India was facing a learning crisis, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, with one in two children lacking basic reading proficiency at the age of 10. The pandemic worsened it with the physical closure of 15.5 lakh schools that has affected more than 248 million students for over a year.
With theFourth Industrial Revolution — the imperative now is to reimagine education and align it with the unprecedented technological transformation. The pandemic offers a critical, yet stark reminder of the impending need to weave technology into education.
India’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020envisions the establishment of an autonomous body, the National Education Technology Forum (NETF). The NETF will spearhead efforts towards providing a strategic thrust to the deployment and use of technology.
India is well-poised to take this leap forward with increasing access to tech-based infrastructure, electricity, and affordable internet connectivity. Flagship programmes such as Digital Indiaand the Ministry of Education’s initiatives, including the Digital Infrastructure for School Education (DIKSHA), open-source learning platform and UDISE+ will help in this direction.
However, we must remember that 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.
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.
Enable:Enabling processes of teaching, learning, and evaluation.
Teacher training: Facilitating teacher training and continuous professional development.
Governance:Improving governance systems including planning, management, and monitoring processes.
Ed-tech in India
With over 4,500 start-ups and a current valuation of around $700 million, the ed-tech market is geared for exponential growth. There are, in fact, 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.
Short term solutions:
In the immediate term, there must be a mechanism tothoroughly map the ed-tech landscape, especially their scale, reach, and impact.
The policy formulation and planning process must strive to:
Enableconvergence across schemes– education, skills, digital governance, and finance.
Fosterintegration of solutions through public-private partnerships, factor in voices of all stakeholders.
Bolster cooperative federalismacross all levels of government.
Special attention must be paid to address the digital divide at two levels: access and skills. Thematic areas of the policy should feature infrastructure and connectivity; high-quality software and content; and global standards for outcome-based evaluation, real-time assessments, and systems monitoring.
In the longer term, as policy translates to practice at local levels a repository of thebest-in-class technology solutions, good practices and lessons from successful implementation must be curated.
The NITI Aayog’s India Knowledge Huband the Ministry of Education’s DIKSHA and ShaGun platforms can facilitate and amplify such learning.
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.