Published: 19th May 2021
From Waste Management to Financial Smarts, this Kerala start-up's curriculum add-ons could be the zing your kid needs
Inspired by the Finnish education system, Venture Village has introduced an individual-centric curriculum to help students learn about waste management and menstruation from a very young age
These days, children are the ‘influencers’ in their families. So any serious change in society seems to trickle up from the youngest member, right to the very top. Venture Village was set up in 2019 to target these influencers. Based in Finland, Unnikrishnan S Kurup and Anup Jinadevan wanted to introduce notes from what is known as the world’s happiest country into the curriculum taught to Indian students.
The idea flowed in with the Kerala floods in 2018. After supporting Kerala with one of the greatest challenges the state had faced, the intention was to bring lasting change through the most important assets. The company’s first employee, Jacob Roshan says, “Their own children studied in Finland and they understand how the education system there is different from what we have. They wanted to make a lasting impact based on what they knew.”
Jacob (29), a Teach For India alumnus and a graduate in Economics from IIT Madras, has worked towards improving education in government schools through research and groundwork joined the company in its very first year. He says, “We were inspired to try and start this after we saw a programme in Finland where children understand financial literacy, how to use money, how a city works and other skills they will need in the real world. The idea was to bring a similar programme to India.”
WORLD CITY: The students are taught about basic city management
Ramp up the schools
In the academic year of 2019-20, they set up their programme in a handful of schools. Having done most of their physical work in the run up to that, the plan was to ramp up the programme in 2020, which is just before the Coronavirus pandemic hit. Following this, most of their work has moved online. By April this year, they have already partnered with major schools like Global Public School in Kochi. Now, Venture Village has been adopted by 25 institutions in different parts of the state.
Although it is completely based in Kerala at this time, the organisation hopes to expand to the rest of the country soon. Before the pandemic, they visited schools and got a 60 to 80 minute slot to conduct classes. This involved activities and discussions that students could carry out themselves. Since the lockdown, their focus has been to ensure transition into individual modes of teaching which were better suited for virtual learning.
HANDS ON: The educators work closely with students
The educators were also careful about not competing for the students’ time at a point when an onslaught of apps and online modules were already crowding their minds with information. Most of the work they are assigned can be completed on their own from their own homes, save for a final project for which they are assigned a mentor.
Jacob says, “In the last year, we have seen a lot of apps and online platforms focus on academic learning. Now, you have websites you can use for your tuition or to ensure that students don't have learning loss during the lockdown. But we are an organisation focused on co-curricular learning as well. Some of our most important courses are on waste and environment management.”
More recently, Venture Village introduced their Green City course in a number of schools online.
Between January and April, the programme has been running full-fledge across schools.With the support of Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Institute, they have been researching on how an intervention like this could change student behaviour.
In a nutshell, they are trying to see if the course has the potential to make an individual more prone to changing their environment and waste management habits. And based on their preliminary insight, they have learnt that it has actually changed their home-based habits. For slightly older children, they are introducing a course on climate change. Students who have already completed the Green City online course will introduced to this programme with a very local focus, seeking to teach them the importance of acting now.
WORLD CLASS: The programme adheres to international standards
Learning about the body
The Venture Village curriculum is also focused on learning about their own bodies. This includes courses on menstruation and oral hygiene that were introduced this month. The menstruation course covers the intricacies of the reproductive system in ways children can understand. It takes them through the menstruation cycle. It course is tailor-made with student inputs and taking their responses into account. Jacob adds, “We are working on a course on comprehensive sexuality education focused primarily on boys. We all know the importance of changing their mindsets right from a young age.”
Students from around the country have recorded videos and shared them to show how much of a difference the programme had made for them. They have been seen going out and taking pictures of landfills or pollution hotspots near their homes based on the environment-related knowledge that they received. Many have even started dialogues with their to ward members to make sure that Haritha Sena members have collected waste in time.
“We are helping them change their own habits,” says Jacob, “This is something we are very keen on when it comes to working with kids who are in the 12-16 age group. It is the habits that they learn at this age that will help them think about and understand the importance of things. When they understand, it stays for life. We are focusing on changing lives from that very important age.”