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DASARAN: How This Armenian SaaS Company Is Changing K12 Education

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Suren Aloyan

I had the privilege of interviewing Suren Aloyan, the Founding President of DASARAN Ed-Tech Company, a SaaS company providing innovative solutions in K12 education.

DASARAN is a simple-to-use cloud-based Educational Development System that provides transparent and innovative performance management and data analysis services combined with interactive learning content and communication channels to school students, parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers.

Suren had some incredible insight into education and entrepreneurship. You’re not going to want to miss this.

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Give us a brief background of who you are for those that don’t know.

I am a social entrepreneur and the Founding President of DASARAN Ed-Tech Company, an Armenia-based software-as-a-service company providing innovative solutions in K12 education.

I bring about 10 years of experience towards education system modernization through innovation and modern technologies and contributing to extensive data-driven state policy-making and educational reforms.

Specializing in Economics and Management, I got an MA degree in Marketing and Management from Texas A&M University (Armenian Branch – ATC), also took Public information courses at the NATO Schools in Germany and Hungary. Continuing my education in the US, I completed my PhD studies in Resource Management in Monterey, California. Parallel to my studies, In got engaged with the Armenian Ministry of Defence, becoming chief expert in the defence policy department. Military rank is captain in reserve.

In your current role, what do you help people achieve?

We believe every child should have access to quality education, and that’s what we’re aiming at through our activities: creating equality through technology.

With DASARAN we shift the behavioural patterns that affect how students learn, how teachers interact with students, and how parents learn about their children. It has raised parents’ and guardians’ participation and active engagement in their children’s school lives allowing parents access to their children’s performance statistics to ensure they’re on the right track, set goals with them, and foster the achievement of these goals. Parents are now advocating for improvements in school policies, keeping schools accountable based on statistical data, to ensure their children are provided high-quality education.

The platform has also significantly increased teachers’ ability to predict and develop individual student learning plans based on data — reducing the time required for state-level data collection and processing to mere seconds. In the process, we have been instrumental in reducing corruption risks in the education system through increased transparency for stakeholders, promoting equal educational resources and opportunities for all.

How did you go about this career path?

I believe education is the highest leverage point and a vital instrument for transforming our society in the modern tech-driven world of the 21st century. An educated person is the one to drive positive change and advancement in the current world.

And if we consider education as a basic human right, then every child in the world should have the right to basic education and we must do our utmost to ensure that. In 2013, UNESCO reported that globally, 59 million primary school-age children – one in 10 girls and one in 12 boys – were not in school. Out-of-school rates are even higher in rural areas – children from the poorest 20 percent of households are nearly 4 times more likely to be out of school.

Moreover, societies all around the world face the constant challenge of retaining qualified teachers, especially in rural and peripheral areas. In one-third of the countries for which there is data, UNESCO reports show less than 80 percent of primary school teachers are trained up to national standards which greatly affects the performance of students and undermines equal learning opportunities.

Armenia, as a developing country, is no exception: data shows that the dropout rate for students from poor families is about 35 percent in Armenia, while public spending on education is one of the lowest in the EU and among OECD countries.

So there has always been a natural urge among Armenian social entrepreneurs to change this equation. I returned to Armenia after completing my postgraduate studies in the U.S., determined to create a social business solution to address the state of our education system which led me to launch the DASARAN platform in 2009, hoping to equalize the learning opportunities and decrease regional disparities in education.

Describe one or two moments in your life that shaped who you are today.

It’s not about several moments in my life that shaped who I am today, but rather about the cumulative power of several factors: upbringing in my family, education I received, discipline I acquired throughout my path, and above all – the strife to change the world for better.

What are aspiring and current entrepreneurs and freelancers missing when it comes to your area of expertise? How do you help bridge that gap?

In short, one of the most important factors missing for many entrepreneurs is the vision and belief in what they’re striving to achieve. Furthermore, many of them also lack a team who is not simply committed to doing a high-quality job, but more importantly has a true belief in the mission of the company.

Regarding your core products and services, what can you tell us about it? Why should we care?

In 2016 DASARAN was recognized as one of the best five innovative enterprises in the world in the UNDP’s Accelerate2030 initiative, aimed at supporting impact-driven ventures that contribute towards the achievement of the SDGs. DASARAN’s innovative educational solution and proven experience in policy intervention mechanisms for the achievement of target educational UN SDGs, has also been recognized by the UNDP, as one of the best technological solutions in the education field in Armenia.

