Technology has a place but it has to be kept in its place!
Ginnie Romety, the CEO of IBM, once spiked a thought, “Man and Machine always get a better answer than Man alone or Machine alone”. The recent announcement of the new integrated scheme for school education is a right step in the right direction but technology alone can hardly solve the fundamental problem affecting our education.
The changes happening in the last 10 years are significantly more than what happened in the last few centuries and our school education is woefully inadequately prepared to educate our youth to manage the change.
‘Content is king’ is passe. Today most content is available free of cost. We paid for call charges just a few years back but today all mobile calls are free. Soon data would be free. While this is happening to all of us, we still have teachers and schools where rote learning is the way to assess a student’s knowledge.
We have not moved from assessment to regular feedback; from testing knowledge to application of it; from testing memory to usage of basic information and from knowing to learning. The inability of our teachers, who were used to supplying information for decades, to move from providing content to create learning is the single biggest impediment to our school teaching. Flip learning, where classes are used for discussion while students finish the lecture and learning in advance, is just one way to jump start the process. Interactive whiteboards have been the craze the past few years in western countries, but many studies have shown that they are a huge waste of money. Most teachers use them as nothing more than projectors and those that claim to be doing “hand-on” learning with the class are able to engage just a few students. The old adage the teaching a man to fish instead of giving him one is still valid. Technology does not make a class necessarily interesting.
Focus on technology is a dire need of the hour but not knowing how to use it will simply replace black boards with smart boards, registers with excel sheets, manual attendance registers to bio metrics. This increases productivity and frees time but not knowing how to use the time can be detrimental to our education system. Internet has a place in school but kids in elementary level can live without it. We have experienced how children can adapt to technology very fast.
There is a consistent feedback from the industry which says they are not looking for technology skills, which can be taught very quickly, but for skills in writing and reasoning, work habits, ability to concentrate and ability to have face to face communication. The children of today need to know something about the problem before they use technology to solve the problem. Most education systems across the world, India being no exception, are built around the concept of industrial production system. They fail to realise that education is an organic process akin to agriculture. The prime task of the teacher is to prime students with curiosity and inquisitiveness and learning would naturally happen.
It is not an easy task to solve India’s education problem. Usage of technology and the government’s initiatives to spend money behind it are laudable. It needs a lot more work though.
India’ trinity of problems in education include solving issues of cost, scale and quality which is not easy for any solution to fulfil, be it technology or policy. There is a dire need to re-look at curriculum, classroom environment and the entire pedagogical processes. Finally, it has to lead to unlocking the imagination, creativity and critical thinking of the child. And last but not the least, the teacher is central to good education. If education has to improve, there is no way it is going to happen unless the teaching improves.
The current policy changes are a signal in the right direction and investment in technology is surely a badly needed step; necessary but not sufficient.
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