Thoughts to Think
EdTechs in the Indian Education Sector - its Relevance before and During Pandemic
12 November, 2020
Senior Associate, CESS
As author and educator George Couros put it, "Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational."
The 21st century is regarded as an era of technology. Technology is playing a prominent role and its impact can be felt in every sector and one of the sectors that is profoundly benefitted by the development of technology is the Education Sector. The Education sector is embracing emerging technologies and innovations to transform the existing practices of learning, teaching and management at schools, colleges and universities across the world. It cannot be ignored that the role of technology in the field of education has many facets and has made education to move from its passive and reactive mode to interactive and aggressive mode of learning.
In the present situation of COVID-19 pandemic times, technology is playing a crucial role. Beginning from Online classes for schools and colleges to Webinars and Meetings through various platforms such as Zoom, Google meet, Google classrooms, WebEx etc., we come across various digital platforms today. The pandemic has taught us that there should be a clear roadmap in implementing or promoting digital enabled teaching-learning platforms and to embrace technology in the classrooms..
Even before the pandemic began, EdTechs were rendering their service beginning from pre-schooling to higher education, vocational training, and also corporate training sectors. They have also extended their wings in the financial management, teacher lifecycle management, curriculum development, parent engagement, learning analytics, language tools, soft skills development, digital libraries etc. Though there exist issues of digital divide and lack of ICT skills among teachers and students, Conventional educational systems seem to take the back seats, as the students and teachers both, are trying to embrace all the comfort, convenience, and efficiency that is offered by the Edu-Tech learning platforms.
With National Educational Policy also laying a special emphasis on integrating technology at all levels of education by proposingNational Educational technology forum to provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to improve learning, assessment, planning, administration etc., and its emphasis on creativity and innovation at all levels of education and also proposes the induction of new-age technologies such as online learning platforms, AI-driven customized learning solutions, video-based learning, peer-peer learning etc., the need to develop well-defined technological infrastructure in our educational institutions has gained utmost importance.
Though Covid-19 has created disarray in the education system and its delivery, it has also uncovered the ground reality of the existing issues with respect to digital infrastructure. At present times, while the world is driven by data and speed, Universities/Institutes can be hugely benefitted by the use of technology. The best practices adopted by the prestigious institutions across the world could be adopted and implicated. Universities can focus more on knowledge delivery, knowledge sharing, collaboration in research and many more. The present teaching learning methodology demands an alternative and technology driven methodology could be a right choice.
A TAKE ON THE NEW NEP 2020
5 August, 2020
Student Intern, CESS
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
On last Wednesday (29/7/2020), our country has got a brand-new Education policy after a gap of thirty- four years since its first. The draft of the policy had already made headlines and sparked discussions when it was thrown to the public for feedback. Indeed, India needed a new Education policy that meets the 21st century “demands” with “deeds”. Finally, though waited long, the new Education policy has not failed to bring hope, novelty and essence in India’s future education system.
Being a student at present and obviously a part, parcel and a product of our present education system, I have had my own share of doubts, questions, ups and downs in it. I remember questioning the need to by-heart a long list of words, equations, answers especially in the early days of my education. I was confused, at times when I failed to find the applications of some “hard-learnt concepts” in our real life. I was frustrated when I wasn’t left with choices which are flexible to my taste and aptitude. This is exactly where I give a thumbs-up for the new education policy which is hell-bent on extricating the rote learning attitude from the system.
Another exciting feature in the new policy is the 5+3+3+4 format giving a special care and attention to the early childhood years. It is important for the Government to understand that a child rightly educated will build himself a man of value in his adulthood. This, in turn can contribute to the reduced rate of crimes, unemployment etc. India, called a young country with 50% of its population as youth(below 25years), can find its biggest strength in future by educating them. The introduction of vocational learning in the curriculum is indeed a promising step to minimise the sight of unemployed youth in our nation. Adding to the above, the decision to make under-graduation, a four- year course with an edge to research will surely ignite the natural curiosity of a student. This is sure to awaken the inner genius too. It is evident that the policy had given a lot of significance on language and multi-disciplinary learning. Although the decision to make mother-tongue as the medium till class 5 had induced frictions from many sides, it is a welcoming step to make learning comfortable and original. Also, the universalisation of free education till 18yrs with an aim to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio to 50% from 26.3% is a bold and warm step to ensure basic education to all.
