In Conversation With: Aradhana Iyer-Vohra CEO & Founder of Neobael

Only a few times in life do we get a feeling, that I wish this existed when we were young and in school. I got this exact feeling when I heard about Neobael. Neobael is an integrated learning platform for the primary years (7- 12) to inspire confidence in solving real-world problems. I found this to be extremely important for today’s generation because oftentimes what we study and what we do are totally unrelated. I studied Psychology and then joined a Radio Station…so yes…life has unexpected ways of surprising us but…This was ok like 15 years back but looking back, I would have loved to study so many things that I was actually interested in. This brought me back to Neobael and hence I began chatting with Aradhana who pulled her 2 kids out of school is now Homeschooling them and also the founder of Neobael. Let’s get chatting with the super talented Aradhana Iyer-Vohra.

Mitali- Aradhana…tell us a bit about yourselves! Childhood, Family, Education and Location.

AIV: I’m a TamBram from Pune who is married to a Punjabi 🙂 I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to study, live and work in England and Singapore, later being my current location. I am a proud mother of three (two human and one fur) who lives to eat, teach dance and travel. My educational qualifications are primarily in business studies which enabled me to work across industries such as banking, accounting, startups and non-profits. 

How did you decide to start Neobael? What’s the story behind the name? 

 

AIV:

“The pandemic really made my husband and I look at the education system in a whole different way.”

We started questioning the applicability and relevance of the learning models that our children were exposed to. We looked around for solutions that would enable our children to go beyond the thematics and become critical thinkers, problem solvers, empathetic leaders, innovators and global collaborators. We looked at a wide range of curricula, spoke to over a hundred educators and identified the common problems amongst them all – lack of personalisation due to large class sizes siloed approach and most importantly not being able to apply it to the real world. This is when I decided to build a platform that will not only instil 21st-century skills in learners but also empower educators and parents by presenting a viable alternative. We also started homeschooling our children.

 

We chose the name Neobael because… 

AIV: We love trees! Bael (Aegle marmelos is the botanical name) is an ancient Asian tree that has a medicinal, educational and spiritual connotation. Neo means new and we wanted to express the idea as “a new fruit of knowledge”. Our logo is inspired by the disc of the bael fruit when it is sliced. The six seeds represent the maximum number of learners there are in each learning pod at Neobael.

Do you think online education is going to be the future? Why?

AIV: There are different kinds of learning models and online is definitely one of them. The increased use of and reliance on technology plus the advancement and growth in the industry definitely makes online learning an imminent part of the future. As a parent, I watched how education was delivered online when the pandemic kicked in.

“There were several gaps that were obvious to me as a parent, someone who teaches dance online and also happens to be a technology geek. It encouraged me to embrace the challenge and deliver an unparalleled unmatched online learning experience by leveraging technology.”

We’ve worked extensively with education experts who have identified that many students felt like they could focus better without the distractions of a full class, and others who thrived on the opportunity to work more independently. Online feedback methods have also increased many teachers’ ability to spot students who were struggling and make small group explainer sessions. I truly believe that if online learning doesn’t play a role in the future it will be a lost opportunity for everybody.

Who designs the courses and how? Where are these amazing teachers located? 

AIV: We are a team of global educators and industry professionals from Ireland to the Philippines which is what makes Neobael so unique. Our learning coaches are from all across the globe – Ireland, England, India and the Philippines to name a few. One of the USP’s of Neobael’s curriculum is how relatable modules are to real life. An important part of Neobael’s success is that the modules are designed in house. We start with an online mind mapping session where we think about topics that we think will engage our learners. From there, we take a broad look at the Singapore and UK national curriculums to pull in relevant learning objectives that work for our theme. At this stage it is important to us to take a multidisciplinary approach, there are no single subject modules at Neobael. When we’ve confirmed the feasibility of the topic we build a project focus for the module, thinking about the skills as well as knowledge and understanding that the learners will need to achieve their goal. Then, we start building the module backwards session by session, keeping the end goal in mind. A module can take us over 100 hours to develop, but the end result is something really special.

Tell us about some of the courses you offer and how they differ from the rest? 

 

AIV: Our courses are so much fun that learners often don’t realise how much they are learning! This is what definitely sets us apart from the competition. We have over 40 modules ranging from 3-30 hours so I won’t list all of them, but we have some really amazing courses. If I have to pick one then that would be “Predicting chemical reactions.” I never thought learning about the periodic table could be done in an innovative way that combines literacy, mathematics and code! It was so much fun for the team to design, but it’s even more fun to watch students think critically about space and decision making.

What is your aim behind the venture? Will it exist offline in the future? 

AIV:

“Our mission is to democratise the access to 21st-century style, quality education which is normally only accessible to elite private and international schools. Yes, our goal is to also launch an offline version so we can enable more learners to experience Neobael.”

Last but not least…What are your plans for the future?

AIV: Our plans are to continue to enable learners to imagine, connect and collaborate in a global classroom. We envision leading the path for a not so distant future where borders are no barriers to quality experiential learning for our children.

 

We would be delighted to have readers of SuperMomMitali for our:

Our trials modules:

 Sounds like an Animal Orchestra (for 7- 9 years old) and

 What would that habitat sound like? (for 9- 11 years old) are discounted to be less than 70 INR and give you a real flavour for the kind of exceptional learning that happens at Neobael. Please check them out and we would be delighted to hear your feedback!

We loved the fact that Online Education exists for our kids but given the fact that kids are looking forward to meeting their peers in-person is so important to us as well. So how do we strike this balance?  I think platforms like Neobael force us to dive dowm deep within and ask us some basic questions. Why was education and School created in the first place? Was it to gain information so that we innovate ourselves or just learn something because we have to according to a particular school design? What if a person is good in Maths and not good in Biology or vice versa? Is it fair to label kids as scholars or dumbos? Think and you shall know it yourself.

Till then keep on educating yourself.

SuperMOM Mitali

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