Anu wakes up in the wee hours to finish her household chores, wash and be ready for her classes.
She is 17 years old and aspires to be a fashion designer specialising in weaves that originate from her village in Maharashtra. With help from a local NGO working with talented students like her, she has her curriculum material in place just in time to begin today’s lessons.
Within minutes of logging into the network on her mobile phone, she is connected to her mentor from the U.K. who takes her through the techniques of weaving. With mentorship from a college in the U.K., and help from the NGO, it seems like her dream will be a reality soon.
This can be a reality for several rural talents in India, all thanks to the growing scope of long distance education and mobile learning (m-learning).
According to a report, penetration of m-learning is around 7 per cent to12 per cent in India, which is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. It is a boon for people like Anu who have the intelligence and want to pursue education but may not have adequate infrastructure in her locality to pursue her dream. Even the remotest areas in the country have mobile networks, and it is thus the most effective way to reach out to millions.
The key drivers of growth in this sector include high portability, small size, low price, adaptable technology of mobile devices, and, most importantly, its increasing penetration in the country. However, to fully realise this potential we need all Indians to have the opportunity to acquire the education, training and skill that fully leverages their capability.
Thus reaching out to millions of students who may have acquired basic education through local schools but fail to continue in higher education or vocational training to be employment — ready is a greater challenge for the country.
This is where e-learning can help. Even with long-distance learning through computers, there remains an issue of accessibility of machines, especially in rural areas.
Mobile phones play a significant role in this regard and are definitely more affordable as a gadget than a personal computer or laptop. Thus, if applications can be developed to make learning through personal phones possible , it is the easiest and cheapest way to educate millions of youth.
M-learning can play a crucial role in reaching those who are outside the scope of traditional schooling, and will enable them to access various educational programmes.
For the future
Mobile technology can help address many development issues, for example, banking, health information and agricultural services. Realising the immense potential, several telecoms have started offering m-education services. Given below are some of the key factors:
Convenience and flexibility
Management: allows each person to have a personalised way of learning.
Relevance: gives learners what they need, when they need it.
Allows use of unproductive time such as when travelling or waiting.
Special education: for the benefit of learning-challenged individuals.
Interactive: allowing teachers to personally communicate with each student.
Collaborative: students from different locations can interact and work together.
The day is not far when all kinds of training and vocational courses will be made available through mobile phones.
The writer is chief mentor, Achiever’s Zone.