One among many lessons the on-going pandemic has taught us is, the value of our own land. We have witnessed many of our Indian students who had let gone the comfort of the familiar to seek world class education to make a life they dreamt off. Sadly, this pandemic had made them suffer in foreign lands far away from their homes. Yes, I’m hinting on the promotion of India as a global study destination to offer the world class quality education which is a dream as well as a right of any student. India is also a country with a long list of fascinating dance forms, music and art. The new policy has not failed to remember this aspect by making it a compulsory subject in schooling.
Overall, I feel this National Education Policy 2020 is a thoughtful and comprehensive attempt from its makers to eradicate the most pressing concerns our system is facing. Undoubtably, this policy carries more of positive vibes that the system is going to be more flexible and holistic. Still, it is yet to prove and pave its way to our hearts and that, totally depends on the way it is going to be executed!
NEP 2020: Towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal
5 August, 2020
Student Intern, CESS
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
Education is one of the important social institutions which is fundamental and provides us knowledge and enables one in achieving full potential, and also to develop an equitable society. Quality Education has the power of changing the loves of people and promotes in the development of the nation. India is one of the countries which are highly committed to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. The Goal 4 of the SDGs seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all”. In order to achieve such a gigantic goal, the Indian government has resorted to configuring the education system such that the critical goals can be achieved as per the target.
National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is definitely a guide for the development of education in the country. This is the 3rd policy which has come after 34 long years that replaces the earlier in place 1986 NEP. The new policy has proposed sweeping changes across school and higher education. The new policy is brought up in order to prepare the nation to meet the rapid changes occurring across science and technology. Much emphasis is given for enabling children to create a holistic learning environment that prepares them to solve challenging critical problems. The new policy directs focus on experiential learning, critical thinking and stresses to create an environment that enables learn and enjoy. The entire curriculum not only includes maths and science, but also arts, humanities, literature, culture, sports, fitness thus for a holistic development. The NEP 2020 focuses to provide equitable and just education regardless of social and economic background.
The policy also proposed changes in governance as well by dismantling UGC, AICTE, NCTE which is replaced by a single education regulator. The target for setting up the policy completely is 2040.
The policy lays emphasis on regional language apart from Hindi and English. With a multidisciplinary approach towards teaching, the policy also focuses on shredding light on Indian knowledge and cultural values. The policy talks about the importance of teachers as the fundamental of the education system and re-establishes them at all levels.
The early childhood education is brought under the ambit of schooling, the curriculum and the board exams have reformed, syllabus is reduced and major thrust on experiential learning and critical thinking which is one of the talking points of the policy.
Though the NEP is ambitious it does lay down a road map for the upcoming decades focusing on stimulating learning. Much focus in the upcoming years to be given on the long-term implications where the policy must be implemented at all levels properly in order to meet its primary Vision.
18 July, 2020
“Rethinking School Education during COVID-19 and Beyond”
The world is experiencing the rapid spread of pandemic COVID-19. It has altered the life of everyone all over. While the main concern is about the infections, health facilities, mortality rates, economy, shattering jobs etc., there is also another prism to examine the major effect of this catastrophe. It is the impact of this pandemic on the education system, where almost all the countries across the world have shut down their schools and colleges and India is not an exception. According to UNESCO, (as of April 6, 2020), 1.6 billion learners around the world are affected by school closures due to COVID-19 (91% of total enrolled learners), affecting almost 181 countries. The impact of the lockdown due to COVID-19 is proportionally very high in India. It has had a critical impact on children’s education. Besides the disruption in the school year, there is a risk that prolonged out-of-school learn may lead to a kind of hostility towards school systems. The effects of the pandemic and its compulsory preventive measures has a kind of upended the life of students, parents and teachers.
The existing critical circumstances have also nudged for surprising innovations in education. It has changed the way students are educated across the world. This is not an exception in India where we are noticing a major shift in our education system. One of the biggest decisions taken by the government is the announcement of digital and online education. The pandemic has transformed the centuries-old, chalk-talk teaching model to one driven by technology. In the face of such a crippling pandemic, online education is acting like a life saviour. But these changes in education would change for the better – or the worse – in the long term. On one side, Urban India is juggling to balance virtual schooling of children and work from home; the other side, Rural India is striving for accessibility and affordability of digital assets for e-learning. This shift has also posed challenges to the policy makers to figure out multi-pronged strategy to manage the crisis, ensure inclusive e-learning solutions, tackle the digital divide and hence build a resilient Indian education system in the long term.
