“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela
India as a young, learning democracy should ideally have education as one of its prime focus. Rightfully so our founding fathers have emphasized education as one of cardinal importance having included it in Directive Principles of State Policy. India has indeed come a long way since and our policy makers have ardently attempted to transform the elitist system of education created by the British into a more accessible, mass-based system, built on principles of equality and social justice. One of the most defining moments of this journey was the introduction of Right to Education into the ambit of Fundamental Rights through the implementation of Right to Education Act, 2009 and subsequently policy makers have worked hard at achieving universalization of education through a wide array of schemes and programmes.
The spurt in education and desire to progress has been met with various shortcomings. One of the greatest unmet challenges of contemporary India has been holistic education. Access to education is still a dream for many, especially in remote and rural locations with limited infrastructure. Equitable educational access is an ambitious and enterprising dream of modern India which aims to introduce marginalized sections as well as differently abled into the mainstream nation-building process and ensure their greater participation. Inbuilt monitoring and effective assessment systems, vocationalization of education through technology have been recognized as the need of the hour.
There is a myriad of challenges to be addressed and technology provides the answer to many.
- Internet and gadgets help supplement book based learning by involving interactive videos, images, presentations etc. This also helps to check exam-oriented learning and goes further to spread holistic education rather than mere literacy. It involves a creative and innovative process where eyes and mind coordinatse and comprehends simultaneously. It’s a move away from rote learning to inquisitive learning through applications like Ekovation and Flygrades.
- The internet is extraordinarily vast. This helps to expand the reach of learning much beyond the conventional books and inculcates the ability to think and analyze out of the box for the students.
- The technology is mostly free. Rich and poor alike, can equally benefit promoting inclusive education led development. For example, E-learning in the form of quality lectures delivered by renowned teachers and professors would be available to the multitude of masses for minimal or free of cost.
- Free Video lectures such as those on National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) by the IITs and on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) websites such as Coursera, Edx help by-pass the shortage of infrastructure and reputed colleges. Moreover, online classes by reputed faculty from all over the country and the world is making education accessible with flexibility of time and place. MOOCs also have the potential to address the looming scarcity of teachers at all levels of education.
- E-Learning is not age restricted. Thus, it also promotes adult literacy. The advantages of adult literacy have far-reaching effects which not only boosts the nation economically but also morally as progenies of future generations will reap heftily bringing to light J. Nehru’s long cherished dream of children being the “future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow.”
- Skill development is also promoted as the participants can interact live with the subject/industry experts using video-conferencing technologies. This provides a platform to enhance employment opportunities as the students are made aware of the skills they are required to acquire/hone. Additionally, it also enables the industry to put forward its demands and requirements thus opening doors to greater synergy between industry and education. Introducing vocationalization of schools and orientation of youth towards employability through technology India would have come full circle in the convergence of skill and education.
- The government is implementing NOFN and Digital India to spread internet to every nook and corner in the country. The next step now should be to equip schools with learning technologies. The principal requirement would be to distribute tabs to every school. The input will be very cheap. The output though, will be magnanimous. This is a step towards visual literacy which has greater impact and the human mind tend to remember images.
For example, the dreadful picture of a drowned baby, Alyan Kurdi provided the much-required impetus to expedite refugee crisis to EU.
With growing digitalization and awareness regarding the potential benefits of ‘Open Resources’ and the legal hurdles of the same having been addressed by TRAI, such initiatives boosting E-Learning auger well towards building an accessible, equitable ecosystem which provides quality educational opportunities to all section of the society devoid of conventional limitations. The most endearing challenge for E-learning is the existential digital divide which threatens equality and accessibility. However, the earnest efforts should be made to bridge the same especially by the Government and substantial benefits should be leveraged to the private sector to enhance digital access.