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Transforming India’s learning process: How Digital India can serve as an effective tool for education

The value ascribed to a good education in India is akin to holiness. It is respected and revered, recognised and rewarded – in a personal or professional capacity. In Indian mythology, we often come across references to the sanctity of teacher-student or guru-shishya relationship, defined by the requirement of the student to surrender himself unto the teacher, and to trust blindly and wholly. In the same stories, we have come to learn that the education is not restricted to texts and scripture alone. It encompasses a variety of intellectual and life skills, necessary for an individual’s survival in the World. The underlying theme of such an education is that success is achieved across various facets of life, and not limited to learning a particular subject or theme.

Today, convention tells us otherwise. It guides brilliant young minds, to function within a focused frame of reference – subjects, streams, specialization – that is the way the concept of an education system has developed. From a time when the Guru delivered tailor-made lessons to the shishya, the student must now tailor himself or herself to fit the context he or she is assigned in their respective academic institutions. And as competition mounts, so does the pressure to perform and to outdo peers within that academic ecosystem. While there is no question that formal education forms the crux of an individual’s competence, there is perhaps a need to take a step back and evaluate how the attitudes of young students, their parents, and their teachers are impacting the students’ capability.

In the race to commend the ‘top 10 percent’, do we sideline the need to enable and empower the next 10 percent and the subsequent 10 percent, and so on?

Technology to complement teaching

It has long been asserted that more interactive methods of learning result in higher engagement and therefore, greater retention of educational content. Here, the role of technology comes into the picture. Each individual is equipped with a unique ability to learn. The implication for this, is that a common teaching method may not be successful, for example, for a classroom full of students. This may be as simple as the difference between theoretical and application based learning. It must be considered that the inclusion of technology in the teacher-student dynamic, can serve as a method to bridge the gap between varying styles of learning.
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A report by the UK-India Business Council states that India’s e-learning sector is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 17.4 percent between 2013 and 2018, twice as fast as the global average. This is a testimony to the increasing acceptance for the use of unique aids to build a student’s capability.

The government’s steady focus on progress towards a digital future for its citizens with the Digital India program, and emphasis on skill building with the increased investment on Skill India campaign, are shaping an ecosystem which can foster the seamless inclusion of technology in education. In order to take forward a generation of new learners, and to build upon their unique capabilities, those with a forward looking view on education are embracing the incorporation of multimedia content, as well as access to internet resources as a way to ensure inclusive education. In addition, new-age professional avenues, and a digital environment are making it necessary for students to be equipped to interface with technology, and create digital content.

The capability to use technology effectively today, is not restricted to using it as a tool, but to approach it as a skill that lends to an individual’s overall competencies.

Enabling the educator, ecosystem

The starting point of the use of personal technology in shaping a developing mind is enabling access to tools and resources in the home and at school. A strong foundation in the use of technology can aid a holistic learning process, ensuring that each student is able to use it to adapt their individual learning capability. The ecosystem constituting parents and educators needs to collectively view it as a foundational prerequisite to introduce a child to technology. The role of the educator in this process is more important now, than ever before. E-learning software, internet access, multimedia content, educational content adapted to an interactive medium among several other tools, serve as new resources to be used in education. But the facilitation for this use, towards collective growth for an entire generation of students, depends upon the influencers and decision makers in the life of a child.

In addition to transforming curriculum content designed for students in educational institutions, technology can also serve as an individual resource that allows a child to explore their interests, ambitions and to unlock his or her creative capabilities. In an environment which focuses on specific professional avenues, and restricts the possibilities for growing minds to flourish, technology can fuel the exploration of unique interests, especially new age interests which place technology at the center. From a hobby as simple as writing, to an interest in visuals and graphics, or the development of musical inclinations towards producing one’s own electronic music, and even the technological inclination towards coding and computer programming – the possibilities with e-learning are endless.

The portkey to an evolved learning process and exploration of creative capabilities, is a personal technology device which can expose a developing mind to knowledge and act as a tool to harness this knowledge. This is where the role of the personal computer comes to the fore. It can serve as a window to the world for a young mind – with easy access defining how students approach their interests, and how they imbibe knowledge as they move steadily towards their future. The PC has steadily built its relevance as a tool that complement’s an individual’s capability by enabling content creation and consumption – and early access as well as an understanding of its use in everyday tasks is a step forward towards securing a promising place in a growingly digital environment.

There is a need to see our nation’s young minds as a collective generation that will constitute our future workforce. To equip these minds, we must make our way towards a future where it is seen as a necessary prerequisite to include technology as key component of learning – at school, and at home – encouraging an independent inclination to learn and be engaged by the vast sea of knowledge available. Adding the personal technology advantage to the teacher-student duo can go a long way in transforming the way individuals learn today and in enabling inclusive growth. At the same time, using technology in the home ensures continuity of a transformative learning process for an individual. Breaking away from the conventional and deeply practiced norm of learning, a qualitative approach to learning and development will go a long way in building a nation of creators, who will drive the growth of a digital economy.

Read more: Firstpost