Summoning Educational Equity

 

Envisage a typical classroom scenario. While everything is perfectly positioned as expected, the major missing aspect is a ‘Teacher’. Yet the students of a government school in Zazam near the Greater Rann of Kutch are not deterred from opening their books to study, expectantly waiting for a teacher. And the teacher does show up. Only it’s through a well-mounted TV. The students have noteworthily been taking their lessons through what’s famously called the ‘Idiot Box’. This innovative experiment is the brainchild of Maulik Patel working with Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training.  As a part of his experiment, he has reportedly installed TVs as teachers in 4 government schools where two-thirds of primary teachers’ positions are lying vacant leading to high-drop out rates. Consequently, the TV has triumphantly caught attention of students who have started reappearing in the schools again. The schools engage in methods like recording reading and singing which are aired in class TV. This situation strikingly points out the wonders that technology can bring to the fore in Indian Education. It also leads to another assertion that the grasp of ICT in rural Indian education if broadened, can compensate for many lacking factors. A recent HT report paints a dismal picture of the teaching sector in Rural India. In 2010, Kapil Sibal reported that India was short of 12 lakh teachers.

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The ‘Wh- question’

A research study by Sugata Mitra has considered school achievements as a consequence of use of ICT. There was a comparitive study of the results obtained in remote schools with an affluent private school. The sheer difference is appalling as the private school led with a score of 93% while the rural schools fared far behind with 63%. IMG_20140928_223809 The study further explained that teacher motivation hugely affected the educational quality as teachers in 11 out of 16 rural schools were inclined to move to an urban centre on account of better amenities and pay scale. And hence they were unmotivated to work in rural areas. This is where, E-learning can aid. Educational technology that specifically enable the learners to constructively self-learn and accomplish educational objectives without a teacher’s assistance should be introduced because it is remote areas that pervade the bottom of the pyramid. Hence, it is only at such places that alternative learning methods may work wonders in fixing the quality of education. One impressive instance of this perspective will be ‘The-Hole-in-the-Wall’ experiment (Minimally Invasive Education or MIE) by Sugata Mitra which has gained widespread  recognition. Given the advent of swanky laptops, tablets and interactive whiteboards in urban schools, government has been gradually inching towards attaining comprehensive E-learning by taking in its stride various initiatives. For instance, the ‘Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) initiative’ in Andhra Pradesh boasts of creating computer awareness by connecting learning with multimedia. It’s also known as the ‘1000 School Computerisation Project’.Teacher training has been imparted through the MANA TV Ku-Band channel. Around 19,199 government schools have been provided TV sets. Based on similar lines, Caltoonz CAL Project in Delhi and Head-Start in Madhya-Pradesh attempt to innovatively shape up use of multimedia learning. The most important benchmark has however been EDUSAT which was aimed at developing the rural population. It seeks to make up for the dearth of good teachers by connecting classrooms far away. Thus, Tele-education is on high demand today, as it forms a nexus between technological literacy in education and distance mode of education. This can also facilitate teacher capacity building. Teacher quality is another aspect that suffers gravely in many schools. E-Learning has an efficient solution for it in the form of MOOC. Massive Open Online Courses are a lot in demand today because  its easy accessibility, time and cost efficiency makes it affable in nature. And the influence of MOOCs have been so remarkable that even PM Narendra Modi has patronised its advent through SWAYAM – India’s official MOOC platform. Coursera, for instance provides many interesting courses for teacher professional development ranging from ‘Foundations of Teaching’ to ‘Handling difficulties in learning’. MOOCs are seemingly easy as you can access it anywhere and self-learn. It’s a Revolution in itself that has made global classroom a reality. The National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) is a government initiative that provides Digital resources. With around 13,773 registered users, the portal has reportedly already accounted for more than 45 lakh hits. Education Collaboration Network (ECN) seems to be a promising concept for teacher development through multiple resources. You can read more on it here. In alignment with government initiatives, the corporate sector can also magnanimously help in this regard thus simultaneously satisfying their Corporate Social Responsibilities as has been seen in the past with applaudable initiatives taken by Microsoft with ‘Jyoti’ project, Nokia with ‘Helping Hands’, NIIT with ‘MIE’ , etc CSR has continued to positively impact education today. Samsung has recently inaugurated a ‘Samsung Smart School’ in Baidpura and is setting up 140 Smart Schools across the country. The ‘Learn Out of the Box’ initiative by Vodafone India in partnership with Pratham aims to digitalize classrooms in 151 locations around India. Regardless of all these applaudable initiatives, the grim facts reported by ASER and PISA cannot be ignored. While on one hand, India has fared badly in Pisa, Finland has consistently been the top scorer.

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Why is Finland considered to be one of the best Educational Systems in the World?

According to a CNN report, Finland attributes increasing importance to strengthened educational equity. Teaching is the most desired profession here and a child’s socioeconomic background holds minimal impediment to academic performance. While this can be a tough game in a huge democracy like India, implementation of certain measures can certainly be ensured for qualitative enhancement. Why should technology be restricted to the affluent private schools only? Why can’t there be an educational equity in the technological aspect with the involvement of the disadvantaged schools too? A question that has to be reflected upon. According to Todd Oppenheimer , ‘Having Computer and Technology in the classroom will not only have a tremendous impact on the students but can also be effective in learning and teaching’. E-learning is definitely the need of the hour. Students will be inclined to return to schools. Drop-out rates will fall. Teachers would have an efficient teaching process with multiple resources at disposal.

Sources – http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-s–missing-teachers/article1-1269290.aspx

http://www.teachersastransformers.org/news-detail/1

http://www.teachersastransformers.org/upload/resource_doc/shiksha-sangam.pdf

Sahlberg: Why Finland’s schools are top-notch – http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/06/opinion/sahlberg-finland-education/

 

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