By Parinita Gohil
Infrastructure must be strong for the success of any tech based education program. Lack of proper infrastructure also means that sometimes students have to travel miles to reach schools.
Despite many impressive leaps in the education sector and the attention it is receiving from recent government policies, a lot remains to be accomplished. In terms of access to quality education, there is a massive gap between rural and urban India which requires immediate attention.
Where Rural India stand
ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) report findings at the start of this year, revealed that after eight years of schooling, only 43% of 14-18-year-olds could do simple division; slightly less than half couldn’t add weights in kilograms; more than 40% couldn’t tell hours and minutes from a clock; 46% didn’t know which city was the capital of India.
Strategic planning & implementation are the need of the hour to bridge this chasm between the urban upwardly mobile 20% who have access to quality education & opportunities, and the remaining 80% who are scattered across rural schools in India
This widening divide between urban and rural schools should concern everybody. Not only are a majority of our children are not growing at the same pace as the rest of the world, Fitch Ratings puts India’s potential growth rate at 6.7% for the next five years, adding that lack of access to education will impede India’s economic growth.
Any development in policy or infrastructure in a nation as vast as India, follows a glacial pace to reach the farthest corners or the remotest interiors of the country.
The good news is that India’s growing optical fiber network is allowing the tech wave to quickly penetrate the nation, allowing innovative Edutech startups to bring some relief to this challenging sector. Digitization of schools is proving to be the answer to bridging this divide caused primarily by the mentioned factors:
Lack of Easy Access-
The ease & accessibility of tech driven education solutions, whether through computers, or smartphones, allows it to permeate a much larger audience. Students have 24/7 access to the digitized course material and can subscribe to the self-taught approach.
Children, especially girls working to support their families, might be unable to attend regular school. Tech solutions can be curated to offer culturally flexible, inclusive and problem solving answers to these complex scenarios; for instance distance learning night-schools for girls unable to attend school during the day
Lack of Trained teachers-
There is reluctance in qualified teachers to work in remote areas. And there is a dearth of quality educators in rural areas. eLearning technology offers a solution to this problem as course material from qualified teachers can not only reach seeking students, they can also help to train the existing teachers working in rural areas, refining the quality of material delivered.
Lack of Interest-
Computers have an instant draw with students. Computer aided education brings confidence to students and also works to generate interest in parents who resist sending their children to school, owing to the promise of employment they hold.
Material delivered through audio visual aids is far more interactive, virtual classrooms create a bigger platform for these students increasing exposure through discussions, and simulated classrooms bring greater awareness to students cooped up in far corners of the country helping them feel more connected with the outside world of rainforests and world museums.
Lack of Infrastructure-
Infrastructure must be strong for the success of any tech based education program. Lack of proper infrastructure also means that sometimes students have to travel miles to reach schools. Creative building of appropriate content through technology, will help enhance skill and broaden horizon for these students, making the trouble of traveling to school seem worthwhile and thereby reducing absenteeism.
With distance learning tools, students can learn despite the absence of physical schools. Content once created can be reused in many different regions. Video lectures and notes can be made available easily to students through tech-based solutions battling the blow lack of proper infrastructure delivers to education.
Digitizing education will reduce cost & effort, minimizing infrastructure costs of education and making it more affordable
In its latest World Development Report, The World Bank says the percentage of grade 2 kids who could not read a single word of a short text or perform a 2-digit subtraction is higher in India than in Uganda and Ghana.
Creating student-centered courses are the need of the hour. Technology can help reshape the information we are delivering to these students, adding to the learnability factor. Material can be translated in regional languages for better understanding, so children going to school are not merely a statistic but are actually learning something.
As they progress in school years, the increased course choices digitization brings them, will allow students to choose courses that are of genuine interest to them.
Community driven localized content, which carries an understanding of cultural and socio-economic contexts, can be created for greater relevance instead of a one size fits all approach
Not acting now will result in today’s children growing into a burgeoning unemployable youth population with no opportunities. Efforts to digitize rural areas to ensure students receive the same science-based technology-driven education urban students do, requires immediate attention from government, NGOs, startups, Corporates and individuals alike
A UNICEF report states it is evidenced that on average, each additional year of education boosts a person’s income by 10 per cent and increases a country’s GDP by 18 per cent. Some researchers estimate that if every child learned to read, around 170 million fewer people would live in poverty.
Results are already in, evidencing the positive impact technology is having on students in rural India. There is a lower number of drop outs and increased number of rural students graduating and pursuing higher education.
Source: BW Businessworld