A Chinese proverb says, “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” These difficult times of the pandemic have made everyone rethink all their plans, be it a short-term or long-term plan; be it an individual, a government, or an international organization. There are important lessons to be learned; ways to rethink stuff are required in almost every field. The education sector is no exception. There are clear indicators of how the education sector will evolve and what can be done to achieve growth. For one, the union cabinet approved a new education policy on July 29, 2020, after a 34-year gap. Also, a proliferation of online teaching setup and online teaching apps is a strong indicator of the rising need for online education. Moreover, students are focusing on self-study rather than being spoon-fed by teachers.
Online education is in it for the long haul. It is kind of an acquired taste really, both among students and teachers. It took the pandemic to push them into trying it, but make no mistake, the innate benefits of online education will be a driving force in its growth long after the pandemic has passed. Our country India has a per capita income of around $2000 while having the best demographic dividend, a young and enthusiastic working population. We need to devise new and more economical ways of imparting education to our students. Fortunately, we see a lot of online teaching apps that allow online teaching through mobile. Not every teacher can afford a laptop to work with, neither is a laptop very handy. So, this focus on innovation for simplification, flexibility, and increased access to online education in a country like ours is appreciable.
Likewise, the National Education Policy 2020 announced by the MHRD also seems to be conducive towards providing a more flexible learning experience to students. The goal is to transform the entire Indian education system by 2040. The policy aims to eliminate problems of pedagogy, inequities, access asymmetries, and rampant commercialization. There are however many roadblocks along the way. For one, education belongs to a concurrent list, hence any educational reform can be implemented only with support from the states, and the Centre has a mammoth task of building consensus on many ambitious plans. Progress also crucially depends on the willingness to spend the promised 6% of GDP as public expenditure on education. The NEP is also set to provide a significant impetus to the role of technology in all aspects of education. The government has planned to set up a new autonomous body- the National Educational Technology forum as a dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content, and capacity building in MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.
It is good to know that the government has realized the need to allocate resources towards developing the architecture for online teaching. Online teaching apps have several advantages like expert assistance, a flexible environment, lower costs, more choice of course topics, ample amount of teacher-student interaction, easier batch management, and lots of good opportunities to list a few. Government should also provide support to the entrepreneurs who are working very hard to revolutionize the online teaching industry. Enhanced features like providing the flexibility to do away with a computer for online teaching and instead use a mobile phone are proving to be a game-changer in the digitalization of education. Our government has a mindset that is best portrayed through the motto, ‘Minimum government, maximum governance. With the increasing complexities and needs of the business and education world, it is imperative to leave these fields in the hands of private players and provide them support to get the best possible outcome. Thus, governments’ job is to advertise and promote the wonderful innovations in the field of online education and facilitate more and more teachers and students to be a part of this ecosystem.
So, there is a lot of turbulence in the education industry driven by the pandemic. And there is a lot of promise in online education as a solution, both to the problem of achieving social distancing and also social equity by providing the same education to a student in a remote corner of our country to one sitting in a metro city. And that is an outcome worth striving for.