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Dr. Akhil Shahani: Imparting Hybrid Learning to Develop Pupils Holistically

Dr. Akhil Shahani: Imparting Hybrid Learning to Develop Pupils Holistically

Innovation! The term refers to well-known historical inventors and their creations, indicating that highly bright people were responsible for the most significant inventions in human history.

However, most historic geniuses did not even finish their education; how did they come up with such brilliant ideas?

The key was research, experiments, and questioning. They never believed in rote learning, and prior education systems used rote learning approaches. Instead of following the herd of sheep, they studied, explored, and worked in their chosen fields, which led to many brilliant innovations.

Nevertheless, as the environment has changed, the educational system has adapted by incorporating cutting-edge technology, emphasizing the importance of delivering high-quality instruction and pursuing educators’ aspirational careers. Most importantly, the Edupreneurs have helped guide changes in the educational field and integrate the technology and education fields, contributing to developing the next generation’s creators and innovators.

One outstanding edupreneur leading the legacy of his ancestors is Dr. Akhil Shahani, among others. The Shahani family has been working in education for the past 60 years. Dr. Akhil’s grandfather helped in setting up the 24 prominent colleges in Mumbai.

Besides reinforcing the provision of a hybrid and responsive learning model at the Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management, Dr. Akhil is paving the way for the Shahani family. In addition to such efforts, he assists students in developing their communication, critical thinking, behavioral science skills, and employment opportunities.

We came across the Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management while looking for the 10 Most Influential Education Entrepreneurs of the Year 2023. The Education View spoke with Dr. Akhil Shahani, the center’s Managing Director, and he described his experience as well as the history of the center and its future goals.

Read on to learn more about an influential edupreneur in-depth.

Please tell us about the inception story of the Edupreneur journey.

The Shahani family has served in the field of education for more than 60 years, with my grandfather helping to set up 24 iconic colleges in Mumbai. I have always wanted to create an education system that helps people succeed in life more than helps them pass exams.

Hence, after my MBA at Kellogg Graduate School of Management (USA), I did my Doctorate in Education with a focus on student employability from the University of Liverpool (UK).

I was initially a venture partner in Kaizen Vest, a private equity fund that invests in Asia’s education space. I then set up the Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management in Mumbai in 2011 to build a new model for higher education based on my Doctorate research.

Tell us about the institute’s mission, vision, and core values.

Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management (TSCFM) runs a range of industry-oriented degrees and diplomas with an innovative pedagogy called ‘Responsive Learning.

‘ This hybrid model combines an ed-tech platform and experiential classroom sessions to develop our students’ communication skills, collaboration skills, critical thinking, professionalism, and pro-activeness using behavioral science and AI to ensure they are genuinely employable.

Our vision is to scale our institution locations across India & Asia and eventually build the careers of one million young people.

As a prominent Edupreneur, what significant contribution do you make in education space for societal upliftment?

TSCFM has an in-house CSR arm called the SAGE Foundation. We have implemented the same education model to help 12,000+ low-income rural and blue-collar students to gain high-paying white-collar jobs and salaries up to Rs. 3 Lakh per annum with a 90 percent placement rate. This initiative is supported by corporate CSR & international foundations across three states in India.

What challenges did you face in your Edupreneur journey, and how did you overcome them?

When I started TSCFM, I hired faculty from a traditional academic background and tried to make them adapt to our employability-oriented pedagogy. Unfortunately, there was much resistance as they were primarily used to conventional teaching methods.

I then had to hire a range of corporate managers & L&D professionals who found it easier to adapt to our experiential learning model. We have also made industry recruiters aware of our new employability model, enabling us to gain better jobs for our students.

Being an influential Edupreneur, how do you ensure that educational space copes with emerging technologies?

Our institute has an in-house IT team researching new e-learning technologies and creating smartphone apps around them. Over the last year, they have developed a student chatbot, a jobs analytics platform, and a job interview prep app. I also meet entrepreneurs and investors in the education space to keep myself abreast of new developments.

Despite all challenges, what are the significant factors motivating you towards success, and how does it inspire the students for their bright future?

I dream of making actual changes in India’s education system & have built my organization to show others how this can be practically done. This vision motivates me to face the daily challenges every growing edupreneur faces. Our students also find our pedagogy is more engaging and helps their understanding better than conventional education systems.

As an influential Edupreneur, what skills should the school and colleges incorporate in the future generation of youth?

Educational institutions must understand that they are preparing youth for jobs that may not exist yet. Hence, instead of only imparting theoretical knowledge, they need to develop student capabilities that will enable them to succeed in any environment.

These include soft skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving and hard skills like computer skills, online marketing, project management, etc. They can collaborate with industry and external experts to develop their pedagogy.

Please do mention your significant achievements, accolades, and recognitions so far.

We have received many awards for our innovative education model:

  • The Clinton Global Initiative Award at the hands of Pres. Bill Clinton,
  • Ranked #3 in India by Outlook Magazine for Global MBA courses,
  • Management College of the year – 2017 by Higher Education Review Magazine,
  • CFBP Jamnalal Bajaj Award at the hands of Pres Abdul J Kalam • CII Education Excellence Award,
  • DNA Award for Industry Institute Interface,
  • PIMR Outstanding Educationist Award and many others.

Being an influential Edupreneur, what would be your advice for the future Edupreneur?

Every new Edupreneur should identify a real problem in education and devise a unique solution to solve it that shows measurable benefits. Never be a copycat of other models.

How do you envision the future endeavour of the education space?

India has 500 million people below 30 who are prime consumers of quality education. Also, many managers realize the value of lifelong learning to upgrade their careers. The Indian government’s National Education Policy 2020 also promotes innovations and entrepreneurship in this sector.

All these reasons point to India’s education sector booming over the next few decades and eventually becoming a regional hub of educational excellence for thousands of international students.

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