India is indeed awakening to the fact of Education being long term surety of development and returns. Being home to world’s largest number of school going kids of around 250 million, India cannot dream to be a trillion dollar economy without firming its foundation in school. Education sector in India also remains to be a strategic priority for the Government.
The Government has allowed 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the education sector through the automatic route since 2002. The sector is expected to reach US$ 1.96 billion by 2021. Also concurring to the fact of ‘Digital’ to be the new ‘Normal’, In India, the online education market is forecast to reach ~US$ 8.6 billion by 2026.
However, despite the tremendous interests, investment and growth in this crucial sector, quality remains largely confined to urban and semi-urban India, while much of rural India is still deprived of scholastic outcomes. Schools in rural areas continue to suffer from a paucity of committed teachers and proper infrastructure, such as classrooms, blackboards and benches. Given that such schools are few and far between, most classes are overcrowded, leading to a distorted teacher-student ratio.
In such a situation, it is impossible for teachers, even if they are willing to help, to attend to each and every student. The disruption of education caused by Covid-19 has adversely impacted rural India wherein children could not cope up with the normal owing to lack of adequate digital infrastructural support. The access to education, because of digitization was confined only to only 11% rural children.
Teachers are knowledge dispensers, while pupils are repositories in the traditional classroom training process. Rather than focusing on new skills and techniques, the conventional classroom training’s focus remains on ensuring that the students pass the tests. Memorization and recitation approach is the backbone for traditional teaching rather than developing problem-solving skills.
Put simply; it is rote learning. The learner memorizes the study material and recalls it the way he or she was taught. Every child has a different set of academic weaknesses, strengths, and learning styles. So, a teacher teaching a classroom of 30 to 50 children may not be able to offer one-on-one time to each student. Thus, slow learners often tend to lose. Such students also fail to innovate or think out of the box at a later stage in life.
Smart class is a new method of teaching recently introduced. Today’s classrooms are in transition. Technology of all sorts is making its way into the classroom and offering new ways to engage learners, who are especially from rural background. The transition is not smooth, nor is it following a single path. The students are taught through digital instruction materials, 3D animated modules and videos. Rural children, who are bored with the age old monotony of learning gets thrilled and excited to watch, feel and learn. The concept of digitized classroom has not only redefined the education but it also gave the students better insight.
Their imagination is fired. The students learn difficult and abstract curriculum concepts, watching highly engaging visuals and animations. This makes learning an enjoyable experience for students while improving their overall academic performance in school. A student can learn and retain a lesson better through visualization.
All the students may not understand the teaching methodology of a teacher, but can understand by smart classes. In such a hi-tech classroom, it becomes easy for our teachers to derive even the most complex chapters or concepts from easy illustrations, presentation or animated videos. As a result, child is able to learn and grasp easily. Also, with visual aid, it stays in their mind more prominently. Smart class also enables teachers to instantly assess and evaluate the learning achieved by their students in class with an innovative assessment system.
SMART way of education shall be a multi benefiting pedagogy for both students and the staff. It’s a chance to be more efficient and productive while developing new and improved professional skills/knowledge through online learning and assessment. It is also a fact that use of technology in education is resulting in different concepts in the system, for instance the move from teacher-centric education to student-centric education.
AROH Foundation, the national level leading NGO, working in the sector of Education for past two decades has been advocating for use of technology in the education system, believing the one time investment shall curb down various physical, socio-economic barriers for both learners and educators to a large extent. The farsighted approach by the organization also proved to be a boon for more than 300 government schools in different states and villages of India, where more than 200 SMART classes were installed benefiting more than 20,000 children.
Installed over past few years, the schools were already trained to pull up the digi-education mode. Well trained teaching staff could also switch easily to the digi mode. SMART education also ensures better cognitive skills within student, better grasping power, longer stay in memory and eventually improving learning outcomes of the children. Teaching staff were undertaken for exhaustive training programs for their capacity building so that they can also take up audio-visual sessions on the topic beyond their curriculum.
Dr Neelam Gupta, President & CEO, AROH Foundation restates, “Not only the virtual classrooms reduced the exorbitant burden of monotonous curriculum books, but it also is adding a new perspective of learning within the children. Although everyone is boasting high of the technological revolution in the education system, but we also need to understand the crisis, this sudden shoving of education into digital mode after Covid has caused.”
“Though this shall be beneficial in the longer run as this shall lower down the infrastructural and physical barriers but this was supposed to go slow especially when a large chunk of socio- economically weaker children are enrolled in government schools in cities and villages, who are already in financial crisis due to lockdown and cannot afford requisites of digital learning like smart phones or laptops. Other challenges remains like huge investments, the need to develop digital content in regional languages and limited exposure of teachers to technology in rural areas are some of the deterrents.”
“It is here that corporate partners along with NGOs and the government have a major role to play. They need to create technology-based applications that cater to all regions of the country and train teachers. The Government also needs to support such initiatives and ensure that costs are brought down. We, at AROH are taking every possible step to make this shift as swift as possible, facilitating every possible info and infra to the schools.”
“Along with a cohesion in Public – Private Partnership, we have to take proper remedial measures with a sense of urgency and create better learning environments for rural children so that they are able to participate in nation building process and reap the full potential of our demographic divided.”