Using Multimedia Channels Is Imperative To Reach A Wider Student Base In Rural Areas: Rustom Kerawalla

BW Education caught up with Rustom Kerawalla, Chairman, Ampersand Group who shared his insights about the institution and more.

How do you see COVID-19 impacting the education ecosystem? What changes would it bring to the teaching-learning process? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused worldwide educational disruptions with around 120 crore students, constituting 67% of all enrolled learners across 144 countries, affected by school closures. According to the United Nations, in India, approximately 32 crore learners have been affected across pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary schools. Out of this, 15 crore students belong to pre-primary and primary school students, and 13 crore are students of secondary schools.  

There is an accelerated pace for digitization and emphasis on remote learning with the aid of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools and new-technologies such as IR/VR, video conferencing channels, robotics, machine learning and data analytics for teaching and assessments. Schools are adapting to online teaching methods and classes are being conducted via Zoom, Moodle or proprietary school software. Blended or integrated learning will be the fulcrum of education during this academic year as parents as well as schools will exercise caution while exposing students to a mass environment.    

How helpful have Ed-techs been in the times of COVID-19 crisis? 

Ed-tech is playing an important role in education continuity for students during the prolonged period of lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections in the country. It is the crucial link between the government, school management and private players to enable amalgamation of e-learning platforms and mainstream education for providing education to all. Teachers are being trained in 21st-century learning pedagogies and evaluation methodologies using technology interventions by Ed-tech providers, who are also offering a wide range of options for e-learning and personalisation with curated content plans. Also, with the creation of age-appropriate curriculum, the focus has moved on to the teachers as they are reinventing their teaching methodologies. Considering the longevity of the pandemic, content is being up-scaled to include a blend of augmented and virtual reality for pre-primary, primary and secondary education. Technology is been used to its optimum to engage with the higher grades as they can get a broad understanding of the subject. Edtech has been localizing content to cater to the needs of various ages, regions, and culture. MOOCs (massively open online courses), which can simultaneously enroll thousands of learners, are now being extending beyond the realm of higher education into school education through Ed-tech platforms. 

How will the paradigm shift from physical to virtual, affect your business?   

At present education in India is going through a transition phase due to which there is uncertainty in what will be the prescribed medium of instruction. Till parents feel it’s safe to send their children to school, no decision can be taken to restart physical schooling. Hence, to maintaining continuity in education, schools will have to bring innovation in academics continuously which needs huge investment in digital infrastructure. Students at the pre-primary and primary will have to be exposed with state-of-the-art animated lessons to keep them glued to their classes and teachers will have to upskill themselves with modern technology. Most schools haven’t accounted these unplanned expenses for their financial year and with fees not been paid, it is straining the finances of the company. In addition, while schools are functioning online, they are regularly paying fees to the staff despite parents not contributing towards their fees which has added a huge burden on all private schools in India. I hope that this doesn’t destabilize the contribution of the private sector in education, if that happens, it will take the sector years back in time to come back to its present day. 

How can we ensure continued learning for the underprivileged section having no access to the internet or other required technology? 

Using multimedia channels such as television, community radio and mobile phones, besides computers, is imperative to reach a wider student base in rural areas. A HUB-and-SPOKE model can be worked out with such preschools and schools at the district or taluka levels acting as the hub and connecting with nearby villages to deliver education to students at the last mile through multimedia channels.  More importantly, the collaboration between government, school management service providers, Ed-tech companies and public and private enablers is the urgent need of the hour for creating the requisite education infrastructure in urban and rural areas.  

Please provide some statistics regarding the number of families been covered under VibgyorEduBridge Scholarship Programme and the method used to identify them? 

The VIBGYOR Edubridge Scholarship is still underway and due to the queries from the parents, we are extending the dates. We want to ensure that parents take the benefit of this programme who are badly affected financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is to give the scholarship to the deserving students so that the kids can have education continuity. At this hour of crisis, VIBGYOR is committed to help the deserving parents financially. 

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