DASARAN has proven its concept in Armenia – a country of 3 million population – and achieved 100 percent penetration into the education system, connecting all public schools across the country to a unified platform. The DASARAN platform is currently used by one third of the entire population in Armenia – over 1 million people, including K-12 students, parents, teachers, principals and policy-makers – making DASARAN an inseparable part of their school lives and the national education system in general.

Some of the indicative outcomes that DASARAN has achieved through its activities are:
• 39.6% improvement in student performance
• 83.78% decrease in student absenteeism
• heightened active and effective parental engagement in their children’s school life and real-time monitoring of their school performance
• increased computer and data literacy levels among teachers – which increased from 5% to 81% in Armenia – as teachers are now enabled to implement data-driven educational process planning and execution
• government level, real-time data collection and processing that help reduce corruption risks in the public education system.

What is one resource (app, website, software, etc.) you use in your business that you haven’t shared with your audience and/or clients that we really should know about?

Listening to and understanding of the needs of the people – this is an important “resource” which greatly helps us in creating tailor-made products and solutions and enjoying the trust and confidence of our users.

Favorite book and favorite quote. Go!

Favorite book – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Favorite quote – “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm!” – Winston Churchill

If you were just starting your business today, what would be the first 2 or 3 things you would do to market yourself and your product/service? What would you do differently today vs. what you did to begin yours previously?

Most important thing I’d do is first and foremost is investing in the people before investing in the product. A team of committed and professional people believing in the mission of the product is a prerequisite for a successful product/service.

As per the actual marketing, I would focus more on informing the potential partners and customers about the mission of the product and only then elaborate on the details of the product/service itself.

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What’s really killing it for you as a marketing channel today?

In the modern tech-driven world which provides access to virtually limitless information, marketing should primarily aim at creating trust among the people. To this aim, we’re actively using social media channels to reach out to our local and international audiences.

As a complementary channel we also greatly value the spread of information through the “word of mouth” or “viva voce”.

What is your biggest revenue driver? 

The dedication and love we inject in all of our products and services.

Is there anything else you would like to share with Hero Story readers?

I would like to share an attitude which has proven successful for me in my journey with DASARAN.

So, here’s my advice to you: in all of your undertakings, no matter how big or small, always try to identify and focus on the steps which will take you to your objectives, and not the obstacles on the way to success.

Contact Suren Aloyan

Email address: s.aloyan@dasaran.am
Company Name: DASARAN Ed-Tech Company
Website/Blog: www.dasaran.net

Social Media Links:

More Information on DASARN

DASARAN is a simple-to-use cloud-based Educational Development System that provides transparent and innovative performance management and data analysis services combined with interactive learning content and communication channels to school students, parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers.

What’s important about DASARAN is that it helps build infrastructural capacity through low-cost, yet high-quality innovative technologies for more efficient educational solutions that address UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In line with the world’s best practices, DASARAN disrupts the entire public education ecosystem by helping meet educational-technological development goals, advancing evidence-based decision-making, improving student performance, and augmenting teacher capacity.

The platform’s impact is achieved through some major components:

● A learning management system that combines classroom management, journals to help track assignments and homework, student performance statistics, etc., provides insights to all education stakeholders and promotes transparency in public schools. The system helps schools set standards and establish routines (such as annual reports, school report cards, etc.) to further build their capacity, sustainability and withstand changes in school administration and political priorities.

● A data analytics tool for educational policy-making allows for monitoring of schools and more accurate measurement of education indicators across a country. The tool provides real-time statistical data and comparative analysis on school management efficiency, school enrolment, and student performance using various indicators. This helps policymakers to analyse educational conditions and to assess the different diagnostic information to bring quality education to every student. DASARAN also offers coaching to teachers and administrators to help build a culture focused on making informed, data-based decisions.

● Customized e-learning and gamified education approach, encompassing a wide knowledge base covers a wide range of topics as disaster risk reduction, environmental protection, energy conservation, human rights, constitutional rights, intercultural learning, social inclusion, tolerance among others. This approach allows DASARAN not just to teach students a set of knowledge and information, but to shape their behavioural patterns as civil citizens.

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