Need For Govt To Incentivise Technology Adoption In Schools

A budgetary incentive for creating holistic Digital Classrooms in government schools will ensure that every student is included in the digital revolution

The integration of technology in education has the potential to revolutionise pedagogy in India. From online resources to virtual classrooms and interactive learning tools, technology can aid the teaching delivery and enhance the learning experience and provide greater access to quality education for students of all backgrounds, the need for which was intensified by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, despite the benefits, many schools struggle to keep up with the direction and pace of change due to systemic issues. The world is changing and moving towards a tech-first approach, including education. Technology is evolving quickly (from projectors to smartboards, integrated devices, personalised learning apps, AR/VR and more). The Indian education system cannot keep up due to high costs, slow adoption and lack of training. These schools need financial and policy support to adopt new technologies that can help them further their educational goals.

The Annual Status of Education Report 2022 (ASER 2022) shows that post-pandemic, students' reading ability has dropped to pre-2012 levels and arithmetic ability to pre-2014 levels, setting back years of progress that the country made. The latest data from the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE 2021-22) reveals that only 24.4 per cent of all government schools have internet facilities and 37.7 per cent have computers. Furthermore, less than 10 per cent of all schools in India have functional computers for pedagogical purposes. 

One of the main reasons for this is the cost of technology. Government incentives, such as grants and subsidies, can help reduce the cost burden and make technology more accessible to schools and students. Schools often have limited budgets and may not have the resources to purchase the latest technology and equipment – from interactive panels to projectors, televisions, smartboards, tablets and more. Many schools in low-income areas may not have the infrastructure to support advanced technology. Edtech players like Schoolnet, who work specifically for the schools in the middle and bottom of the economic pyramid, are working to bridge this digital divide with affordable and high-quality digitally-led teaching aids that work with minimum to no internet. An all-in-one integrated community computer, K-Yan, combines various components of a digital classroom into a single device – increasing the uptake and making usage exponentially easier.

Another area where government policy intervention is required is to ensure continuous teacher training. Many teachers may need the skills or knowledge to integrate technology into their classrooms effectively. We saw the dire need for upskilling when the lockdown struck and teachers had to switch to conducting virtual classes. Allocations for teacher training fell from Rs 250 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 127 crore in 2022-23. A push in the Union Budget 2023-24 for teachers' professional development and a focus on digital pedagogy will have a ripple effect on improving the quality of teaching-learning in the classroom, helping to bring equity in education in India. Government support can also include refresher training, resources and support for teachers to develop lesson plans and move towards learner-centric teaching models. 

Additionally, government incentives are needed to ensure technology's effective and appropriate use. While technology can be a valuable tool for education, schools must use it to support learning and teaching goals – improving student attendance, engagement, retention & assessment outcomes and improving teachers' efficiency. This year will be critical for implementing the National Education Policy 2020, as the National Curriculum Framework for the Foundational Stage was outlined in October 2022. These policies visualise a paradigm shift in education, concentrating on providing analytical, holistic and multidisciplinary education rather than rote learning, which has been the norm so far. The role of technology is vital to easing this transition, allowing it to take over mundane tasks of the teacher and improving time-on-task in the classroom with the provision of interactive multimedia and multisensory content in various languages aligned to the curriculum. It will facilitate teachers to focus on developing higher-order cognitive skills to achieve the goals of the NEP 2020. Government incentives can ensure that technology enhances student learning rather than replace traditional teaching methods.

Policies for adopting technology in schools can also help bridge the digital divide. The Digital India Mission and BharatNet are deepening internet penetration among Indian villages and towns. There is increased ownership of smartphones and their use for education. However, many students from low-income families or rural areas do not have access to the internet and devices at home and, therefore, may be disadvantaged when exposed to technology in the classroom. Schools must ensure that all students have access to technology and are trained in digital literacy to benefit from its educational opportunities. A budgetary incentive for creating holistic Digital Classrooms in government schools will ensure that every student is included in the digital revolution.

In conclusion, technology has the potential to revolutionise the teaching-learning experience. However, around 60 per cent of government schools still require digital infrastructure. Schools need investments to bridge the digital divide, reduce the cost burden, provide teachers with training and ensure technology integration in the teaching process. The Union Budget 2023-24 should propose a focussed augmentation of digital infrastructure and create an enabling environment for school EdTech to flourish. Unless this is done, the divide between government schools and their students (mostly from lower-income and underprivileged backgrounds) and private schools, which can invest in technology, will become even more significant and thus undo the efforts of the past two decades.

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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