The advent of industrial revolution in the mid-eighteenth century created several new professions, but the workforce wasn’t qualified enough. The dearth of professionals could be attributed to lack of importance given to mathematics in schools. India is experiencing something similar today. With technological advancements such as AI, machine learning and blockchain commanding the job market, we remain underprepared for the future. “Less than 5% schools are equipped to prepare students with sufficient coding skills,” points out founder of WhiteHat Jr, Karan Bajaj.
A recent Annual Employability Survey 2019 by Aspiring Minds showed that only 4.6% of Indian job applicants for engineering could write a functionally correct code, representing a major loophole in the education system here. This also means that the subject needs to be introduced to students much earlier, making them comfortable and familiar with scripting — preparing them for the future job market challenges.
Bajaj, former CEO of Discovery Channel, firmly believes in this idea, which prompted him to take the leap of faith and start WhiteHat Jr. In his words, “It’s the first structured coding curriculum in India for kids between six and 14 years of age.” But, unlike mathematics, coding requires creativity and ability to visualise the final outcome. And that makes this complex and resulted-oriented activity fun for kids, believes Bajaj.
The start-up, founded in November 2018, provides one-on-one live online classes in coding, where the children learn to create advanced apps, characters, animation, robotics and games. The 45-minute-long sessions are built as per a child’s attention span, enabling them to create something by themselves. These classes help kids sharpen their algorithmic thinking and creativity while encouraging abstract thinking. IIT/IB-trained professionals create the curriculum, and the instructors undergo rigorous training. They also have in-house child psychologists and counsellors who help them make the curriculum fun and rewarding for the children.
Of the 67,000 children who attended their trial classes, over 5,000 have already enrolled for their course. For Bajaj, the biggest challenge so far, has been to cater to the increasing demand. “In less than six months, we are seeing a daily footfall of at least 150 students. But hiring and training enough instructors is getting difficult,” he says.
They currently offer four levels of courses — beginner, intermediate, advanced and professional. Each comprises four plans costing 5,999, 29,999, 89,999 and 179,999 (after discounts) for eight, 48, 144 and 300 lecture courses. The beginner course involves building computer games with logic and abstraction; intermediate is for advanced art and single-character games through Blockly. The advanced and professional level courses train students in building commercial and entrepreneur level games and apps with UI/UX interface and softwares such as P5, Java and other visual programming languages.