Comment

Technology as an enabler

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 proposes a revamping of existing systems of higher education. Integration of technology for enhancing teaching-learning is an important policy objective. In India, much of the debate on new technology focuses on issues of digital divide and associated challenges on equity which leads many to view new technology and associated opportunities as an antithesis to equity and inclusion. However, opportunities provided by new technology can act as potential sources for promoting egalitarianism in higher education, if access to technology is democratised and values of inclusion is institutionalised.

Envisioning inclusive learning requires a deeper understanding of the larger context of student diversity in contemporary campuses. Currently, a large share of students are from lower social strata such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes and from poor households and families where no one has undergone any post-secondary education. A significant proportion of those students are from government schools, under-developed regions, remote villages and urban margins. They are more likely to have had the regional language as a medium of instruction in schools.

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A national-level study on ‘student diversity and social inclusion’ carried out at the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration in 2016 showed that students from marginalised social groups face severe challenges due to social exclusion and academic non-integration. The institutional mechanisms to bridge the gaps are also inadequate. As a result, inclusion made in terms of access is not getting translated into quality educational experience and equitable academic outcome.

Remote learning

Since the lockdown, the 37 million students in higher education in India have not attended colleges and universities. Indefinite closure of institutions has compelled higher education administrators to explore possibilities for remote learning. A national-level study carried out at the NIEPA revealed that there is a long way to go in moving towards inclusive learning mediated by technology. It also found that urban-rural disparity in conduct of online classes is alarmingly high.

The NEP emphasises vital linkage between education and technology in the context of the country’s transformative journey towards a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. An autonomous body called National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) will be entrusted with the task of advising institutions on use of technology, capacity building, providing directions for research and innovation and creating avenues for exchange of ideas.

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Learning at your own pace

When teaching-learning is facilitated by new technology, the temporal and spatial restrictions on learning tend to disappear. In technology-mediated learning, the pace of the learning is not determined by the teacher in most cases. Students can decide how much is to be learned at a given point of time. They have the freedom to learn according to their convenience. This peculiar feature of self-paced and student-centered learning can provide greater support to marginalised learners and help teachers to assume a new role of facilitator.

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The NEP’s emphasis on technology is a welcome step. However, in what context and for what purpose technology is used in educational settings is also important. As academic integration continues to remain a major challenge, technology needs to be seen as a means to provide additional learning inputs. Universities and colleges should invest in ICT infrastructure keeping these larger goals in mind. It requires institutions to espouse and enact values of inclusion in structure and process of higher education.

Malish C.M. is an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi. Views are personal


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 2:59:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/technology-as-an-enabler/article32407777.ece

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