Many thinkers throughout history have stressed the importance of reinventing education and encouraging students to think critically. As early as the 1700s, Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, spoke of student-led experimentation and learning through individual experience. Nearly two hundred years later, Rabindranath Tagore started his own great education experiment in Santiniketan, 150 km from Kolkata. Tagore himself was intimidated by traditional education as a child and had long dreamed of creating a school where children could learn in nature and develop their creative faculties.
Transforming Indian education is no small feat. India has nearly 265 million students in more than a million schools Although this has made it difficult to change the way learning is delivered, India has made significant progress in recent years to improve education.
Last year, the country reported that enrollment in secondary education had increased steadily since 2012while enrollment in higher education has increased by more than 10% since 2015. In 2020, the government presented its national education policy, which aims to overhaul the Indian education system to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular that of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education. The policy highlights the need to prepare learners for the rapidly changing digital ecosystem. It encourages the adoption of technology-enabled learning, emphasizing “learning by doing” and student-centered teaching.
Harness the power of technology-enabled learning
One of the main benefits of technology is its ability to provide a personalized learning experience tailored to each student. Using data as well as artificial intelligence, educators can track student performance and track their progress. Technology can also enhance critical thinking and creativity, which the World Economic Forum considers essential 21st craftsmanship of the century. Studies have shown that technology-enabled role-playing games can help stimulate students’ creative abilities in language and math. Likewise, simulations and other tools can be used to replicate real-life experiences in a virtual environment, allowing students to view situations from a new perspective. If lessons are recorded and retained, students can catch up on any sessions they missed or want to re-watch. With the right tools at their disposal, teachers can perfectly combine theoretical teaching and practical experience.
Technology has the potential to fundamentally transform the lives of educators. AI tools can automate administrative processes, ease the operational burden on teachers, and free up their time to focus on their students. This technology also allows educators to introduce innovative teaching methods to create unique learning experiences.
The past few years have seen the rise of EdTech platforms and, propelled by COVID-induced school closures, technology-enabled learning has become a major force in transforming education and how it is dispensed. In India, the EdTech sector, which is currently worth around $700 million, is expected to reach $30 billion within a decade. The technology makes it easier to connect students and teachers across geographies, but also to find real-time feedback from parents and guardians. And with the right policies in place to boost connectivity, EdTech can provide access to quality education to students in the most remote parts of the world.
All good things take time…
The digital divide presents a challenge for truly uniform adoption of technology-enabled education. Although India is expected to have nearly one billion internet users by 2025, half of its population does not have internet access. This is particularly the case in rural areas and remote villages, which lack basic amenities such as water and electricity, and where access to basic education is itself a privilege. However, steps are being taken to close the gap. In 2020, the Indian government unveiled plans to install 200,000 wifi hotspots in rural areas of the country. Last year, Indian internet provider AirJaldi partnered with Microsoft to create 30,000 km2 of wireless coverage in 1,500 villages. With the number of smartphones in India increasing by 25 million every quarter, the time is not far off when even the most remote villages will have access to online facilities. The National Education Policy 2020 includes a commitment to provide a wide range of educational software to students in remote areas and stresses the importance of improving the availability of affordable technological devices in schools. Various measures and actions taken by the government have provided subsidized technology access to village schools. Last June, the state government of Kerala distributed smartphones to some of the poorest students in the district so they could continue learning while their school was closed due to COVID.
India is making strides in democratizing internet access and embracing the use of technology in education. Late last year, state governments even introduced a new curriculum to train teachers to blended learning. Edtech holds great promise and will play an increasingly important role in the educational landscape as more and more students and educators become acclimated to technology platforms. Challenges remain, but EdTech has the potential to transform education for millions of learners across India.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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