COVID-19 has made us realise the stark reality that remote learning isn’t a “nice-to-have”, but a necessity. The Draft NEP 2019 also suggests for a cautious approach to implement technology in education by keeping the education principles and objectives intact. With so many deliberations about the use of technology as an alternative mode, Govt. of Karnataka also constituted a committee to come up with guidelines for “Technology Enabled Education”. Recently, the committee submitted a report with recommendations for technology enabled education and suggested for a blended learning approach to provide a holistic learning experience to the students. The committee reiterated the need to come up with alternative modes of learning.
The pandemic also has impact on the migrant workers as well as the people working in the unorganised sectors. Also, the migration of people from metropolitan cities to their native rural areas can also change the whole structure of education system. Many migrant workers in spite of their economic problems had struggled to join their children in private schools in the metropolitan cities. But their migration to their natives has given rise to a speculation that there will be a paradigm shift from private schools to public schools, especially with the children of migrant labours. Our public schools are already facing major issues related to infrastructure, quality education, health and hygiene. So once the schools are reopened, it may also pose difficulty among the school systems in their capacity to design and implement effective school education. Hence, it poses a question about the preparedness of our public schools to provide quality education along with good infrastructure and precautions to the students with the limited resources they possess.
In the midst of all these existing and the future challenges, there are also talks going on by the government to reopen the schools as soon as possible with all the safety measures in place. The priorities and the challenges of the school authorities such as maintaining health and safety of students, staff and the community; maximising student learning; and also supporting teachers and staff, and in fact to have a strong foundation of the institution has been doubled. This situation reiterates the importance of a thoughtful and inclusive educational opportunity for the students. This has also posed challenges to the policy makers and educational institutions to build a comprehensive understanding on how Indian education systems should cope, since school may never again be the same once reopened.
Therefore, a well-rounded and implementation of effective educational practices is very much required for the capacity-building of the young minds that will drive the cognitive, health and well-being of students in the decades to come, and ensure the overall progress of India. These challenges demands for a ‘think tank’ to understand the requirements and also come up with a plan that will begin to address the needs of students and school authorities. The need of the hour would be to prepare school systems to face the pandemic now and also in the future, more effectively and with no prolonged disruptions, and develop a strong education system in the country as well.
1 June, 2020
India is flexible to Adapt in Chaos – Story behind the MASK
The day when Government of Karnataka relaxed lockdown measures from 21st May, 2020. Work from home reverted to office. Interesting adaptability among the street vendors is selling of mask, instead of battery covers, toys, cooling glass and hand kerchiefs. These were common scenes prior covid lockdown. Migrant groups from Rajastan, Jarakhand and west Bengal would be the front line to selling their creative toys. Now they are replaced with colourful masks. Every 500 meter of Bangalore Highway we can see street vendors selling masks. Mask with different colors, design and cloth materials.
Interestingly, had a conversation with a street vendor, aged about 26. I was curious to understand where he is from? What is the rate? How he gets supply? Where it is manufactured? What is his motivation behind? It was an interesting exchange of information. At the end one thing I learnt is the willingness to adapt towards the uncertainty and hope to build a livelihood out of it. How far it is sustainable in future? I leave this question to the reader and buyer of the colourful masks.
The street vendor is from shivajinagar, earlier he used to sell travel bags and college bags. Born and brought up in Bangalore only, Street vendor stated that “my brother pulled me in, we were out of business close three months”. Thesecolourful masks are made of fabric, nylon and polyester materials. Few varied designs and He has surgical masks too in his collection (see picture). Each cost varying price from 40 ₹ to 80 ₹. Attractive material and design would cost up to 80 ₹. Upon enquiry where these are manufactured? He was no clue about it, he mentioned that he is receives bundles of mask at shivajinagar at low cost and might be someone from local streets stiches mask and textile factories too. Since we received lot of stock today, we are out of selling. At the end of the conversion, asked about the customer response in Highway. He replied that, in day will be able to sell close to 10-15 masks only. If people movement increases might be able sell more.
