“There Is Vast Pool of Qualified Women, All They Need Is Opportunity”: Manan Khurma

International Day of Education 2023
When marriage and familial duties enter a woman’s life, her dreams and aspirations are compromised most of the time. Society can let have women everything, only if they successfully take care of their house, they expect women to be superwomen. Not all can take it, and why should they? Despite being highly educated many tend to give up on their careers in order to focus on other priorities in life. These priorities are so time-consuming that it becomes hard to dedicate full time to a job.

Given the scenario, women either compromise or find out ways to balance. A few women look for part-time jobs or Work from Home (WFH) kind of a situation. That is when Cuemath, an ed-tech company comes in. It is basically an online platform that provides math classes to children. It not only makes mathematics easy for children but also provides homemakers with an opportunity to restart their careers. The only criteria are having- the ability to teach and the mathematic mind as their skill set. 95% of tutors of mathematics working with the company are women. Over 6000 teachers teaching math are affiliated with the platform and reaching out to children.

International Day of Education 2023

On the backdrop of the International Day of Education, SheThePeople spoke with the founder and teachers at Cuemath and tried to understand what was the whole idea behind the initiative. How they ended up having a women’s workforce, especially in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), where women face many challenges. We also had conversations with the teacher regarding their career revival and what role the platform played in their life.

How It Started!

Mathematics is usually considered not to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the platform’s mission is to change this narrative and make children great at math, who can solve humanity’s biggest problems. Manan Khurma, first teacher and founder said, “It is not just an ed-tech company, but we are creating problem-solvers, experimenting to be more inclusive.”

The math platform started in 2014, Khurma before starting the Cuemath, was a teacher teaching high schoolers, and taught over 10000 students. That is when he got a deeper sense of children’s way of learning. Khurma says, “I noticed children’s ability to learn maths depends on how they learn maths in early years. That was the inspiration to formulate a new system of learning maths. The teachers are also teaching in a similar way.”

Homemakers Became Maths Educators

Khurma was aware self-learning system doesn’t work well with kids and needs some human element working with them. When he curated a curriculum and started teaching the first set of batches, he met students’ mothers who were willing to teach their children the same curriculum. Khurma said, “I got the spark, decided to equip women who are qualified but non-working and can operate on micro level from their home and teach the designed course. The pilot project- neighbourhood learning centres were established first in the Delhi-NCR region with 100 teachers partnered with the platform. Khurma added, “The model became a success as these women were giving meaningful outputs and also earning decent incomes. For company also model worked organically as teachers bring in students through their network.”

Currently, math educators are giving online lectures to their students. The platform has a rigorous process of onboarding teachers. Once the teachers are on board they go through thorough 4 weeks of training, for which they don’t require prior teaching experience. Only ability to get adapt and teach maths and strong math skills. “The platforms don’t have experienced educators, but they are learning and doing well. Another thing important is their ability to connect with a child”, added Khurma.

Shilpa Kothari, a Bangalore resident has been an accountant – fashion designer before marriage and now went on to become a mathematics educator. She joined the platform four years back. She said, “It was a good deal to manage home and work. You get to do what you like and have it all.”

Speaking about why men are not part of the platform, Khurma pointed out that it is not a blanket rule only women will work here. But being part-time opportunities, mostly women apply, and men are lesser. There are highly qualified women dropping out of the workforce every year for family reasons, but they want to do something meaningful with their time. That is how they reach out. We do have male educators but fewer in number.

International Day of Education

Cuemath Educators Shilpa Kothari & Rajani Balaji

Challenges Faced!

Maintaining quality is the biggest challenge with 6000 teachers teaching thousands of students. It is not a very standardized process, and have a very dynamic approach as every child is different. Khurma emphasized to overcome the quality challenge, you have to engineer a system where despite variance, quality must be maintained. So there is this constant working on curriculum, introducing technology to give high-quality teachings, and how to keep the child engaged in an hour-long class.

What does the future look like?

The supply side is not a constraint, In India, millions of women are highly qualified and want too much more with their time and skills. As per the founder, the platform requires the applicants to align with its mission vision i.e. have a strong work ethic, the ability to connect with a child, and be ready to reach billion math minds. He says, “Many of the teachers are teaching 40 to 50 hours per week, earning more than full-time incomes, as we scale up this is going to grow.”

Rajani Balaji also an educator with the platform got married after completing her education and settled down. She is post graduate in maths and computer science. Balaji says, “I had to compromise and choose family over career. But soon realized I was happy when I teach math. Also, it is financially viable and your students become your best friend all over the world, what else do you want.”

Women In STEM

Life is not easy for women in STEM. It starts right from whether a girl should stem or not. According to Khurma, there is a cultural misconception that STEM is not for girls, but there have been researches that anyone can excel at Math irrespective of gender. On the platform also see there is no performance difference between the genders.

What Can Be Done

“There is a vast pool of women workers and they should be part of the workforce and the government can tap into this pool. Our education system should be more of role-modelling for the girls, for instance- There are many women in STEM, who demonstrated outlay performance, and they should be spoken about. Also when we end up using examples more of them are men than women. We should consciously use these examples. Confidence needs to be consciously engineered in students”, says Khurma.

“When I meet girl students I tend to use women mathematicians’ examples and end up sharing books authored by women. Many students showed transformation in their thinking and also took majors and specialisations in high school, which could be done on large scale”, added Khurma.

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