The future of learning in India is ed-tech

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Source: Indian Express

Relevance: How technology can help India achieve its long-term policy objective of access to education?

Synopsis: Pandemic has shown us that traditional model of education delivery is not sufficient. Integration of technology with education offers a resilient alternative.

Why India is well positioned to integrate technology with education?

India is well-poised to take this leap forward because of the following factors:

  • increasing access to tech-based infrastructure and electricity
  • affordable internet connectivity
  • Digital India and the Ministry of Education’s initiatives, including the Digital Infrastructure for School Education (DIKSHA), open-source learning platform and UDISE+ — one of the largest education management information systems in the world.
Designing an ed-tech policy architecture

A comprehensive ed-tech policy architecture must focus on four key elements —

  • Access: providing access to learning, especially to disadvantaged groups
  • Enabling processes of teaching, learning, and evaluation
  • Teaching: facilitating teacher training and continuous professional development
  • Governance: Improving governance systems including planning, management, and monitoring processes.
Problems with using technology in education
  • First, technology is a tool, and not a panacea.
  • Second, technology must be in service of the learning model. There is a danger in providing digital infrastructure without a plan on how it’s to be deployed or what teaching-learning approaches it would support.
  • Third, technology cannot substitute schools or replace teachers. It’s not “teachers versus technology”; the solution is in “teachers and technology”. In fact, tech solutions are impactful only when embraced and effectively leveraged by teachers.
  • Fourthly, digital divide is a big problem esp. for students living in slums and remote villages, with poorly-educated parents further strained by the lockdown.
Several examples of grassroots innovation
  • 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.

Action needs to be taken on multiple fronts.

  • 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.
  • 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), foster integration of solutions through public-private partnerships, factor in voices of all stakeholders, and bolster cooperative federalism across all levels of government. Lessons can be learnt from the Aspirational Districts Programme on tech-enabled monitoring and implementation
  • In the long term: 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.
  • Addressing digital divide: Special attention must be paid to address the digital divide at two levels — access and skills to effectively use technology.
  • India’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is responsive to the need of integrating technolgy with education. It envisions the establishment of an autonomous body, the National Education Technology Forum (NETF), to spearhead efforts towards deployment and use of technology. This needs to be implemented in letter and spirit.

Integrating ed-tech with India’s education sector has a transformative potential for India as it will not only maximize student learning but also help India in realizing a universal access to education.


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