load of individual research, a course in Harvard on better 'Views on Understanding' and after much trial and error, a Computer Science module that aided learning in other subjects like Mathematics and Science. "After a while, schools started asking me to customise approach to more subjects," she explains.
And so began the era of Chrysalis textbooks – present day curriculums with adapted interactive elements to enhance a child's understanding. Chitra flips through the pages of one of the books and points out puzzles, spaces for drawing and sections on critical thinking that go beyond memorising a basic definition. "Often it helps to make a concept relatable to a child, before you launch into teaching something completely foreign," the EZ innovator gives us an example. Like we had a teacher put out a really fun question recently to teach the kids about what 'plants need to grow,' the CEO shares with a laugh. "She asked the class: if you could take your plant to the parlour, what kind of services would you get done?"
Let's see: a pedicure for the weeds, deep conditioning for the roots and Vitamin E lotion for sunlight. Two gold stars for this reporter! Of course, this isn't the expected answer on an exam sheet, but it certainly beats mugging the definition of photosynthesis, wouldn't you say? Presently, the company caters to students from kindergarden to class 5. "And the goal is to move to the higher classes in a year or two," shares the mother of two. "We also have a division working on game-based learning, online modules of education and digital assessment of children's personality types and their corresponding areas of academic interest," Chitra adds, her passion still written all over her smile, a decade after the start of her venture. But one has to wonder, what did this young mother with no academic background say to middle-aged headmasters of schools when they asked her – 'How do you know anything about education, have you ever been a teacher?' There is a short, tense pause. And then, Chitra breaks into a smile, "I told them: 'I am a teacher, at home'."