Access to quality education remains a major challenge for most parents in Bangladesh. The quality is not distributed equally across the country. The top ten schools in Bangladesh are far ahead of the rest of the pack. The best schools in Dhaka are far ahead of the best schools in any other part of the country. Even within Dhaka, only a small number of parents can afford to send their kids to the best schools. The best schools are concentrated geographically, making access to high-quality education almost impossible for most pupils.
The internet could effectively break this distribution problem and create more equitable access to quality education across the country. There is no boundary on the internet.
This is one of the problems Shikho, a newly launched ed-tech company, aims to solve. With high-quality digital content and affordable price, the company aims to make quality education accessible to all.
1/ Shikho is a newly launched ed-tech company in Dhaka that aims to develop a best-in-class mobile learning application for Bangladesh. The company, launched on October 30th, provides online learning through Shikho mobile app. The app has animated video lessons, video lectures, text-based notes and solutions of previous years’ questions and answers, and a recommendation engine that analyzes the learning curve of a student and suggests areas of improvement.
2/ Shikho launched with one subject: SSC general math for class nine and ten. The company says the plan is to see if this product resonates with the users and find the product-market fit before adding more content. If this model works, Shikho plans to cover all subjects of SSC and HSC and then eventually all of K12.
3/ Shikho raised $100,000/= in seed capital from Learn Capital, a US-based VC predominantly invests in education startups across regions. If the company finds a product-market fit, it aims to go on to raise a larger round. The company currently has a six-person team for tech. In total, a team of 35-40 people and the majority of the teamwork in a freelance model.
4/ Shikho claims that it has created a curriculum that is different and better from what is available in the market. The company has incorporated concepts like mastery-based learning in developing content. Mastery-based learning is an approach where you start with basic and then gradually move up to the most expert level. Shikho lesson plans and chapter lessons are designed using the mastery-based lesson techniques and chapter plans are organized accordingly. For example, you started in chapter one.
3/ Shikho provides three different formats of contents: videos of teachers presenting using visualizations, purely animated videos, using real examples to bring education to life. Shikho claims that its content is designed and presented in such a way that it is easy for even the most backward students to understand. The company says it has used real-life examples throughout the curriculum in explaining lessons.
4/ Along with video lessons, Shikho also offers text-based materials. Students can find smart notes with every lesson and topic and video in the app. The company says there are some 700+ smart notes for SSC math alone. Smart Notes cover the definition, formulas, hacks, and everything in between. These all are text-based and are organized so that students don't need to go and purchase additional books.
5/ Shikho says it has worked hard to put together a brilliant team behind building the curriculum. The company initially worked with teachers from different schools to build a curriculum that did not go well because of the difference in mindset and orientation. It eventually went on to hire and work with graduates from different universities to build the curriculum. The company hired students with degrees in applied mathematics from top schools in the country such as BUET, Dhaka University, BRAC, etc who understand the new approach to teaching. These people now write video lessons for Shikho. Although Shikho offers video lessons, the company says it had to build a long pipeline of inputs to make it work smoothly.
7/ Shikho says one of the values it offers is that if students are using the Shikho app, they will no longer require to buy any extra books. If you use the Shikho app, you will become an expert in math using the 110 video lessons covering everything in SSC maths. Two, you don't need to search or buy extra solutions, because you can find relevant notes with every lesson within the app. Three, the Shikho app has 3000+ questions of SSC and HSC solved in the app, which means you don’t need to buy extra question banks and solve them.
8/ Shikho recommendation engine tracks the progress of students and recommends where they need to pay more attention and improve. The recommendation engine analyzes the activities and tests of a student in the app and recommends where you are weak and what skills you need to master further. The app recommends what video you should watch first and so on. This is where personalization kicks in. The more data Shikho has it will be able to personalize your learning experience and make you a better learner and smooth out your journey.
8/ While Shikho started with a student app, the company says it aims higher. Going forward, Shikho plans to build a platform for parents which will enable them to understand the progress their kids are making. The company also plans to build a platform for teachers and schools so that they can see how their students are doing and they can also give students homework and monitor using the Shikho app.
9/ Shikho says it aims to build a learning ecosystem that would take out all the pain and unnecessary cost from the education system. The major challenge for a lot of students in Bangladesh is that they can't afford quality for money. That's what Shikho aims to solve by offering high-quality education at an affordable price.
10/To use Shikho, students will have to buy subscriptions. The company currently offers subscriptions for one, three, six, and twelve months so far. Shikho says it aims to make its solution affordable and understands that people are price sensitive.
15/ Two million is the number of students who give the SSC exam every year, which is a big market. A growing number of these people now have access to both smartphones and the internet. Shikho sees a big opportunity there. Similarly, Private tuition is estimated to be a $2 billion market in Bangladesh. It remains the biggest competition for online platforms.
As the access to smartphones and the internet keeps on growing, online education is likely to gain momentum in the coming days in Bangladesh. This is already a reality in many markets across Asia including our neighboring country India.
We have seen decent growth in online education in Bangladesh in the past few years. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the pace.
However, there is a lack of a quality platform that offers comprehensive high-quality digital education for K12 students in Bangladesh. Shikho sees this as an opportunity to explore and take advantage of. The company says it has invested heavily in creating high-quality digital content. The decision makes sense since parents are unlikely to sign up for anything mediocre, more so if it's something on the internet.