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Whitehat Jr claims it has a stiff recruitment and assessment matrix to evaluate all candidates who apply for teaching
Whitehat Jr claims it has a stiff recruitment and assessment matrix to evaluate all candidates who apply for teaching

The rise of coding edtechs

  • Startups such as Tinker Coders, Camp K12, StayQrious, Coding Ninjas and CodeYoung have seen heavy demand this year
  • Founders agree that it is imperative to get the right instructors who are not only professionally qualified but can also connect with children

Seventh-grader Himmika Amarnani built a website for her family’s clothing store during the coronavirus lockdown, an effort which helped revive sales at a trying time.

A student of Lucknow’s La Martiniere Girls College, Amarnani learns coding from Bengaluru-based Codeyoung. The company, founded by IIT-Delhi alumni Shailendra Dhakad and Rupika Taneja, claims it has trained more than 15,000 students globally in less than a year.

“Coding is an art whereby kids enjoy creating websites, building apps and games," said co-founder Taneja.

Startups such as Tinker Coders, Camp K12, StayQrious, Coding Ninjas and CodeYoung have seen heavy demand this year, helped by the shift to online teaching, and the success of coding platform Whitehat Jr. The latter was acquired by India’s largest edtech unicorn Byju’s for $300 million in August.

Tinker Coders, which was launched in March targeting students aged 6-18 years, claims it has over 250,000 subscribers across the US, UK, UAE, Australia, Singapore and India.

“Huge prospects lie in the Indian market as coding for kids is an entirely new concept. Our vision is to build an ecosystem to make coding a crucial tool where kids become smart in their academics and solve real life-based problems," said CEO and co-founder Anoop Gautam, adding the company has been growing every month since inception. Gautam said coding will be a game-changer, with the new education policy 2020 mandating coding from Grade 6 onwards.

StayQrious, which raised $2 million seed money in September, says it teaches not only to “learn to code", but also “code to learn". It focuses on coding fundamentals in the first year, targeting 8–14-year-old students in metros and some tier-II cities.

“Learning to code is like learning new literacy. If taught well, kids can learn computational thinking skills by learning to code. We shouldn’t teach coding just to train someone to be a software engineer. Coding should be taught as a core subject like science, math or history," said Aanand Srinivas, co-founder and CEO, StayQrious.

Anshul Bhagi, who founded Camp K12 in 2010, said even 10 years ago, only those who planned to send children overseas to study would enrol them in coding classes. According to Bhagi, parents are now more aware of its benefits.

“From January, when there were only 2-3 companies teaching coding online to December, there are now over 15 companies. This is just the start—we’re in the early days of coding as a category, with immense room to grow as prices come down and coding courses become more affordable/ accessible," added Bhagi.

Getting trained faculty remains a challenge. Founders agree that it is imperative to get the right instructors who are not only professionally qualified but can also connect with children. CodeYoung engages mothers who have technical skills but have left their full-time jobs.

“Those who know coding prefer becoming a software developer rather than get into teaching, which is why colleges are not doing well," Ankush Singla, founder, Coding Ninjas said.

It hires former students on a contract basis to resolve doubts of current students on a 1:1 basis. The startup, which offers coding to college students and working professionals, introduced Ninjas Junior this year to 6–14-year-old students and claims to have recorded a 30% rise in enrolment during the pandemic. “We have an amazing pool of college students that is now teaching coding for kids’ classes," he said.

While Whitehat Jr’s acquisition has probably made coding more mainstream, its advertisements suggesting students can earn in crores has made parents and peers sceptical.

“The problem is with the messaging and marketing and not with coding per se," said Singla of Coding Ninjas.

Whitehat Jr claims it has a stiff recruitment and assessment matrix to evaluate all candidates who apply for teaching and only 1% of applicants are selected. The Karan Bajaj-led startup says it has an 11,000 women-only teacher workforce that conducts more than more than 40,000 1:1 live classes every day for students across India, the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

At Whitehat Jr, the introduction to coding programme costs 5,999 and the advanced course is for 99,999. Newer entrants like Tinker Coders have kept the prices competitive to attract more people. Its introductory courses start from 2,000 and can go up to 30,000 depending on the mode and duration of sessions.

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