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Ed-Tech

  • 30 Jun 2021
  • 8 min read

This article is based on “The future of learning in India is ed-tech” which was published in the Indian Express on 30/06/2021. It talks about the need & challenges associated with the use of technology in education or Ed-Tech.

India’s school education landscape is facing daunting challenges. The country was reeling under an acute learning crisis, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, as reflected by successive ASER surveys.

The pandemic threatens to exacerbate this crisis, especially because of the physical closure of 15.5 lakh schools that has affected more than 248 million students for over a year.

Combined with this learning crisis, the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has made it imperative to reimagine education and align it with the unprecedented technological transformation.

Need & Opportunities For Ed-Tech

  • Intended Benefits of Ed-Tech: Technology holds promise and has incredible potential in:
    • Enabling greater personalisation of education
    • Enhancing educational productivity by improving rates of learning,
    • Reducing costs of instructional material and service delivery at scale
    • Better utilisation of teacher/instructor time.
  • Need Induced By Pandemic: Further, as traditional brick-and-mortar service delivery models are being disrupted across sectors, the pandemic offers a critical, yet stark, reminder of the impending need to weave technology into education.
  • National Education Policy 2020: India’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is responsive to the clarion call to integrate technology at every level of instruction.
    • It envisions the establishment of an autonomous body, the National Education Technology Forum (NETF), to spearhead efforts towards providing a strategic thrust to the deployment and use of technology.
  • Promise of Ed-Tech: The Indian ed-tech ecosystem has a lot of potential for innovation. With over 4,500 start-ups and a current valuation of around $700 million, the market is geared for exponential growth — estimates project an astounding market size of $30 billion in the next 10 years
  • Steps Taken by the Government: India is well-poised to take this leap forward with increasing access to tech-based infrastructure, electricity, and affordable internet connectivity, fueled by flagship programmes such as Digital India and DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for School Education).

Several examples of grassroots innovation in Ed-Tech.

  • The Hamara Vidhyalaya in Namsai district, Arunachal Pradesh, is fostering tech-based performance assessments;
  • Assam’s online career guidance portal is strengthening school-to-work and higher-education transition for students in grades 9 to 12;
  • Samarth in Gujarat is facilitating the online professional development of lakhs of teachers in collaboration with IIM-Ahmedabad;
  • Jharkhand’s DigiSATH is spearheading behaviour change by establishing stronger parent-teacher-student linkages;
  • Himachal Pradesh’s HarGhar Pathshala is providing digital education for children with special needs;
  • Uttarakhand’s community radio is promoting early reading through byte-size broadcasts;
  • Madhya Pradesh’s DigiLEP is delivering content for learning enhancement through a well-structured mechanism with over 50,000 WhatsApp groups covering all clusters and secondary schools;
  • Kerala’s Aksharavriksham initiative is focusing on digital “edutainment” to support learning and skill development via games and activities.

Associated Issues With Ed-Tech

  • Lack of Technology Access: Not everyone who can afford to go to school can afford to have phones, computers, or even a quality internet connection for attending classes online.
    • According to National Sample Survey data for 2017-18, only 42 percent of urban and 15 percent of rural households had internet access.
    • In this case, Ed-tech can increase the already existing digital divide.
  • In Contradiction with Right to Education: Technology is not affordable to all, shifting towards online education completely is like taking away the Right to Education of those who cannot access the technology.
    • Moreover, the National Education Policy 2020 that talks about the digitization of education is also in contradiction with the right to education.

Way Forward

  • Comprehensive Ed-tech Policy: A comprehensive Ed-tech policy architecture must focus on four key elements-
    • Providing access to learning, especially to disadvantaged groups;
    • Enabling processes of teaching, learning, and evaluation;
    • Facilitating teacher training and continuous professional development;
    • Improving governance systems including planning, management, and monitoring processes.
  • Technology is a Tool, Not a Panacea: Public educational institutions play an exemplary role in social inclusion and relative equality.
    • It is the place where people of all genders, classes, castes, and communities can meet without one group being forced to bow to others.
    • Therefore, technology cannot substitute schools or replace teachers. Thus, it should not be “teachers versus technology” rather “teachers and technology”.
  • Providing Infrastructure for Ed-Tech: In the immediate term, there must be a mechanism to thoroughly map the ed-tech landscape, especially their scale, reach, and impact.
    • The focus should be on access, equity, infrastructure, governance, and quality-related outcomes and challenges for teachers and students.
    • Special attention must be paid to address the digital divide at two levels — access and skills to effectively use technology and leverage its benefits.
  • Cross-Platform Integration: In the short to medium-term, the policy formulation and planning process must strive to enable convergence across schemes (education, skills, digital governance, and finance)
    • There is also a need to foster integration of solutions through public-private partnerships, factor in voices of all stakeholders, and bolster cooperative federalism across all levels of government.
  • Replicating Success Models: In the longer term, as policy translates to practice at local levels and technology-based solutions become ubiquitous, a repository of the best-in-class technology solutions, good practices and lessons from successful implementation must be curated.

Conclusion

The journey from a holistic strategy to its successful application will, no doubt, be a long one. It requires careful planning, sustained implementation, and calculated course corrections. With NEP 2020 having set the ball rolling, a transformative ed-tech policy architecture is the need of the hour to effectively maximise student learning.

Drishti Mains Question

The pandemic-induced learning crisis and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have made it necessary to reimagine education and align it with the unprecedented technological transformation. Discuss.

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