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How LEAD is transforming affordable private schools by reimagining classrooms and digitising pedagogy

Nearly half (12 crores) of the students in India are educated in private schools. And parents pay a substantial part of their monthly household income to send their children to these schools. For the last few years, enrolment in government schools has been sharply declining, with most students migrating to low-budget private schools. The rise in the number of private schools is being powered by a wave of low-and middle-income families seeking quality education for their children.

According to the government’s Unified District Information System for Education, private schools in urban areas were attracting more students than government schools in the 2015-18 period.

However, learning outcomes in private schools, while better than government schools, are still low. ASER 2016 showed that only 35% of Grade 5 students in private schools could read Grade 2 text. Considering the number of students enrolled in private schools, their quality of education needs to undergo a significant improvement.

In a country with dire inadequacy in access to tech, how did LEAD partner with 2,000+ schools and transform education for over 8,00,000 students across the country

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the educational divide in India. All schools were shut, but students studying in schools charging the lowest fees were affected the most. Under such circumstances, it becomes critical to come together and ease the short-term impact for students as well as schools. Improvement in the private school sector is and will remain crucial for improving national learning levels.

Reshaping school education

LEAD was born in Areri, 35 km from Gujarat’s capital Ahmedabad, with just 14 students on day 1. One of the primary issues for students in an English medium school was their lack of proficiency in English. By approaching English as a skill instead of a subject, LEAD revolutionised English learning with ELGA (English Language and General Awareness), which is based on skill-based grouping instead of the traditional age-based classes.

LEAD’s journey

In 2016, LEAD opened 4 more schools in Kurduwadi, Akkalkot, Karmala and Mangaon. By 2017, LEAD had taken over four government schools, in addition to several other public schools and partner schools. The ‘integrated system’ offered by LEAD helped schools digitise the entire curriculum and provide solutions for every stakeholder — teachers, parents, students, and school owners.

Started in 2012 by Sumeet Mehta and Smita Deorah, LEAD’s mission is to transform school education in India. Today, LEAD serves 2,000+ schools across 400+ cities and reaches more than 8 lakh students and 10,000 teachers. As long as a school has teachers, students, a building and furniture, LEAD’s integrated school system provides everything else — software, hardware curriculum, books, a school kit, and training sessions. Their uniquely designed School EdTech system covers the entire breadth of schooling, from pre-primary through standard X.

What sets LEAD apart? 

LEAD is the only edtech company of its size with a progressive vision of making international standard education accessible and affordable. Most other companies are offering peripheral digital solutions, be it in test-prep, tutorials or upskilling, while LEAD is addressing the challenges at the core and transforming conventional schooling in India with its tech-integrated solutions. By replacing the purely textbook-based ‘listen and repeat’ system with multimodal learning, LEAD is enabling children to learn in different ways — by seeing, doing or by listening.

Their data-driven decision-making has replaced twice-a-year assessments that used results to label children with multiple assessments throughout the year. With access to so much data and tech, LEAD constantly updates and personalizes learning for children.

Tech for Purpose

The leadership team at LEAD realised at the outset that piecemeal solutions such as a book or ERP or LMS (Enterprise resource planning) or LMS (Learning Management System) would not make a sustained impact in school transformation. They created a highly effective, holistic learning system that can easily integrate into schools.

A Teacher conducting class using the Teacher Tablet and using the TV

This system is improving teacher performance and learning outcomes as well as school preparedness with respect to helping students meet the challenges of the future, both academically and professionally. Empowering young children with 21st century tech-based skills to constantly adapt, LEAD strives to close the education gap through tech-integrated learning solutions.

How LEAD-powered schools benefit students

A LEAD-powered school enables a child to receive international standard education through a deeply researched curriculum.

  • World-class curriculum and pedagogy

Curriculum and pedagogy that follows internationally accepted learning standards to prepare children with skills to succeed in life.

Complete personality development for children with tech-led innovations like dedicated student apps that allow them to access gamified resources.

  • LEAD Masterclass is a one-of-a-kind exclusive series that helps students learn from industry experts and personalities.

LEAD hosts India’s biggest student competition – LEAD Championship – designed to provide a national platform to students of all age groups. By motivating students to demonstrate skills such as speaking, reading, listening, comprehension, application of their science-based concepts, current affairs, etc. LEAD focuses on the holistic learning of students instead of only curriculum-based assessments.

School EdTech is the way forward

The foundation of LEAD is established on two principles – empathy and innovation. Empathy, to provide world-class education to all affordable private schools in India; and innovation, to upgrade traditional education with proper planning and technology. By identifying basic educational problems and crafting solutions for them, LEAD has been transforming education and providing solutions for all stakeholders.

In 2019, LEAD partnered with 500 schools across India. Later on, in 2020, they were able to raise $28 million in a Series C funding round led by WestBridge Capital along with existing investor Elevar Equity. In 2021, LEAD raised $30 million in a Series D funding round led by Global VC Fund GSV Ventures along with WestBridge.

Founders Sumeet and Smita hope to reach 25 million students and 60,000 schools by 2026. These schools will be about 12 percent of the private school segment at that time. By 2026, LEAD wishes to fundamentally reimagine schooling through School EdTech, which is one of the reasons they’re looking at making the back-end technology a lot more AI-enabled, scalable and modular.

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