- 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.
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).
- Government of India’s Aspirational Districts Programme on tech-enabled monitoring and implementation that emphasises citizen engagement, partnerships and effective service delivery.
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.
- 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.
- The NITI Aayog’s India Knowledge Hub and the Ministry of Education’s DIKSHA and ShaGun platforms can facilitate and amplify such learning.
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.