Despite having 1.5 million schools, 10 million teachers, and a booming coaching industry, the World Bank assess that 54% of Indian students suffer from learning poverty. Why are the various stakeholders operating in an isolated manner? Why is the learning crisis so widespread, and how can we attempt to solve it?
An ecosystem approach to school education, scaled up through technology, can help. Students in the same grade are often at different learning levels. For education to be effective and joyous, customised content for each learner is necessary. Personalising education at scale will be possible when we leverage technology bring various stakeholders together on a common platform, at an affordable price.
Focus on rote learning
Students encounter multiple sites of learning, exposing them to distinctive material and styles. From formal and informal schooling to extracurricular activities, there is immense scope to gain knowledge and skills. Research suggests that the most effective approach is a blend of self-led and guided learning, helping students achieve their grade-specific competencies. In schools, however, the focus on completing the syllabus leads to rote learning. The importance given to exams causes neglect of the subtle but necessary aspects of education: honing skills in critical thinking, being inquisitive, enjoying the process of schooling, personality development, and learning new skills. As rote learning often fails to meet desired outcomes, students begin to depend on private tutors or coaching centres to fill the gaps. As a result, they are unable to identify their areas of strength and weakness and disempowered to devise a learning path for themselves. As a result, they do not learn how to learn.
At home, parents are often unaware of their role and degree of contribution to the learning process. An ecosystem approach would orient parents towards their children’s individual needs. In addition, popular ed-tech apps add to the damage by erasing the teacher from the equation. They are hyper-vigilant about getting students to ace tests rather than directing the educative process. The pace of supplementary education should be customisable, accounting for each student’s unique disposition. In addition, subject-and-student-specific contextualisation is required at scale to plug learning gaps.
Re-imagining school education requires leveraging technology as a means to improve the quality of education. We must curate multimedia content, equip teachers with training and tools to customise assessments and allow students to map out journeys suited to their pace. Parents can rely on analytics to track progress, enabling intervention rather than interference in children’s learning.
The Indian education system is disconnected. We need an ecosystem platform where interaction between students, parents, teachers, schools, and supplementary education service providers is possible. Cutting-edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence offer efficiency and precision to the process. However, it should be affordable for students in the middle and bottom of the pyramid, who suffer from acute economic and learning poverty. An affordable tech-enabled ecosystem approach, combining self-paced and guided learning, in-school and after-school learning, and involving all stakeholders can help students regain the agency, joy, and quality of education.
RCM Reddy is MD and CEO, and Devika Rae Chandra, Research Associate, at Schoolnet India Ltd