We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.
Education is the key to empowering students, helping them attain the highest level of human potential, and it gives them a passport to a better life. Einstein famously said that education is not merely the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Unfortunately, despite a heavy focus on education over the years, India has struggled to provide high-quality education to its children. ASER 2018 showed that even after four years of schooling, children in grade 5 could fluently read at just grade 2 level!
To add to the problem, the closure of 1.5 million schools during lockdowns in 2020 impacted 247 million children enrolled in primary and upper primary schools in India (UNICEF Data, 2021), fracturing the student learning process.
As online became the primary medium to teach across India, a large number of students struggled to continue their learning. Students based in rural areas or those with limited access to digital devices were affected the worst. According to the School Children’s Online and Offline Learning (SCHOOL) survey, August 2021, only 8 per cent of students from rural India were able to study online ‘regularly.’ The impact of the pandemic proved to be disproportionately harsh towards students from low-income communities. Today, due to this, a large percentage of students have lost two years of learning and the number of school dropouts has also increased exponentially.
However, while the pandemic disrupted education as we knew it, it also showed us new ways to reach students and accelerated the digitization of learning. At a time when conventional methods of education were not able to cope, inventive modes of teaching emerged.
Education Technology or “EdTech”, is a term used to refer to the technological tools and media that help students gain new knowledge, learn, practice and grow. It is not a new phenomenon but has gained prominence over the past few years. Moving away from the traditional model of education, EdTech offers an engaging learning experience, making long-distance learning accessible to all.
EdTech tools are changing classrooms in a variety of ways. Interactive online courses are increasing student engagement and learning. Students can now record lectures online and refer to them later for clarity. Interactive educational apps act as a tool to accentuate learning outcomes. Video tutorials provide a visually rich medium of teaching, often surpassing the efficacy of traditional textbooks. Topics which are often considered complex by students can be simplified using the power of 3D graphics and technology. Digital books, online assessments, round the clock learning not limited to school timings and teacher availability are merely a few ways in which EdTech tools are metamorphosing classrooms.
At the very core of EdTech is the fundamental principle that education is the portal to a prosperous future. The potential for scalable, customised learning, unhindered by locational boundaries has played a prominent role in EdTech’s rise to popularity. Students in remote rural areas can gain access to lectures by renowned teachers, oftentimes at a fraction of the cost. Poorer rural districts and low-income schools can overcome the challenge of lack of funds for books, infrastructure, etc, as online education can effectively be made available for the economically disadvantaged.
The current EdTech boom has marked a paradigm shift from traditional methods of teaching, toward an accelerated e-learning adoption. This also led to the remarkable growth of multiple Indian EdTech players, thus creating an ecosystem where technology-driven educational solutions can flourish.
Being popularly hailed as the new growth catalyst of the Indian education industry, Edtech startups in India raised $4.7 billion to come up as the third most-funded sector in 2021. They are quickly becoming the key to democratising education in India.
The scope of EdTech in bridging the economic gap in learning is endless. This is precisely why EdTech companies are steadily infiltrating rural India and creating new avenues of online learning. Discarding the “one size fits all” approach to learning, EdTech enables innovative ways of teaching which cater to the customised needs of different students. They also allow us to take a pioneering perspective to build a resilient system that can combat future crises.
For EdTech solutions to truly rewrite the educational history of India, ongoing challenges of access to digital devices and internet connectivity need to be urgently addressed. This holds particularly true for economically disadvantaged students.
The focus needs to be on making EdTech solutions affordable and accessible to all. While the government makes strides in this space with a sharper focus on eVidya and Digital Universities, we also need to simultaneously address the digital divide to ensure children from low-income households are not left behind.
The Bharat EdTech Initiative (BEI) is striving to bridge the staggering digital learning divide by driving access and adoption of proven EdTech learning solutions. In collaboration with 34 organisations, BEI is mobilising a digital learning ecosystem that can positively impact the improvement of learning outcomes for first-time digital users across India. By leveraging at-home learning time to ensure quality education, BEI aims to unlock the full potential of every student.
Technology in the hands of great teachers, community aggregators, volunteers, and parents can have a transformational effect on students. And that is the essence of EdTech solutions.
With the pandemic propelling innovative ways of teaching, EdTech learning is here to stay. The rapidly evolving industry is looking to open that gateway for an increasing number of students. By ensuring that technology permeates into the very DNA of education, we can facilitate enhanced learning outcomes through innovative ways of teaching, leading to a flourishing life ahead. An educated world is a thriving world. And that can only be achieved if every student has equal access to the education that they want and deserve. EdTech solutions are the answer to effectively uproot a deep-rooted and previously confounding predicament.
EdTech has the potential to be a great equaliser for education both in terms of access and quality. And, BEI is leveraging that potency to create sustainable and scalable impact to bridge the digital learning gap.
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