One way to ensure that India is on the expressway to prosperity and change is quality education. Are we seeing the potential it has of transforming India? How are we treating this sector? What is our game plan? What is the digital innovation in education system that we are trying to implement? Do we have the knowhow and technological expertise to implement it? Will the National Education Policy, the Skills India Initiative and Swayam, an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resources Development, which is a free online platform, be able to exploit the magic of digital education?
India’s sluggish education system has no choice but to change. And, it has to start today.
If the government does not move towards change, the private players will. Online courses that are both good and affordable will force both government and private institutions to realize how outdated they are in terms of technology tools they are using in education. They have to adapt if they have to make education both contemporary and interesting.
The world is changing at a speed which we are almost finding difficult to keep pace with. There is no worthwhile reason why education as a sector should not take flight and become relevant to the changing times.
With digitization coming in, India’s education system must effect digital innovation in education to improve a host of things like accessibility and quality. Students today have larger access to user-friendly technology than ever before. Institutions must use this to change the way they learn and exploit digital resources fired by improving connectivity. Thanks to this emerging reality, we today have the advantage of ensuring high quality content.
The possibilities of e-learning will open up an entirely new world. Learning and experiencing the joy of exploring ideas and concepts can be totally immersive and students will no more feel tortured or confined by classroom lectures that are increasingly becoming irrelevant with the coming of the internet. The web every day adds more and more content on every topic imaginable which is much more superior to what traditional teachers can offer.
That is precisely why teachers today need to be more than teachers in the traditional sense. They need to read more than they ever did for a lecture if they have to be valued in a classroom. Students are using videos and podcasts to enhance their learning. If teachers cannot provide rich perspective and understanding of issues and concepts, they will be sentenced to redundancy.
Let us not forget that there is a lifetime opportunity knocking on our doors. No country in the world has this advantage. Indians have the opportunity to emerge as the youngest and one of the most skilled workforces of the world. We cannot afford to lose out on this rare prospect. Ultimately, if this chance has to be exploited, this generation has to be helped to use digital technology. Apart from robust online courses, Indian students could be allowed to hear the best lectures in the world through virtual classrooms.
The Economic Times recently reported how Pearl Academy which has courses in design, fashion, creative businesses and media studies, has been able to foster greater creativity in classrooms. How did they do this? They used a wide range of software in labs for photography and design, video and audio production. They exhibited a good example of innovations in education. Students have to be readied for the future and so old methods have to be junked.
Indian stakeholders and experts in a study conducted at the Bournemouth University in Poole in England showed that there is a huge gap between what students are taught in higher education and the ground realities they face after they pass out. The study pointed out that one solution was to improve the relevance of the curriculum and pedagogy.
Just 37 percent of Indian university students felt that they were offered relevant and current training development opportunities and 33 per cent felt that they were able to demonstrate sills and knowledge in the industry.
Only 30 percent of policy makers said that universities in India had the necessary academic and professional staff to train students with industry-relevant knowledge and skills.
The study found that 45 percent of NGO’s felt that Indian higher education failed to prepare students to meet international standards. This should be a great reason for worry as scores of young Indians are keen on exploring global opportunities.
It is not going to be easy. Teachers have to be retrained. Many of them belonging to the old school are apprehensive and uncomfortable with technology. We need a different kind of teacher for the digital classroom.
But teachers alone are hardly the problem. Students also need to open up to new methods of teaching that encourage them to think and not focus on learning notes by rote so that they can mindlessly put them down in examinations and secure good marks. The focus has to be on skills, understanding and application and not marks.
(Ramesh Menon is a Delhi based author, journalist, documentary film-maker and Adjunct Professor at Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication in Pune. He got the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism.)