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Non-Traditional Courses & Innovative Techniques Will Determine The Future Of Education

Given the acute variation in quality of educational institutions in India, it may be possible that technology exacerbates educational inequality.

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Two things happened last month. First, Sudan, the last surviving white male rhino died in Kenya. There’s no more male animal of that species on the planet anymore. Second, in Phoenix, Arizona, Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year old American woman was killed by a driverless Uber Volvo SUV. 

Both events mark a sense of continuation – continuation of a speed at which the world is changing. An old world is getting eclipsed and replaced by the new world. This is a world of code that can write its own code.

Education has remained impervious of these changes, like the last bencher who hides away behind people’s heads when a question is raised in the class. Giant monolithic structures of universities and regulation have made traditional brick and mortar way of educating, the only way to educate a young generation. 

In time to come, this will change. And so will, so many other things associated. 

Online education will usher an unseen force and will become professionalized greatly. Even if you don’t believe KPMG/Google Report on e-learning in India that talks about 9.6mn beneficiaries by 2021, you need to look at the unimaginable sizes of investments ed-tech startups have generated. Technology adoption takes time, in a classic S curve in technology-life-cycle studies. We may be at the lower end of the S, and when it reaches its point of inflexion, the rise in e-learning will be dramatic – akin to the sudden rise of Airbnb and Uber.

A connected feature of education in future will be a use of virtual reality. Kids will begin understanding the real world, virtually, and will be taught about geometry and nuclear physics, while they tour around Egyptian pyramids listening to Einstein’s recorded lectures. Education will become more about inspiring and realizations than about bookish knowledge.

There are massive inefficiencies in the education system today. Tools that could possibly aggregate education experience will become major hinges around which education will revolve in time to come. Think about the best teacher in the world for microbiology. With the advent of futuristic technology, there is no reason we can’t imagine a world, in which her lectures are not accessible to everyone. In several decades, or perhaps a century, with AI-teachers, the best of teaching will be available to everyone, especially in STEM-type subjects.

But if that is too far ahead, consider what may happen at the level of universities and courses. Regulatory bodies will become obsolete in time. India’s policies on building ‘institutions of eminence’, and the emergence of successful models of higher education like ISB Hyderabad, ISME in Mumbai and Vedic in Delhi are cases in point. Soon, people are going to realize that signaling by a government-appointed body on quality of higher education institution is meaningless. Information through the peer-to-peer network and industrial partners will be the real influence in the decision making of students. 

This also means good teachers will become more mobile and teach at multiple locations. A textbook extension of this feature will also lead to a situation where courses are produced by private efforts and are then sold to colleges which may want them for added value, or simply because the existing course structure is incapable to deliver certain skill set. Instead of changing their structure, colleges may welcome ‘outside courses’ more. 

No surprise then, nontraditional courses, either online or offline, will flourish. They will be short-term in nature, and will actually become more useful in securing employment. The massive inflow of global knowledge, social science courses, like liberal arts will become game-changer in developing countries.  

Sadly, however, given the acute variation in quality of educational institutions in India, it may be possible that technology exacerbates educational inequality. Good quality education will be in plenty but may not be enough to cater to everyone in the short run. This will make dream-crushing coaching institutions even more important (until the government decides to regulate them) in countries like India. Such educational-inequality could be disastrous in the long run as well.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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