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Technology Should NOT be the Focus of India’s Educational Strategy

By Guest Writer on November 2, 2011

I am Pritam Kabe and I just spent the past 3 months in India looking at the education system and how ICT could play a role in improving student outcomes.

India’s Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal displays the supercheap Aakash Tablet computer

After countless discussions with local scholars, school visits, teacher interviews, and conversations with students and parents (both in rural and urban India), I’ve come to the conclusion that lack of technology is not the reason for the abysmal quality of basic education in India. There is already great wastage in ICT4E in India and $35 tablets will not improve the situation.

In my opinion, here are the top 3 things India needs to do for improving quality of education, and none of them involve technology directly (although technology can be a powerful tool in addressing these issues if used the right way):

1) Make the Teaching Profession Valuable:

Currently, majority of the educated youth in India choose teaching as a profession only after other options are exhausted. As a result, the wrong people are entering the teaching profession – people who are not motivated, and are really not interested in teaching. Ofcourse, India being a democracy, one cannot stop people from choosing any career they want.

But what one can do is improve the process of teacher eligibility/selection, and improve the value of a school teacher. Similar to some of the Scandinavian countries like Finland, the teaching profession needs to be made respectful in India….on par with the Engineering, Medical, Law professions. Easier said than done ofcourse, but India desperately needs to bring some fresh blood and enthusiasm in the teaching profession.

2) Address the Teacher Accountability Issue:

After the 6th Pay commission gave teacher pay and benefits a great boost, the implementation of the Right to Education Act has put heavy emphasis on the inputs to the education system – infrastructure, student enrolment rates etc. Yet, 65% of the teaching resources are wasted in India due to the combination of teacher absenteeism and teacher inactivity in school classrooms. And the main reason being the lack of accountability.

The teacher unions have become disproportionately powerful, with heavy political connections, due to which there is total lack of monitoring – the school inspections are a joke. Also, there is a huge demand and heavy shortage of teachers in India (unofficial number is 3 million), which is not helping in improving accountability. Policy makers and the people in power in India know about this issue, but are very hesitant to deal with it. But i think it’s about time, India stops shying away from it and starts addressing the teacher accountability issue.

3) Improve Quality of Demand:

One cannot blame the Indian government for all the educational problems. Equal responsibility has to be shared by the people. Talking to the locals/parents in India, i got a feeling that the people have lost faith in the public education system due to its poor quality. They have given up hope. And the fact that the educated, well-to-do population send their kids to private schools, makes it difficult to motivate them to care about India’s public education system. But that needs to change.

India needs a better quality of demand. And this starts with the educated population, motivated, helping out, and demanding a better quality of public education. The illiterate population and the locals/parents from the under-privileged communities, need to be educated about their rights, the need to be given a voice/hope, that good quality public education is their right and the government needs to deliver it. It is also critical that the disproportionate power of the teacher unions is counter-balanced by some sort of parent unions, or student unions.

Final Thoughts:

With the inputs to the education system taken care, it’s about time India starts focusing on student outcomes, and on improving the quality of education. And although technology has an important role to play, it is not the silver bullet, and should not be the focus when creating any educational strategy in India.

The focus should be the 3 things mentioned above – raising the value of the teaching profession, addressing the teacher accountability issue, and improving the quality of demand in India; and technology should be used as a tool to supplement other tools that address the social, cultural and economic realities on the ground.

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3 Comments to “Technology Should NOT be the Focus of India’s Educational Strategy”

  1. Thomas says:

    You are correct, the current education push for what could be the right technology at the wrong time.

    [ We erroneously think that one size fits all approach, that is delivered individually through cool technology, is miraculously transformed into a personalized, one to one, learning environment. It’s not. Individual delivery is advanced, but not individual learning outcomes. For best learning and learning transfer outcomes, make certain that your learning and learning delivery is first truely personalized, then is delivered individually via cool technology].

    I would also add to your article:

    i. The current one-to-many teaching methodology (think lecture) is not effective or efficient in individual learning or individual learning transfer (research proven)
    ii. Adult learning theory and accelerated learning methodology ( think personalized learning ) needs to be the learning focus for the future 9research proven). Johnny doesn’t learn because the traditional one to many teaching approach is flawed.
    iii. Learning technology is only appropriate in two situations:
    a. If it delivers truely personalized learning methodology to each participant, then
    b. It provides bettered access to personalized learning methodology

    A traditional one to many course delivered to a tablet, laptop or a phone delivers porr learning, faster. It does very, very little, if anything in improving individual learning and individual retention.

    The research proven, blended, learning theory, must drive the reform, not the technology. We have the sequence reversed.

    Note that very afforable, brain based, research based, student proven, teacher facilitated, ROI calculated, personalized learning technology is available and has been since 2000 and can be resold world wide.

    For some reason there is education resistance to research validated, effective and efficient learning methodologies, supported by technology, consistent with organizational strategic objectives and outcomes.

    My web site http://mcdonaldsalesandmarketing.biz provides copious supporting third party information for all of the above claims. Tom

  2. Jyoti says:

    Pritam has hit the nail right on the head when he says that it is the quality of teachers that needs to be addressed if our education system has to become effective. Finland is a case in point! In fact, it is not only true for India but across the world.

    Swami Vivekanand has very aptly said that a teacher should have the following 3 qualities
    1) knowledge of the spirit of scriptures
    2 )Strength of character
    3) should teach only for the love of the subject and not for money

    I understand that in our modern day world this may sound too idealistic but the fact still remains that we need good role models as teachers and that we will never get if the selection procedure remains what it is today where teachers are selected on the basis of qualifications, age and experience. Attitude does not play a part at all! In this huge country of ours I do believe that if we select teachers for their attitude, irrespective of their age and experience we would start moving in the right direction.

  3. Sweety Kaur says:

    An inspiring write up for the further improvements of education system of India too.

    Yes I totally agree with you and I even to note another point that our public schools should be practical rather than just look at completing the portion of the semester. The management should introduce programs like Xseed which inspects the school curriculum (http://www.xseed.in/), helps them to take the necessary actions like improving the teaching skills, conducting regular test so that the learning of child can be measured. Lastly looking forward to some changes in our education system.