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Lenovo Smarter Ed Conclave: Covid showed tech crucial to learning, says Pradhan

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan was speaking at a two-day education conclave, which started on Thursday to discuss the road map for the future of learning with technology and the new order of education.
Union minister for education, skill development and entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan. (ANI)
Updated on Sep 17, 2021 06:10 AM IST
By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday said students, teachers and the entire Indian education system demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the main takeaway from the pandemic was that technology will play a crucial role in how we acquire knowledge in the future.

He was speaking at a two-day education conclave, which started on Thursday to discuss the road map for the future of learning with technology and the new order of education.

Presented by Hindustan Times, the Lenovo Smarter Ed Conclave focuses on the New Education Policy (NEP), the digital divide brought to the fore by online learning during the pandemic, developments in technology in education, upskilling teachers, and encouraging interactions with decision-makers across schools and institutions of higher education.

Those interested in attending the virtual conference can visit https://lenovosmarteredconclave.virtualeventexp.com/ or scan the QR code below.

In his keynote address, Pradhan said, “This is the most opportune moment for us to be discussing this topic when India is successfully emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic wave. The unprecedented advent of the pandemic adversely and significantly affected our lives. No sector remained indifferent to its impact including the education sector. However, our students and teachers and the entire Indian education system demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of the pandemic.”

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Pradhan spoke on how one of the largest education systems in the world moved online from offline learning. “It is also during the pandemic that India came up with the first education policy of the 21st century – the National Education Policy, 2020…Basing itself on the pillars of accessibility, affordability, equity, and quality, NEP 2020 aims to overhaul our education landscape for the greater good of our children. With a set of far-reaching recommendations, the policy has given us the road map for the future… one lesson from the pandemic is that technology will play a crucial role in how we acquire knowledge,” he said.

Focussing on technological innovations and solutions leading to progression and tech penetration, the conclave also discussed concerns on digital inequality and the new forms of exclusion that may arise.

At least 80% of students aged between 14 and 18 years reported lower levels of learning at home during the Covid-19 pandemic compared to when they attended classes in schools, a survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) across six states revealed. The survey report released on Thursday also warned that approximately 8% of children are not likely to return to schools in the future.

“While we emphasise on the significance of technology in the future of education, a hybrid education model wherein technology will supplement classroom teaching is vital. Indeed, technology will be used to facilitate a better teaching-learning process and make it more accessible. However, this will not devalue the importance of in-person learning,” the education minister said.

“There is a strong argument that education will never go back to the pre-pandemic times and technology is going to be as important as physical campuses. The focus on large physical spaces will shrink and a hybrid model of education involving a combination of classroom teaching and online lessons will find greater acceptance,” the organisers said in a statement.

The managing director of Lenovo India, Shailendra Katyal, also shared insights on how technology can help bridge the digital divide, and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Union minister of state for skill development, spoke about the importance of skill education and how it can be built up in the coming years.

“The world in the past few decades has become much more complex and challenging to navigate. Education systems across world had to evolve to cope with the new challenges. When we talk of digital divide, it comes in the context of the new way of learning which is student centric, as per experts and educators. The new way of learning is personalised. It is not one-size-fits-all and is about creating problem solvers. And technology has to play a very critical role in asynchronous learning as every student will learn at his/her own pace,” Katyal said.

He also explained that there is no other way but to adopt this new way of learning. “In India, the question of digital divide is particularly important.. We have around 30 crore students, which is the largest student pool in the world, but only 15-20% of them have access to a (communication) device or internet to learn at their own pace,” he said, adding that one has to address the question of whether India has the digital infrastructure to support the large pool of learners.

The two-day conclave will touch upon the three key areas of the education sector – technological advancements in education, digital inequality, and reskilling or upskilling of the educator workforce.

The conclave will also see an in-depth discussion on government policies focusing on upgrading the education sector with innovative tools and ideas. Experts will discuss the approach towards smarter education in India and the role of analytical, data driven technology in understanding young minds and providing them with a holistic curriculum.

Policymakers and experts will discuss the lack of infrastructure in rural India, address the gender bias in households, digital readiness of government educational institutes, and role of communities in bridging these gaps.

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