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Founder of ed-tech startup Creative Galileo Prerna Jhunjhunwala on education’s capacity for change

The entrepreneur, who also started Little Paddington pre-school, speaks to us on how she’s choosing to challenge with education and technology.

Education – specifically, ease of access to high quality education – has been historically proven to be one of the greatest equalisers. It’s long been a bugbear in developing countries, where young girls are disproportionately inhibited from getting a proper education. Interestingly, in developed countries, young boys are faring worse on average compared to their female counterparts. Therein lies the power of personalised teaching and cutting-edge pedagogical methods – a philosophy that entrepreneur Prerna Jhunjhunwala, who founded the acclaimed Little Paddington preschool in 2015, has carried to her next venture: Creative Galileo.

Creative Galileo is an ultra-lightweight app that’s all about providing bespoke education solutions that prioritize holistic, fun learning. In the context of today’s increasingly digital world – which includes digital access even in traditionally underserved communities – the app might is pegged to be the next big equaliser. We speak to Jhunjhunwala on her hopes and aspirations for a more equal future afforded by education and technology.

(Related: Secret to success is hard work and education, says pioneering architect Albert Hong)

First off, what is Creative Galileo doing that’s radically different from what’s come before?

We’re leveraging on edtech to ensure no one is left behind in the digital shift. We have kept the needs of underserved communities at the heart of our start-up’s development. To that end, we’ve worked extremely hard to keep our app’s size below 10MB, significantly lower than other e-learning apps in the market which typically vary between 80-100MB.  It’s also free to use, which goes to the heart of our vision to ensure that education is always available, even for users who experience data use limits and Internet connectivity issues. 

Creative Galileo is also the first e-learning app in the region to leverage a character-based learning model to maximise children’s engagement with educational content. Our e-learning app weaves education and entertainment to create personalised, integrated learning experiences for young minds. In this first iteration of the app, lessons are delivered through storylines of Little Singham and his friends, popular animated characters in the Indian subcontinent. We piloted the proof-of-concept in India six months ago and gained traction in the Indian subcontinent at-large with over 1 million downloads. 

Now, we are building a language-agnostic platform by adding new languages without changing the user experience. We’re also looking forward to expanding our character universe beyond India to include many beloved Southeast Asian characters.

(Related: Seven leaders weigh in on gender equality)

How does access to education help further the road to equality?

I see technology, not gender or background, as the most important factor in democratising access to education in today’s digital-first world – which is the world’s most urgent developmental priority. It is critical that both men and women share an awareness of the critical role technology will play in delivering personalised and meaningful education in tomorrow’s economy, and integrate digital tools with their own unique skillsets to drive meaningful and holistic education experiences.

While digitisation has driven the transformation of many industries – from e-commerce, finance to insurance – the potential to democratise education and support the delivery of quality learning programmes to traditionally underserved communities is tremendous, and still largely untapped. 

For example, In India alone, there is a shortage of over 700,000 teachers, making it challenging for teachers to holistically manage a child’s learning journey and pinpoint targeted concerns or growth areas. This is where leveraging technology is going to be a game changer in enabling real-time engagement, and providing robust data on a child’s learning journey, aptitude, and skills. In short, technology and the uptake of digital tools will be key to disrupting the traditional model of education as a privilege available to a select few, and transforming the education system of the future to be an inclusive one.

Does this reflect in how things are being done at your ventures?

Naturally. In Little Paddington, we have teachers from various nationalities imparting the best knowledge through different pedagogies and even in Creative Galileo we have ensured gender diversity. I firmly believe that a diverse workforce brings diverse perspectives and ideas that help you create path-breaking products, solutions and services. We ensure every single individual is heard and respected. Most importantly, the culture of inclusion is built on trust and transparency. We have open dialogue sessions and a strong internal communications channel that connects us all.

(Related: How Crib co-founder Elaine Kim is empowering women’s dreams through entrepreneurship)

What needs to be done to spread this culture of inclusion globally?

Actions speak louder than words, and change begins with each of us. Be bold to act and celebrate the achievements of those who are moving the needle. At the end of the day, it is our achievements that will have a collective impact and help break down barriers to equality.

Finally, what did this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

I’ve always wanted to challenge the assumption that education is a privilege. It is a right belonging to every child.When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the education sector was one of the first to be impacted – I witnessed lockdowns preventing children from going to school in some areas and noticed a lack of resources further limiting education.

That’s when I turned to technology and Creative Galileo. In designing the app, I also wanted to challenge the mindset that education and fun do not go hand in hand. So, I gathered a best-in-class team that sits at the intersection of education, technology, and gaming, and together we made sure that the app’s features combined the best of education and entertainment.

As I consider the past year, #ChoosetoChallenge resonates strongly with me. It is a call to cast one’s vision beyond the status quo to bring urgent solutions to those who need it most. I look forward to continuing to leverage technology to push the envelope – or in other words, choosing to challenge – in the education sector for many years to come.