On end we are witnessing migrants workers struggling going back to home throughout India, but here in Bangalore few are finding a way to alter their livelihood to secure their future. Covid and fear of covid may leverage the economic activity. Those who are able adapt quickly in response to uncertainty have become true to street vendors story. We need to live with this pandemic, what I learnt from street vendor is his acceptance, willingness and flexibility. During lockdown we saw how medical stores charged masks up to 100₹ to 500₹, amazon and flipkart ran out of sales for so called “N-95 masks”. People were literally panicking and running one shop after the other. Here we go Make in India is visible and demonstrates vendor’s story. Maskin India movement and Video tutorials in Arogyasetu app are building new space, hope and for confident India.
India's Response to Covid-19: Prioritizing Life and Service
30 May, 2020
Dr. Manasa Nagabhushanam, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Chetan B Singai, email@example.com
Dr. Sreevalsa Kolathayar, firstname.lastname@example.org
We have come a long way now, with the onset of third round of lockdown period due to the unusual COVID 19 Pandemic. Initially, elders at home who were fixed to a pattern of life did not know how to sit idle. Their routine has always synchronized with the clock. They kept engaged throughout the day. It is difficult to make them sit at a place, and their argument remains “if we rest, we rust”. Many times, we can't disagree.
For those students who were to give exams, examination was the question of life and death. But today both students and parents, who used to be greatly stressed, have accepted to go ahead without exams. For many employees ‘work from home’ had no meaning and was unproductive, but today it is a reality and reaping benefits out of it. Meetings using technology was confined to the board room decision makers, but today it is a common man’s tool. Passion and aspirations of learners are now fulfilled through the technology connect. With mixed responses, the nation-wide lockdown has been hailed by citizens of the country.
With emotions and a mixed feeling from the common man, India’s response to the pandemic has been timely and with preparation. It is appropriate to take stock of the unique and distinctive nature of our battle against the Covid-19. The country has been proactive in acknowledging the onslaught of the Covid-19 virus. Before the country reported any positive cases of Covid-19, the country had imposed travel restrictions and screening of international passengers coming from a country affected with Covid-19. Further, the government imposed a mandatory 14 days quarantine for all international passengers. Beyond this, malls, theatre, education institutions and many such locations exposed to public gatherings were sealed due to nation-wide lockdown from March 21, 2020, to April 14, 2020. The lockdown is extended to May 3, 2020 and this continues to May 17, 2020. This lockdown one of its kind in the history of independent India is the most critical and bold step taken by the government to arrest the spread of Covid-19, from stage 1 to 2. The government needs much appreciation in adopting a preventive strategy, rather than a curative one. In sum, at the national level, the response to lock down and the advisory of the government aligns to the spirit of 'one nation, one approach' phenomenon. The nation is witnessing a phenomenon of not only physical isolation but isolation from perceived social, political and cultural differences to fight the unprecedented pandemic. The concept of the well-being of humanity, ignoring any form of discriminations is deep-rooted in our culture and ethos towards 'Sarve Janaah Sukhino Bhavantu'.
Countries like China have authoritarian leadership, and it is easy to keep people inside the home using power. In democratic countries like the United States or European countries, people do not listen to administration and controlling people is difficult. The largest democracy in the world with over 130 crore population, India, has come to a standstill on March 22, 2020, with Janata Curfew (of the people, by the people and for the people), a curfew followed by the people, not imposed by the administration. Strength of Indian democracy!
At the global level, India has been lauded for its timely actions to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. Early actions were taken to screen people do testing and contact tracking. The COVID-19 Government Response Stringency Index developed by University of Oxford, UK to measure strictness of measures taken by government across the globe. The Index reveals India's response to COVID-19 is one of the most stringent in the world with a perfect score of 100 in comparison to USA, UK and other developed countries in the world with their scores ranging from 80-90.
There is something culturally unique in this country which money cannot buy. Amidst the crisis, the management of the pandemic in India is distinctive vis-à-vis most nation-states in across the globe. There is something unique which is working at the backend to take care of every individual in the country to face the situation personally, socially, psychologically and also spiritually. The Ministry of Ayush has taken a proactive step in developing a protocol to build immunity and develop the capabilities to fight the epidemic. The UGC and the AICTE have come out with suggestions to the student community to follow specific Yoga Practices and Kriyas to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enhance immunity and caring for respiratory health. AICTE has also called for Synchronized Global Prayers in association with Indian Yoga Association which have been circulated to all educational institutions across the country to pray every day.
