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Get set for a digital revival

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Last year’s pandemic revolutionised the education sector across the globe. Unemployment rates sky-rocketed in India, re-establishing the importance of skill development. Today, as the nation steps into the ‘New Beginning’ of 2021, the ecosystem needs to step up to help overcome the challenges that await the education sector.

Lack of learner perspective

COVID-19 has played a crucial role in highlighting the digital divide in India. It is being feared that the lockdown will lead to increased drop out rates among students in rural and semi-urban areas. Despite the rise in wireless users in recent years, semi-urban and rural India are miles apart in their online presence (27 subscribers to 100 people in rural areas, according to 75th National Sample Survey of India). This adds to the existing challenges of unbalanced access to basic education infrastructure in the form of teachers, classrooms, study material and the teaching pedagogies. The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) focuses on development, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, problem-solving and industry-relevant knowledge. This problem arose by the neglect of career aspirations and restriction to assessing students’ memory power.

Lack of teaching resources

As stated in a Niti Aayog report released earlier this year, a single teacher may handle 100+ students in rural areas due to the shortage of trained teachers. Jharkhand faces a teacher shortage of minus 40% as do states like Rajasthan, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. The deficit of trained teachers is another issue, according to the 2015-16 Education Ministry data, which revealed that 1.1 million of the 6.6 million teachers employed at the elementary level were untrained.

The pandemic has also highlighted some deep-rooted problems such as lack of exposure to necessary teaching tools, engaging learning strategies and industry-relevant curriculum, as teachers struggle to broaden the learning horizons of their pupils. Further, it has disrupted the teacher-learner interaction by moving it from from a classroom to a 13-inch screen. However, these challenges can be addressed and digital platform players have a key role to enable transformation across four areas:

Building digital twins and leveraging AI: Building experiential learning platforms that help increase the learner engagement and bear similarity to physical platforms is the need of the hour. It will help create a familiar atmosphere for the learner as well as enable educators to maintain the necessary decorum. This also includes building applications that offer alternate models for lab learning and vocational trades. The learning platforms can also be backed by AI for hyper-personalisation of learning, which will help in the overall transformation of learner engagement and experience and make learning more relevant, engaging and precise. The focus also should be on accessibility, scale, standardisation and affordability, as these platforms have an important role to play in reducing drop out rates among under-privileged students.

Aggregating partner ecosystem: Digital technologies should act as a point of confluence, bringing together numerous stakeholders of education. These firms play a key role in offering an end-to-end service and ensuring that issues are addressed holistically with technology as an enabler. For example, one of the solutions for the digital divide could be the availability of low-cost education devices capable of working in a network-less area. Language is another major barrier when it comes to imparting quality education in rural areas.

Enable educator transformation through leadership: It is time for head educators to take the lead, comprehend the nuances of a online learning and step ahead as digital leaders. This is a change-management programme and the focus should be on transforming educators. This will typically include innovation in the teaching space to promote effective learning outcomes. A comprehensive programme should help teachers and instructors re-skill and learn new digital skills.

User experience with service delivery integration: A unified end learner experience is the result of the coming together of educators, infrastructure, hardware and software services. It simultaneously results in the integration of various teaching-learning elements. This would require tech support to plug-in multiple pedagogical elements such as games, assessments, and hands-on components seamlessly in one learning path. Typically, this also includes providing industry-relevant certification courses that play a key role in skill-development and should be leveraged as career guidance tools.

The writer is Global Head, TCS iON

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 6:13:29 AM |

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