Note: Whitehat Jr. is an alumnus of our portfolio. Omidyar Network India exited in August 2020.
Tejas Jaiswal is in the 7th grade. A bright and ambitious student from Delhi, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his cousin who is studying at the prestigious IIT. He wanted to learn coding but his parents were daunted by the idea of fitting in a long commute to yet another class, into a rather busy schedule. Now he’s learning to code in the comfort of his own home.
Elakkiya is a bright and restless 6-year-old from Chennai who hates sitting in classes.
Her parents tried many art, crafts and storytelling classes but each time, Elakkiya would look for reasons not to go. Her parents decided to try something new and enrolled her on WhiteHat Jr. Now she refuses to miss a single class.
Panzy Saran gave up her job at IT major, Wipro when she got married to an officer of the Indian Army. Moving around the country, it was difficult to sustain teaching jobs at schools. That changed when she and WhiteHat Junior (Jr) found each other.
Through WhiteHat Jr’s interactive and engaging model, carefully selected and trained teachers pair up with students in a 1:1 online class session and use guided curriculum, lesson plans, and the tech platform to enable hands-on learning. This model helps connect skilled teachers like Panzy, allowing them to use their technical expertise for the benefit of students like Yuvin, Tejas and Elakkiya, learning from them, literally sitting across the country.
By teaching coding which encapsulates logic, structure, sequence and algorithmic thinking, WhiteHat Jr. is enabling children to become creators rather than consumers of technology in an increasingly digital world. According to a report titled The Common Sense Census: Media Use By Tweens and Teens pre-teen children and teenagers spend just 2% and 3%, respectively, of their total screen time creating content. The rest is spent in a mode of passive consumption of digital content.
Looking, in part, to correct this behavior, WhiteHat Jr. started out in 2018 by launching programs for children between the ages of 4 to 10 years (Grade K-6). The focus on this age group was due to a landmark study in 1968 that uncovered some surprising facts about creativity in human beings. George Land and Beth Jarman’s study designed for NASA showed that creativity in children peaks at the age of 6 and then goes into a drastic decline as they get older.
WhiteHat Jr. seeks to help sharpen children’s’ creativity and logical skills at this optimal juncture. The curriculum has been developed by experts in computer science and early childhood engagement. It is a platform for children to develop critical skills to thrive in the technology-driven world we live in today. The company has also launched a learning program for children studying in Grade 7 to 9 as a result of the demand from the market.
This is in step with Draft National Education Policy 2019’s recommendation that computational thinking, defined as the thought process involved in formulating problems and solutions in ways that computers can effectively execute, be integrated into the school curriculum in India from age 6 onwards, in order to prepare students for the digital age. In fact, CBSE plans to introduce AI courses in classes 8, 9, 10 from 2020 and reskill teachers accordingly.
WhiteHat Jr. was founded by Karan Bajaj, former CEO of Discovery Networks India and a best-selling author. His vision of enabling a new generation of innovative creators is one that we are excited by and which is why we have been supporting the company since its inception. WhiteHat Jr’s innovative approach and philosophy make it a good fit for Omidyar Network India, given our focus on reimagining the scope of education and empowering the ‘Next Half Billion’ (NHB) for an increasingly digital world.India currently has 560 million active internet users. This number is rapidly on the rise and people are using technology in more personal ways and with higher dependency than ever before. As India’s ‘next half billion’ gets online, we see companies like WhiteHat Jr. playing a vital role in integrating the next generation seamlessly with this new world, by giving them the tools to thrive in it.