The Prime Minister's call for lighting the lamp to make an effort to fight the issue collectively with a unified conscious was a unique way of energizing the people of the country in a situation of crisis and setting a positive mindset to look forward to the scenario to become better in the country. This process is towards building a universal psyche that things can work in the country's favour. The ancient saying 'Yadbhavam Tadbhavathi' which means 'as you think, so it happens', is the spirit behind the call. It was a surprise that many homes in the Arab countries also lit the lamps expressing solidarity and Unity.
It is no surprise, that how the entire country is coming forward to offer maximum help and unconditional support through making masks, running community kitchens, food distribution, delivery of essentials to door step and to help people directly or indirectly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. The lockdown period is challenging for many. There are so many inconveniences, especially for the financially weaker sections. This has not stopped the world moving. With the efforts from central and state governments and with public participation their needs are being addressed. Apart from this there are people who are also suffering loss of business in case of small business owners and also there is great apprehension on the possible economic slowdown for large businesses. Unlike other countries, Indian businesses have shown greater resilience and are prepared for a restart post pandemic.
India is capable of handling any eventuality as it has demonstrated in the past. Today India leads the world in its response to Covid 19. There is potential in the nation to face and cross this situation, through its well defined and devised policies, participation of states in decisions, effective and last mile implementation plans and more over the belief in its potential to achieve higher success levels.
The Indian society is organic, compassionate and resilient. Even if the economy falls, society will move forward due to its cultural and social values. Indian philosophy has always supported co-existence of life. Seva (self-less service) and Tyaga (sacrificing one’s comfort for others) are embedded in the very ethos of the nation and its cultural identity. These two lies at the heart of the path of karma yoga and we always observe a deep sense of altruism and volunteerism reflected both at individual levels and society at large. Whenever people notice that something is not alright or someone is suffering, they respond immediately to reverse it and bring about change. In India, Altruism and Volunteering are enduring instincts. During several, disasters that the country has faced the response has been constant. Indian mind-set is not just about gratitude, but it is also about giving and giving selflessly. COVID 19 has created that kind of feeling in people to set things right, making lives comfortable, give and give selflessly. All those providing essential services during this pandemic are risking their lives for saving others from the spread and suffering. Volunteer groups have initiated several volunteer programs through-out the country which reflects these enduring instincts. Such of those People who are aware of the situation, who have recognized the imbalance are conscious and will make the system work in the country. Today is the day to support such people and platforms that are keeping these long-lasting instincts alive in people. These initiatives are now more systemic and integrated. In the days to come these can be further used as models for handling global disasters.
Liberal Arts Education in India
The Draft National Education Policy 2019 submitted to MHRD, by the Committee for Draft National Education Policy, Chaired by Dr. K. Kasturirangan, has laid special emphasize on introducing Liberal Arts Education in India. The Policy sets its objective as ‘to move towards a more imaginative and broad-based liberal education as a foundation for holistic development of all students, with rigorous specialization in chosen disciplines and fields’. It also a known fact that the holistic living in 21st century requires inter-disciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to every aspect of human life. The Liberal Arts Education as proposed in the NEP underlines this fact. The purpose and importance of a liberal arts education today, as stated in the NEP, is to enable students to explore the numerous remarkable relationships that exist among the sciences and the humanities, mathematics and art, medicine and physics, etc., and more generally, to explore surprising unity of all fields of human endeavor. A comprehensive liberal arts education develops all capacities of human beings-intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional and moral-in an integrated manner.
Liberal arts education is not new to India. Indian universities such as Takshashila and Nalanda were the oldest universities in the world which were known to emphasize the liberal arts and liberal education. India not only lost its tradition of liberal arts education but also underwent drastic change in the way the higher education is pursued under colonization. As a result, the ecosystem of higher education in India changed over time and it has become challenging for the current HEIs, with some exceptions, to revive the liberal arts education. Pointing out at the importance of liberal arts education, NEP notes that a holistic and liberal education as described in India’s past is indeed what is needed for the education of India in the future to truly lead the country into the 21st century and the 4.0 industrial revolution. To take this forward, there is a strong need to orient stakeholders of higher education on ‘what’ is liberal arts education; ‘why’ is liberal arts education and ‘how’ it can be integrated with / embedded within the Indian education system.