India and the G20: Prioritizing education technology for global growth
The G20 Presidency lends India the unique opportunity to put its imprint on the global education agenda.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” The quote by Benjamin Franklin summarizes the quintessential role played by education in our lives. To get to an ideal world where every child has access to quality and affordable education, global leaders and policymakers around the world realised that unity was needed among countries to achieve such social goals. Towards this end, the United Nations Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in the year 2000 under the UN Millenium Declaration. These goals were further refined in 2015 in the form of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While MDG 2 aimed to ensure all children enrol and complete primary education regardless of their parental incomes, SDG 4 emphasized on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life long learning opportunities for all. This is where the recent emergence of education technology (edtech) assumes special significance.
Edtech refers to the practice of integrating various ICT tools and techniques into the teaching pedagogy to make learning more interactive and engaging. Another advantage of edtech is the possibility of individualized learning . This means teaching pace as well as content can be tailored to suit the learning journey of each student. An illustrative example of such learning is that offered by edtech firms such as BYJU’S and many more, where students can learn at their own pace through interactive visual tools on their learning app.
Inclusive & equitable education has been a focus item for the G20 as well. G20 is among the most influential grouping of countries for international development cooperation as it represents two-thirds of the global population, 85% of the world’s GDP, and 75% of world trade. The reason it assumes greater significance with regards to education and edtech is because it also represents a diverse group of countries that find themselves at different stages of educational and economic development. Thus, with an emphasis on inclusive education, especially with India assuming the G20 Presidency, India can not only showcase its achievements and progress in digital education and edtech, but also help other developing member countries achieve it by using technology in education space.
The G20 Education Ministers’ Meeting is among the ministerial meetings organized leading up to the G20 Leaders’ Summit. It provides a unique opportunity for member countries to collaborate and raise awareness about several shared challenges such as investing in quality early childhood education, promoting equitable access to education, addressing the gender divide etc.
Apart from the G20 Ministerial level meeting, an Education Working Group (EdWG) was established in 2018 under the Argentinian presidency to help strengthen learning outcomes and equitable access through technological tools, digitalization, universal quality education, financing, partnerships for education and international cooperation. It also sought to work in collaboration with other working groups of the G20 to address issues that cut across sectors such as employment, skill development, school-to-work transition etc. As part of India’s G20 presidency, the EdWG shall be conducting seminars in collaboration with institutions like NCERT, NSDC, UNESCO, etc. on the role of digital tech in education & TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training), and the future of work.
PM Shri Narendra Modi as well as Union Minister for Education has also highlighted the importance of G20 as an opportunity for India to demonstrate it’s edtech leadership and showcase the strides made in digital education. During the Summit, India also plans to highlight the work done under the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, which recognizes the importance of technology in enhancing learning outcomes and presenting a new template of education to the world- one that can act as a global model for emerging economies.
A strong public policy commitment to technology-enabled education, backed by a bold vision and adequate funds, is crucial to achieving any goals related to inclusive education. The present government’s push towards leveraging digital innovation to achieve inclusivity in education can be seen in the recently launched G20-Digital Innovation Alliance (DIA). The DIA aims to encourage innovative solutions and create an alliance of innovation ecosystem players, including start-ups, investors, mentors, and institutions who are building digital public goods/innovations for the betterment of economies and the upliftment of societies. This would include start-ups developing solutions for edtech among others.
The year 2023 shall be significant for India in more ways than one. The G20 Presidency lends India the unique opportunity to put its imprint on the global education agenda, shaping the world’s path toward achieving the other SDGs as well. Mahatma Gandhi said “By education I mean an all round drawing out of the best in child and man-body, mind and spirit. Literacy is not the end of education not even the beginning. It is one of the means whereby man and women can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education.”
(Sudhanshu Pandey is former secretary food and public distribution. He worked in commerce department for eight years and among other charges looked after education services and G20)