Sometime before the summer Olympics of 1956, the “Flying Sikh” of India, Mr. Milkha Singh was introduced to the concept of ‘running shoes’ by his Coach – ‘Gurudev Singh’. Before this, he used to train barefoot. And he had picked up his strides and motion barefoot. Hence, taking up shoes had meant him coming to terms with the new technique. And he faced issues with the same. Including his track timing was disturbed majorly. And once he got comfortable running with shoes, he became the legend we know.
In every walk of life, we adjust to the new realities and soon start to make progress like never before. And the new realities become the reality before a yet new reality hits humans. The good news being that the ‘new realities’ made the world progress at a faster pace. Now whether the progress is questionable or the pace of it, will continue to be a healthy debate within humans. However, whoever didn’t acclimatize to the new reality, ceased to exist in the new normal.
Since a long now, virtual/ online learning has been in the limelight for the education world. At one end, it is creating economic success, to a point, that India has produced the largest unicorn in Education sector globally, on another, the adoption of virtual/ online learning is still uneven, in the same world. Covid 2019, at best, acted as ‘Gurudev Singh’ for the education world. Not just the adoption of virtual/ online learning has increased, however, we are witnessing the classrooms of today getting updated with this new reality.
And the debate can never be whether the ‘old school’ cease to exist. Remember, the ‘flying sikh’ still needed a coach to guide. In the same way, the ‘schools’ will be the guide for the student fraternity forever. Form and manner will continue to evolve. Just the K – 12 sector in India has close to 230 million students enrolled in about 1.4 million Schools. If we add the population in the higher education world to this, the universe of student population in India will come close to the total population of the USA. Advancement in technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual reality & augmented reality has made many things possible for the education world and this entire universe is ready to benefit from the same.
The National Education Policy, 2020 introduced by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development states that the focus will be on ‘extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers, increasing access as well as education planning and management’. Especially in the primary and secondary schooling, the policy recognises the importance of technology aiding teaching and bridging the gap between students and teachers to make education more seamless. Futhermore, the policy focuses on the Digital India and has called out EdTech companies as the backbone of the Indian Education system.
The new pedagogical and curricular structure of school education (5+3+3+4) requires activity based through interactive classrooms, offering multidisciplinary study, greater critical thinking, flexibility and choice one subject in a safe and experiential learning environment. The EdTech companies globally are working towards strengthening the text-books with various technology interventions for better teaching and better absorption of the same concepts. What has got amplified are the tutorials for now, however, there is a whole new world of conducting the math and science classes using virtual labs. These not only engage students better, however, through active and open participations, but their understanding of the concepts is also far richer. Even language labs are exposing new techniques to teachers for better class management.
The guidelines expect each educational institution to deliver 21st century skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Teachers are expected to generate a holistic and a customised report on students. And the assessments are being looked at from a 360-degree view, involving a ‘self-assessment’ by student, ‘peer assessment’ through his/ her classmates and ‘teacher assessment’, to empower the learner to control their progress and become an independent learner.
The path-breaking steps through NEP 2020 requires a different mindset at the hands of the learner as well as the teacher and a seamless coordination between the two. Like the ‘flying sikh’, the learner as well as the teachers will have to un-learn and re-learn in the new world. And technology is enabling this in a structured and a standardised way. The EdTech companies are inventing pedagogies with the world’s best subject matter experts to facilitate the world of education. Coding for example. It used to be a language for the computer enthusiasts with a fair understanding of the sciences subjects. However, today, it is being taught to the toddlers and the pro alike in a very simplistic manner, promoting, identification of problem statement and arriving at the most critical steps to solving it. This has fuelled analytical and critical thinking and creativity on part of the learner, which is a key mandate in NEP 2020.
While the young learners are digital first already, hence, for them to adopt is less of a challenge than the teachers. However, with the increasing screen time of these young learners, there lack of attention span is another threat to the teachers. Hence, the teachers will have to learn newer techniques to not just hold the young learners’ attention, however, engage them well too. This is bringing about a new partnership/ relationship between the learner and the teacher as well.
In the last decade or so, cost of data has decreased tremendously, and in the last 18 months, its penetration has improved drastically as well. In fact, during the end of 2020, rural India was contributing to more than 55% of the data consumption. This is another major factor which will fuel online/ virtual learning. Yes, we need to bridge the digital divide in India, and the policy makers as well as the tech manufacturers are working tirelessly to address the tech cost. However, it is still sometime away that every kid in rural India can also roam with a personal device enabling him/ her the power of independent learning.
Many private and public schools have lapped up the concept of online teaching and are evaluating the sustenance of the same on a long-term basis, government aided schools will still have to work on a via-media till the technology and the services around the same are easily available and are affordable.
Students from pre-primary classes to class 12th get easy access to tutors through online apps and websites. Most teachers and institutions are now encouraging students to take the advantage of online apps and websites. Most Edtech companies are actively contributing to the K-12 learning space. From curriculum to coding to hybrid solutions, to transforming physical to e-textbooks and to bring digital material to in-class and at-home learning, they are seamlessly working to enhance student’s online learning experience.
When the world is getting connected virtually/ online, how can the progress in education be far behind. We are today comfortable in purchasing grocery, electronics even an automobile through a virtual intervention, hence, our ability to look at education virtually/ online is high as well. It is a matter of time that the whole of India will start schooling virtually/ online. The overall quality of education in the hands of a common learner across the country will be comparable. And eventually, it’ll be a pursuit of excellence as well.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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