Igniting curiosity through quiz


Giri ‘Pickbrain’ Balasubramanium
Quizmaster & CEO, Greycaps

A quiz is a great way to teach students about various subjects and test their knowledge. They ignite curiosity and make children look for answers. Here’s how schools can use this tool effectively.

Greycaps is Asia’s largest onstage quizzing and knowledge services company. They are also the creators of the largest GK program across schools in India with over quarter million children reading their books every year. Here Quiz Master Giri ‘Pickbrain’ Balasubramanium shares why quizzes are important for school and how they can help create knowledge tribes through igniting curiosity.

TPS: Mr. Giri, It is indeed a pleasure to interact with a Quiz King like you. You had been engaged in developing the quizzing skills among learners for the last two decades. Can you recount what brought you into this field and what struggles have you faced in developing this field?

Giri: My debut was a sheer accident. I was in class 4 and we were to have an inter-house quiz at my school. The teacher who was to host the quiz was unwell and hence on leave. I was called to the staff room and simply told I would play the host. Perhaps the only virtue at that time was that I was a loudmouth. When I decided to quit a cushy job at Walt Disney exactly two decades after that school debut to become a professional quizmaster, it was a more planned decision with a bunch of batchmates from college – a typical start-up.

No journey is without struggles. Infact, if there are no struggles, it is possible you are on a wrong lane! One of the biggest challenges was to make schools look at general knowledge as not just a requirement for those interested in quizzing but for all students. With 21st century skills becoming imperative, from competitive exams to admissions to interviews, general knowledge has become a necessity for everyone.

TPS: How do you think Quiz is an important dimension of knowledge provocation, knowledge assimilation and knowledge management. How does it help the youngsters to improve their competency levels?

Giri: We see quiz as a learning tool and a method to build good communication skills and conversation abilities. It ignites the curiosity in a person and when that happens one wants to know the answer. The process of learning starts automatically. Curiosity drives us to seek out information. When we are informed, we make better conversation and feel more confident to speak. When we do that with a higher frequency, the odds of our success increase. As educators, we should always strive to ignite curiosity in our children.

TPS: How do you think Quiz can be integrated as an effective pedagogical skill in classrooms and how this can be achieved by schools?

Giri: Schools can integrate Quiz as an effective pedagogical skill in classrooms by:

  • Quizzing can be a powerful tool to help children remember longer and recall faster.
  • Frameworks like multiple intelligence can be brought to life using quizzing.
  • The effectiveness of a teacher increases manifold as engagement value increases.
  • Quizzing stems from the Socratic pedagogy of asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and map out solutions.

TPS: You have performed hundreds of Quiz programs in schools and in colleges and also in corporate sector. What are your observations in quiz being a powerful tool for learning?

Giri: It is like the saying “I forget most of what I was taught and remember all of what I learnt.” World over, systems of education that have succeeded are those that focussed equally on learning skills along with teaching skills. When we emphasise heavily only on the teaching side, we run the risk of merely preparing our children for exams and fuelling a rote culture. Learning through inquiry opens the mind to understand and not merely recall.

If we look at great institutes, like Harvard, MIT, IITs and IIMs, that foster higher order thinking skills almost as a way of life you would find them having weekly quizzes as an integral part of their system.

TPS: With the onslaught of technology, the excessive coverage of information through media is becoming both an opportunity as well as a challenge. How do you think the Quizzing skills can transform to meet the emerging dynamics?

Giri: Information overload is a global problem and an even bigger one when it comes to children. We, at Greycaps, experimented with a GK program called Global Awareness where we supply schools with monthly workbooks. Schools loved the idea and we today reach over a quarter-million-children each month across India.

We live in an era where content has to be generationally relevant to the audience we cater to (i.e. what they want to read, not what you choose to write) and has to be curated in a snackable manner.

TPS: Do you see a future for quiz in the emerging educational dynamics? How do you find the role of quiz programs worldwide and its status in India?

Giri: Quizzing has a central role in emerging educational dynamics.

  1. The future will not be only learning from teachers. It is also about peer group learning.
  2. Learning through highly engaging gamified platforms like quizzes is the in-thing with corporates. It can be extremely useful for schools to adopt.
  3. Learning beyond our comfort zones is going to be a key area. Quizzing naturally takes us from the known to the unknown without creating a discomfort in the unknown quadrant.

Quiz programs both in India and several countries is reflective of a huge upward trend. We, as Greycaps, would have never imagined a decade ago that we would be hosting quiz shows in as many as nine countries. Technology (app) powered quizzes are also on the rise making learning fun.

TPS: What are your plans to enhance this informal learning process to a learning community in which schools are one part of the system?

Giri: Learning beyond curriculum is critical but we cannot expect our schools to deliver on that front too in the time they have (or don’t have). They can merely create the platforms and opportunities for informal learning and students have to choose their areas of interest that would take them beyond.

We, at Greycaps, have curated a portal called Knowledge Tribe (www.knowledgetribe.in) which brings together information and people who appreciate knowledge. It is an absolutely free knowledge network to share, discuss and learn with like minded people.

TPS: What message would you like to give to the school community and students in particular to develop this informal learning skill?

Giri: Informal learning skills are as important as formal. In the modern world it can be your game changer. Everyone wants integrated solutions.

  • Take Steve Jobs for example. He changed the face of computers by introducing beautiful typography which came from informal calligraphy classes he had once attended.
  • Here is one more. Back in 1994, Bill Gates paid about 30 million dollars to buy a creation of Leonardo Da Vinci. These were not one his sculptures or paintings, but a manuscript called “Codex Leicester,” a collection of scientific writings by Leonardo.

Jobs, Gates and many others who have impacted the world have done so because they invested time and money into informal learning as well. Widen your horizons to give yourself a larger landscape for success.

Giri ‘Pickbrain’ Balasubramanium, is Asia’s leading quizmaster and CEO of Greycaps, publishers of some of India’s largest General Knowledge programs for schools. Seen every weekend on national television channels hosting shows, he has presented over 2000 shows across 10 countries of the world. He is a TEDx speaker, educator and youth mentor. A recipient of several awards, he is an alumnus of the iconic Harvard Business School.