Bridging the education gap with cutting-edge technology

Published on Mar 18, 2020 04:34 PM IST

Today, the use of technology in the education sector remains limited and fragmented. Even with budgets for implementation, educational institutes are often stuck with piecemeal applications resulting in the creation of silos. As a result, technologies used by teachers, students and parents rarely interact with each other. The big opportunity lies in connecting all these strands.

ByPrakash Mallya

In a globally connected economy where data is increasingly the center of our universe and everything is starting to look like a computer, jobs of the future are expected to be very different from what they are today. India, with its massive and eager young population, possesses an edge when it comes to competing in this new data-driven world. However, a key component of accomplishing this vision is an education system that can deliver elevated learning outcomes and put the country on the map when it comes to globally competitive talent.

Today, India continues to battle tremendous challenges on the path to education leadership, with organized and collaborative efforts needed to reinvigorate the sector as a key investment into the country’s future. In terms of scale, India is second only to China with as many as 1.5 million schools and around 260 million students enrolled. However, for many of these students, learning is often a difficult and disconnected experience. Some grim numbers back up this statement. According to India’s National Education Policy , the country’s children have poor foundational learning levels with half the students who have spent five years in schools barely possessing basic numeric and literacy skills.

The National Achievement Survey of 2017 revealed that 33% of students in Class 3 cannot read small text with comprehension and 50% of these same students cannot use math to solve daily life problems. The 2018 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) states that only 50% of children in Class 5 in rural India could read Class 2-level text, and only 28% of Class 5 students could solve a division problem.

India can’t become a knowledge and business powerhouse with these statistics. It needs better teachers, learning that comes from a more wholesome education pedagogy, and students whose learning levels are much more substantive. Although there has been discourse on the recast of India’s education architecture, what deserves more focused attention is the transformative effect technology can have on this whole process.

Today, the use of technology in the education sector remains limited and fragmented. Even with budgets for implementation, educational institutes are often stuck with piecemeal applications resulting in the creation of silos. As a result, technologies used by teachers, students and parents rarely interact with each other. The big opportunity lies in connecting all these strands.

Can students, parents, teachers and other parts of the education ecosystem be given a more holistic view using technology? School operations such as admissions, reservations, transport, classroom learnings, examination, class notes, assignments, timetables, exams and academic records can all be wired to improve education and learnings. In fact, for the less privileged, a technology-powered education experience has the potential of reducing dropouts and improving their chance of building more fulfilling lives for themselves. How is this experience being enabled? Cloud is becoming a service model; the network is being transformed from fixed function to open standard and the proliferation of edge devices is recasting access to education.

A great example of this is how TCS iON has become a great technology enabler for students and educators alike—it enables anytime, anywhere, any device learning on the cloud and has reached nearly 3.2 million students. Similarly, EkStep, an education foundation established by Nandan and Rohini Nilekani, has built an open source platform for teachers. A range of startups in India, including Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu and others, have raised billions of dollars in funding and made a substantive impact on different aspects of the education ecosystem. On the international level, BRCK, in Africa, aims to solve hardware and software problems that hamper the spread of tech-enabled education initiatives.

To create positive impact, technology must go from being disconnected solutions to more connected platforms. The rapid pace of the technology revolution is reaching the point where security, efficiency and better understanding of the students can be monitored in real-time, and the industry is confident that these types of solutions have the potential to see mass adoption. This development is likely to be aided by accelerating access and learning when it comes to emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the proliferation of high-speed Internet, especially in mobile-first audiences across India.

Adequate training and upskilling will in turn lead to newer breakthroughs in leveraging these technologies. Leaning on these developments, India needs to focus on devising more affordable, accessible and holistic solutions for the vast majority of those striving for a better tomorrow, rather than only catering to building costly solutions for a select few. Efforts are already underway – AI has been introduced as a subject in classes VIII, IX and X from the 2019-20 session in CBSE schools. The establishment of India’s first AI Skills Lab in Delhi is yet another step in this direction to provide an enabling environment to students to create solutions that can deliver real social impact.

To make use of technology in education stick, it can’t be companies alone that forge a lonely path—it requires corporates, governments, NGOs and educational institutes to work together to deliver better learning outcomes. Rather than a solution that focuses on a one-off use, we need to leverage technology to instil a mentality of lifelong learning within our citizens to ensure they aren’t rendered irrelevant despite being “educated”.

( Written by Prakash Mallya, VP & MD – Sales & Marketing Group, Intel India)

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