As I mentioned in my previous post, we built (and keep on building) Elewa around a straightforward mission: “To improve the quality of education in Kenya and beyond.” In this post, I will continue the story by telling you how exactly we went about that.
To achieve our somewhat ambitious goal, Elewa first targetted the so called KCSE exams (the idea Mike came to me with). We chose this angle because in the Kenyan education system, a lot of problems come from the existence of standardized tests. Unlike the system we have in Belgium, in Kenya you get only one exam at the end of your secondary education. This exam basically determines the rest of your life. Score high, you’ll end up with a scholarship in the best colleges. Score low, and you have no chance on getting into university. Teachers also get paid better if they have a high scoring class compared to a low average. All of this results into students being insanely pressured to do well on these exams. This recently took a turn for the worse when students are now being locked up in their dormitories, to study for these exams and to help avoid cheating on these exams. The lockdown is now resulting in riots and even arson..
Having the “one exam determines all”-card, leads to tremendous stress amongst students. And worse, it leads to bad and very ineffective study habits. Some students turn into the type of person I like to call “the parrot.” To study for these exams, students buy bulk past exam papers and their corresponding example answers. It is the only way they can prepare themselves since they haven’t a clue what parts of the 4-year curriculum will be tested on KCSE. They take these papers and study the question-answers by hearth. Question -> Answer, Question -> Answer, Question -> Answer, … What happens (the so called parrot) is when you feed them a question, they can provide you with the perfect answer. Or they can give you the mathematical process to solve the equation you provided. Though the parrot can answer the KCSE-question, he/she still hasn’t a clue as to what it all means. Nor why they are thaught the matter, how they can play around with it and how they can use that knowledge to improve their every day lives.
Our first product
So a quick recap. If you remember correctly, our mission statement at Elewa is “to improve the quality of education.” Also, KCSE-exams are a source of stress and pressure, undermining the quality of education in Kenya. Taking into account these two facts, we can infer that if we are able to improve the way students study for these exams, we positively affect the quality of education. One of the major problems students encounter when they face these exams, is the fact that they have no clue what to study for these exams.
What we did at Elewa to tackle that problem, is we took all these exams and statistically analysed the past 15 years of KCSE exam data. We then used that data to give feedback to students and teachers on what they had to focus. We made it explicit what the most important topics are on the KCSE exams. For example, we can say that over the past 15 years mathematical differentiation took an average of 30% weight on KCSE Mathematics Paper 1. Students and teachers can use this as a reference when they determine their study plans for KCSE. They can target their efforts and spend more time on what matters to pass for these exams. Time we hope they spend on actually getting to understand the topic. On the 7th of September 2015 (after 6 months of development), Mike and I officially launched this solution and my journey into the EdTech industry was completed.
Question -> answer Problem -> solution
Though Elewa was able to help a lot of people, it is not a full blown solution yet. As a company, we constantly try to evolve our product so it fits our users needs. This gave light to what is now my masters thesis for the school year to come. To what I am currently working on, and to what I have been working on for the past six months. Elewa 2.0, a full-blown eLearning system we hope can revolutionize the educational sector in Kenya. Elewa 2.0 is heavily inspired by modern learning techniques such as inquiry based learning, Freinets democratic learning,… Since the topic is room for a whole other blogpost(s), and I’m out of scope for this one anyway, I will not go into details here. The main idea is that content should be thaught from a problem’s perspective.
The road to get to this point has been long, but great also. Over the past years, I had the opportunity to discover and live a whole new world. I got to learn a lot, and ended up on a path on which I will continue doing so for the coming years. Though it might have turned out to be a long one, I do hope you enjoyed my first blog post and the journey I explained. If you have any comments, don’t hesitate to share down below or in a PM. Thanks for reading!