McKinsey alumna Galina Kan left behind a thriving career as an investment manager and M&A professional to develop her own early education platform. Her new venture, EdCraft, offers game-based courses focusing on essential skills, such as financial literacy and emotional intelligence. I had the pleasure of interviewing Galina about the future of online and in-person education.

Are parents responsible for their children’s success or future happiness? Is there a recipe for raising a successful child?

Yes, I firmly believe that, as parents, we are in charge of our children’s success. We should participate actively in their development. I am not just talking about traditional education, but also about essential life skills that are necessary no matter what career path or lifestyle your child might choose.

It’s impossible to hold on to success if you can’t manage your emotions or your money, no matter how much you make. A good example is Rembrandt, one of the greatest artists in history. He was incredibly financially successful, painted portraits of many kings, attracted wealthy patrons, but lived beyond his means. Eventually, he lost everything and was buried as a poor man.

Unfortunately, many parents lack essential life skills. As such, they’re unable to set the example their children need when it comes to money management. The role of education is to break this vicious circle. That is why, with the help of top experts and academicians, we created our game-based courses. The most popular feedback we get from parents is “If I’d learned this as a kid, I wouldn’t have made the mistakes I made.”

Are your own children using your platform? What did they learn?

All our team members, including myself, tested everything on our kids. My eldest daughter tried out all the financial literacy courses. On her 12th birthday, we gave her around $400, and she chose to invest in Apple. She is now very happy with her decision, because the company’s stock price more than doubled in the last two years. 

My youngest daughter — she is six now — is working on emotional intelligence. She communicates very clearly for her age and learning tools to manage her emotions. “I am angry, I need to count to ten,” she says sometimes. She is also attentive to the emotions of other children. When other kids cry, she’ll say “You’re upset, let me comfort you.” 

What’s do you think has gone wrong with traditional education? How can EdTech help?  

The traditional education system has been slow to adapt to our fast-paced, ever-changing world, and it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. Also, there’s a huge issue with motivation, and this problem escalated with COVID. A teacher on the screen is not the same as a teacher in the classroom, especially for elementary school students.

We started to work on our platform before COVID, looking for the balance between learning and entertainment that could keep children engaged. The brain is like a muscle: it should work out and relax intermittently if you want to build strength. So we created courses where cute mascots guide kids through difficult tasks.

Many parents are worried about their kids spending too much time online, playing. Can children still learn if cartoon characters are entertaining them? 

We cooperated with scientists from a cognitive neuroscience research lab to make sure that kids stay focused on learning. The children in our test group have been wearing helmets so we could analyze their brain activity. If animated stories had too many details or colors, the kids were distracted by them. And so we had to make animation more simple.

That is why our courses are interactive, but they are not cartoons. The characters only perform basic actions, like waving their hands. If we’d created high-quality animated films with a lot of motion, the child’s brain would be too busy processing these images. The only goal of animation is to motivate the child to learn. 

Can educational technology compensate for what children have been missing out on during the pandemic?

Many kids, who were supposed to spend time with their peers and develop their social skills, have been locked up during the pandemic. That is why developing emotional intelligence is becoming the priority, and technology could certainly help with this.

We interviewed families to identify the situations they struggled with most frequently. For example, how to behave if you disagree with your teacher or any other adult? How to act if you think your friend lied to you? We created courses to prepare kids for these situations, so they won’t feel lost when they get back to real life after COVID.   

Any ideas on how post-COVID education might look?    I believe it will be a mix of online and in-person learning, with online courses compensating for what children are missing in school. Over the next few years we’ll be seeing the gradual evolution, not revolution of education. The traditional system is too hard to