Interview with the founders of Practicle

Edtech startup Practicle is revolutionising education through data analytics and A.I.

Practicle is a Singaporean Education Technology company that helps Primary School Students learn Singapore Math through a personalised and fun approach. We checked in with the founders to find out more on how Practicle came about; how it can help children learn excel in their mathematics; and their view of the education technology landscape.

What were you doing before Practicle?

Before Practicle, both of us were teachers. 

Eileen was an ex-MOE-teacher and ICT Mentor at Hougang Primary School. She championed various innovative projects and presented at MOE Excel Fest. Chongming was a Game Developer creating games for the Nintendo DS before he taught Game Development to students at Temasek Polytechnic. 

With about 20 years of combined teaching experience, we are in a really good position to create something valuable for students, parents, and teachers.

How did Practicle come about?

When both of us were still teaching, there was a challenge that we kept facing as teachers. 

After teaching each class, we have the burning need to know whether our students have mastered what we taught. The only way to be sure is to administer a test at the end of every class, but that would be quite stressful for students and teachers. 

“Is there a way that allows us and parents to easily assess what the students know and don’t know? How can we make it something enjoyable for students so that they would embrace self-assessment?” These are some of the questions that  we often asked ourselves.

In the end, we decided that the answer was to combine AI and Analytics, Grounded Pedagogy Research, and Gamification into one practice system. And so, Practicle was born!

Edtech startup Practicle is revolutionising education through data analytics and A.I.

What sets Practicle apart from its competitors?

There are different AI platforms in Singapore, but we are the only one that is certified by Education Alliance Finland for high quality in pedagogy and being truly adaptive. In fact, we scored well above the global average for similar platforms (for those which managed to get certified), at 96 points out of a full 100. As ex-teachers, we designed Practicle from the bottom up to be grounded in pedagogical principles such as Constructivism, Flow, Self-Determination Theory, and Dynamic Spaced Repetition.

Effectiveness is one thing, but it is equally important that kids are willing to practice on our platform without their parents nudging them. While other platforms use a simple “pointification” system where students “do this to get points to get that”, our gamification system is carefully crafted to engage our students so that they are motivated to practice. With frequent usage, our system inculcates positive values and changes the behaviours of our students for the better, for example, students on our platform build a habit of daily practice after some time.

How is Practicle proprietary method helping the students?

Back in the day, if we wanted to improve in a subject, we bought 10-year series and assessment books, and we did all the questions, from start to end. It’s a painful process and there was  a lot of wasted time, especially when up to 80% of the questions didn’t really help us, because we didn’t really need them.

With our Reflexive Adaptive Engine™, our system automatically detects your competency in individual topics and skills, and gives you the questions that you need to work on. Our AI works on a per-question basis, in real-time. That means, with every question that you do, our system actually reviews the whole knowledge model in your head and reacts immediately with the following question. You don’t have to finish a whole worksheet, or a whole exam paper, and wait for the teacher to get back to you. That’s why our students improve so quickly.

In general, students who have been using our system have seen at least an improvement of 1 grade or more over a short period of 1 school term.  

Overview of the Finnish education landscape and why they are the gold standard for education worldwide

The Finnish education system is nothing short of amazing. When we compare education systems around the world, PISA scores are inevitably brought up, and some will point out that Singapore is actually ranked higher than Finland. That is not untrue, but, at what cost did we achieve that?

In Finland, kids are never stressed about school; in fact they love school, because they learn through play. And they achieved that PISA score with smiling kids and happy childhoods! It is a different picture in Singapore with our PSLE.

Finnish teachers are looked up to and respected in the Finnish society. They are constantly thinking about pedagogy and how they can help their students learn in fun and creative ways. The Finnish public Education sector also works very closely with the Finnish private Education sector to help their children succeed, which is very commendable.

How does it feel to be certified by Education Alliance Finland? and what does that mean to you?

Truth be told, we were really excited to get good feedback from the Finnish educators and evaluators in terms of our AI, our system’s adaptivity, and our pedagogy.

Getting certified by Education Alliance Finland meant a lot to us. It means that Practicle has the best of both Worlds: the good quality of Singapore’s curriculum coupled with the high standards of the Finnish Education system. We hope that we will be able to use our adaptive technology to help a lot more kids reach their maximum potential while being engaged and bring about a greater impact to their learning.

Since COVID-19 has turned the world inwards where most people are staying at home, the demand for education should be on the rise. How is Practicle coping so far?

Now that the Circuit Breaker is in effect, schools and tuition centres alike have switched to Home-Based Learning and gone online. Many institutions have solved the first problem of shifting teaching online via tools like Zoom, but a large number of them are at a complete loss on how to solve the problem of homework, assessments, and marking. Printing worksheets, sending them to parents, and getting parents to scan and send them back is simply not asustainable solution.

Therefore, we are seeing a surge in institutions approaching us to make use of Practicle’s worksheet generation and auto-marking features to engage their students to practice independently, while generating useful performance feedback to inform their teaching. 

Back at home, parents are facing the problem of having to support their children’s learning while juggling with work at the same time. With our strong gamification, parents see us as a good way to keep their children constructively engaged at home. 

So far, we are coping well even with the increased demand, because the whole purpose of Practicle is to shift a large part of a teacher’s workload to the computer, so that machines do the heavy-lifting for them, and machines are easily scalable.

What’s your view on Edutech and how do you think it will grow in the next decade?

I believe many Edutech entrepreneurs have already shared about how education hasn’t changed in the last few decades, so I’m going to look at it from a different angle.

Back when I was a Primary School kid, my parents bought me a set of Encyclopedia, and at that time, I thought to myself: “wow, so much to learn about!”. Nowadays, Wikipedia has free information that is a million times more expansive, and it is all readily accessible through my tiny smartphone. 

The Big Bang of Knowledge has happened, and is still happening. The jobs landscape is changing rapidly, and Universities are having difficulty deciding what to teach. Gone are the days when we can learn 4 subjects in Primary School, choose 8 in Secondary School, pick up 1 programming language, and become a professional coder. The 4th Industrial Revolution will happen, and the realization of inadequacy that is happening in Universities will start trickling downwards, and we will suddenly realize that we need to relook Education and standardized testing.

When that happens, Edutech will be present and ready to help!

Future plans and your participation in EduSpaze

Being accepted into the EduSpaze Edtech Accelerator has been one of the best things that happened to us. Through the program, we have learnt a lot, refined our business, and connected with so many great mentors, fellow edtech entrepreneurs, and investors, that are all striving to impact our World positively.

In the near future we hope to expand our growth in the Southeast Asia region and make quality education more accessible to the masses so that we can help more students, parents, and teachers.

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