The Big Idea

The education system hasn’t changed in over 200 years, but the world has. We no longer need workers to support the industrial revolution but builders, leaders, and innovators to create a better future for everyone. But how can we expect to have a generation of students who break the mold when the system still works on a cookie-cutter mechanism and one devoid of inspiration? 

Inspiration is the core of lasting learning – it’s what drives us to pursue new ideas and etches them in our long-term memory. However, the school system rejects inspiration because
A) It operates on scale and you need rigidity to pump out millions of “educated” students. This approach naturally selects against structures that invoke personalization to reduce unpredictability.
B) Testing well is the main focus which ends up limiting student capability. Kids can make possible remarkable ideas but when they know that the bare minimum is enough – they become complacent.
C) It is a model built on fear. Exams, grades, and an abhorrent shortage of opportunities create an environment where students are simply focused on getting by. By the end, we have boxed kids as young as 14 into a perspective shaped by cold rationality and created an association between stress and learning that makes people resent the act of studying.

The cookie-cutter system carves out passion and curiosity and we are left with swaths of smart folk working on things that don’t make them tick because the system is a mold that punishes exploration and rewards conformity. We want to help students unmold and intentionally design experiences that inject inspiration back into their lives. Instead of starting with “how” something works, we want to show students “why” something is worth learning and let them take ownership of satiating their questions from a place of intrinsic motivation. 

The best way to do this is by giving students (especially in developing countries where opportunities/culture discourage learning for its own sake) a space to ask questions and participate in challenging courses without the pressure of homework or tests. We want to run multiple short, interactive, cohort-based courses that explore ideas at the undergraduate level (for example instead of plain biology, we have a course on neuroscience or gastronomy). There is a level of complexity at college that is missing from the high-school curriculum and not because of student incapability but due to an intense focus on metrics. 

These courses will be run by PhD/grad students who are genuinely interested in both the subject and teaching. Unlike traditional teachers who are only focused on the transfer of knowledge, academics are actively conducting research to produce new knowledge and this sets them apart as more intrinsically motivated. 

The objective is twofold – providing students with exposure they don’t have access to and connecting them to tutors who instruct with so much care and enthusiasm that we bring back curiosity through sheer osmosis of ideas. 

The end goal is to help students find something that leaves them inspired and makes them go “wow” about learning. By increasing the number of truly curious and interested students the hope is that we can slowly shift the needle towards empowering extraordinary people for the 21st century.

The Backstory

When I dropped out of college from SciencesPo in France, I still went to some lectures for the fun of it and I continued doing so at UC Berkeley when I arrived in SF. I kept thinking that if I had access to this low pressure, high information way of learning in high-school, I would have been much less confused and frustrated going into higher education. My circumstances put me in the unique position to walk in and explore topics but most students will never have this opportunity -- so I want to create something that encapsulates the same experience by design.

The Practicalities

- Each course will consist of 4 to 6 lectures in a two week span at the "intro to" difficulty level: they are all online but synchronous
- There will be homework/readings but they are completely optional!
- At the end of the course, students can join a virtual office hour to jam with grad students over related ideas
- Courses will be paid but priced nominally (first few cohorts will be completely free and then we will come up with an exceptionally affordable price structure) and 20 percent of the cohort is reserved for low income students who will attend in exchange for making publicly available notes - we don’t want to limit access based on financial status!

We are aiming to put together are first few test cohorts by late march/early april -- updates here or more frequently updates on twitter @jainhiya_

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