Transforming Education Through Tech-enabled Innovations
From bridging the digital divide, building robust systems for better engagement, to training teachers and creating learning continuity among students, technology can become the lynchpin of rural education transformation
“I have believed and repeated times without number that India is to be found not in its few cities but in its villages,” wrote MK Gandhi in the weekly journal ‘Young India’ at the turn of the 20th century. Today, nearly a hundred years after its first publishing, and 75 years after India’s independence, the issue he raised remains central to our nation’s progress.
India's rural population forms the backbone of our nation’s culture. Their integration into the 21st century knowledge economy is central to India transitioning from a developing to a developed nation. With nearly 65 per cent of Indians comprising this cohort, it is our collective responsibility to build upon socio-economic systems and infrastructure that empower rural lives. The most effective way to do this is through education — a foundational component of building a progressive society.
Bringing equity to learning through technology
When the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns led to school closures in 2020, it disrupted education for 1.6 billion students worldwide. In India, 80 per cent of children between 14 to 18 years reported low levels of learning during this time. The Covid-19 pandemic was especially devastating for students who belonged to rural and minority groups, economically underprivileged backgrounds, or those who were victims of child labour, illness, bias and social stigma.
Reaching an inflection point, this is when the last mile of education experienced a complete transformation. Online learning came to the fore and the idea of education that was traditionally limited to physical classrooms evolved into a more dynamic format where teachers were able to reach students through new and innovative channels.
Education technology or edtech, dramatically leveled the playing field for students across all geographies and strata of society. This greatly helped those engaged in social work to collaborate with educators and empower students, as well as teachers, with vital tools and content to shrink long-standing equity and learning gaps; propelling a powerful transformation of the education system through tech-enabled innovations.
Unlocking the potential of technology-driven learning
The role of technology in enabling better access to quality education for children across urban and rural landscapes has been cemented further in the aftermath of the pandemic as India’s growing edtech ecosystem continues to take education to previously unserved areas through the power of technology. Not just private players, but the government, through initiatives such as Swayam (Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds), Diksha and e-pathshala have been facilitating the transitioning of educational institutions in rural zones to online or hybrid modes. To accelerate this digital learning adoption in rural areas, it is also essential that local not-for-profit entities and other implementation bodies work in tandem to create change at the grassroots level. While NGOs and their vast networks of active volunteers undertake training and implementation duties, bigger interventions are needed to have an impact at a scale that can solve the problem for instance, our collaboration with BYJU’S Education For All is helping us reach students from underserved backgrounds across different geographies. The renewed emphasis on education through the NEP 2020 in tandem with the Digital India Mission presents a grand opportunity to reimagine our education system by leveraging the benefits of disruptive technology to make it more holistic, equitable, and high-quality. From bridging the digital divide, building robust systems for better engagement, to training teachers and creating learning continuity among students, technology can become the lynchpin of rural education transformation.
The future of learning technologies
Learning does not stop outside the four walls of a classroom and access to learning resources should not either. While India's current education landscape still needs to surmount the digital divide, as well as a lack of access to resources, trained teachers, and study materials, especially in government schools and rural areas, one way to sustainably achieve this is with the right approach, partnerships and digital infrastructure.
A powerful force of social impact workers, educators, policymakers and administrators need to come together to work collaboratively and offer equal learning opportunities to students across the nation. With schools and colleges fully reopening in the post-pandemic era, the country's hundreds of millions of aspiring young students are ready to make a difference. We can only truly harness our demographic dividend and prepare the current generation for the future by reaching beyond the walls of traditional classrooms to form strong partnerships that support learning anywhere, at any time.
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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