Harnessing technology to improve K-12 education in India

  • 02 Mar 2017 Gavin Dabreo  (Chief Executive Officer, MindChampion Learning Systems Limited, NIIT Nguru)

The student-teacher ratio in India is 1:35 which leads to a one-size-fits-all approach. The result? A frustrating experience and poor learning outcomes for the students. Do you realize how a 10-year-old today is more adept at handling an iPad than we were of handling a bat at the same age? Children love tech and are more proficient at using it than we realize. Keeping in view this reality, we utilize children’s natural curiosity for all tech things to transform how they learn. Today, India has more than 250 million students enrolled in schools. The need for quality primary and secondary (K-12) education is growing. Besides, there is an ongoing hustle to create a technology-based digital nation (Digital India). Couple this with social readiness (the Right to Education Act) and willingness of the Indian middle class to pay for good education and India emerges as the perfect laboratory to experiment technology-led learning. In fact, the Government has been diligently working to utilize low-cost computer and internet technology to take education to the masses. Initiatives like National Digital Literacy Mission, Vidyanjali, Web-based School GIS and ePathshala are making optimum use of technology and human resources to take school education in India to the next level. Private players are also making the most of this opportunity. E-learning, information and communications technology, and smart-class platforms are gradually becoming mainstream. However, is this enough? The Gaps in Indian K-12 Education System While the government and the private players are doing their part of revolutionizing education in the country, India's K-12 education system consistently ranks low in all global assessments. Reason? The following gaps that are making the system hollow - -          Lack of Personalization - The student-teacher ratio in India is 1:35 which leads to a one-size-fits-all approach. The result? A frustrating experience and poor learning outcomes for the students. -          Lack of Access to Good Teachers - Rural as well as city schools and colleges have failed to recruit quality teachers. This has led to the rise of numerous coaching classes and private tuitions. -          No Love for Learning - K-12 Students in India are taught to memorize concepts and shown the fear of examinations. Love for learning is a non-existent concept. -          Indifferent Content - Textbooks re-run age old concepts which are far-flung from realities of the classroom. There are no efforts to customize content to make it timely and relevant. In addition, there are concerns like duplication of pedagogy (after-school tutoring) and wastage of investments in technology that doesn’t deliver (many smart-class products). To address these concerns, we must define ways to make digital an integral part of the education system, rather than it playing a supportive role. Technology - Giving K-12 Education in India a Facelift Tech provides access, democratizes quality availability, and enriches the experience; it is hygiene, and no longer a ‘bells & whistles’ factor. In the near future, digital education will become mainstream and technology will be a key aid for teachers.It will play a significant role in rendering better learning experiences for students and expanding the horizons for teachers. It brings in the required flexibility to education, making content customized, relevant, and on-demand. Plus, the rate of internet penetration in India is on a rise. Thus, there is a huge potential of using smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices to improve learning. In fact, today the Indian market for e-learning based products and services is growing leaps and bounds and its annual turnover is expected to touch $40 billion by 2017. This indicates a huge shift in the way students and teachers experience education. Technology has predominantly proved to be a game changer for students. With the introduction of concepts like distance learning and online classrooms, students now have the freedom and flexibility of pursuing their studies anytime, anywhere at their own pace. The classrooms have also changed dramatically. Instead of blackboards and notebooks, you have computer screens, powerpoint presentations, and tabs and laptops. Animated content is helping teachers explain core concepts in-depth while making learning less monotonous for students. What’s more? Educational mobile apps based on various subjects are helping them break down complex concepts into smaller, simpler components. Teachers and management are equally benefited with the advent of digital technology. Online Learning Management Systems or LMS allow teachers to stream live class sessions, and upload learning material and pre-recorded lectures. This not only makes it easier for students to access the content remotely but also eliminates the need for teachers to create and distribute physical notes, study material, assessments, etc. This also gives teachers an opportunity to develop key skills themselves. They can develop technical know-how and learn the art of creating digital courses and acquire skills which help them make learning more engaging. Education boards in partnership with schools can create online teacher training programs that can help teachers enhance the quality of teaching across regions. Besides, schools can use Education Resource Planning or ERP software to efficiently schedule classes, plan budget allocation, and establish continuous communication with students through automated calls, emails, and SMS. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle. To bring about a more profound change in the K-12 education system, technology must be used in the mainstream. Making Technology Mainstream in the Indian Education Environment In India, to enable tech to make a profound change in the system, we must look at the bigger picture. The need of the hour is to use technology to address the prevailing gaps in the education system. Digital platforms shouldn’t be used for mere learning. Schools must harness their data-generation ability to provide real-time feedback on the effectiveness of education programs and customize content to reflect reality in textbooks. Technology-based tools must be used at the micro level to gather information about the academic performance of students. This will enable teachers to assess their performance against different pedagogic approaches. Schools should facilitate teachers with tools to create customized tests and assignments and conduct micro-tuitions for students to address the prevailing lack of personalization. This will help them bring the best out of every student. Besides, this will make learning fun and more engaging for students making them fall in love with education again. The technology used right will also help the teachers do their job consistently, and encourage more and more qualified professionals to view teaching as a prospect profession. Schools across India should gear up to the digital wave sweeping the nation, and adopt driven classroom solutions to seamlessly integrate technology into teaching learning process. This holistic range of learning solutions make teaching and learning more engaging, thus bringing back the joy of learning.

@2016 MindChampion Learning Systems Limited (Fully owned subsidiary of NIIT Ltd)