The killer app of education

Updated: Sep 4 2014, 20:36pm hrs
Away from all the current controversy about its nomenclature, its a day which brings back sweet memories from an age gone by. Memories of pausing from the relentless act of growing up with friends and observing the selfless adults who supervised that growing up. Our childhood heroes, dreaded monsters, compassionate story tellers, strict disciplinarians, people we both mocked and emulated, respected and feared, at times detested. Our teachers.

I have worked in education technology most of my adult life and been on the other side of the teacher-technology divide, and have exasperatingly watched the slow absorption of all the smart technologies thrown at education. At times, the technology designers felt that they could have solved the problems of education with their smart algorithms, if it were not for teachers. But looking for answers just here is barking up the wrong tree. In short, there is no digital shortcut to good education.

A process as intensely and characteristically human as learning has to be shepherded by someone who can create an environment of learning. No doubt, knowledge can be recorded in a structure within a computer, and searched at leisure or through a smart retrieval process, and elements of intelligence can also be simulated. But the capacity to engage the growing mind with that knowledge and to discern patterns is at its roots, a human process. There is a tremendous gap of meaningful role models for our children. Can teachers step in

Our society is very hungry for education. Burgeoning demand at all levels has created a huge industry even as the state has struggled to keep pace to either measure or regulate quality. But the nature of the industry is largely fragmented as methods of scale and process have not worked universally. A parallel tutoring system has almost overshadowed the schools. But both together are unable to unlock the potential of millions of young Indians.

We talk about so many solutions to the enormous challenge of education. But none of them have created any discernible and sustainable outcome anywhere in the world if they do not restore the inspiration to teaching. Teachers can re-ignite education if we can empower them to. In the teacher-curriculum-pedadgogy-technology equation, the central node is the teacher and that single node can enormously overshadow the other variables when one tries to measure final outcomes. The classroom of today is a very challenging place to be in. It mirrors the ubiquitous and democratic access to knowledge on the one hand, and the strife and conflict of our society and psychological self which inhibits the wisdom to apply this knowledge. Its a tremendous tightrope for teachers as student engagement gets scarcer. The teacher is forced to perform multiple roles from an empathetic guide, psychological counselor to a stage performer

Teachers need to look inwards too. Successive pay commissions have restored some pay parity with other professions. The recruitment scams and corrupt practices in teacher recruitment point out to a huge demand for the teaching profession in society. Over the years, the profession has definitely attracted a smaller proportion of the best and brightest of society. But still it attracts hundreds of thousands of bright youth every year. They can break free from the crutches of the past and build upon a career based on innovation and the thoughtful integration of technology along with much needed empathy. Growth opportunities shall open up for the educator who is a constant learner.

This is not just about teachers and their due in society. It is finally about the potency of education as a tool to smoothen the inequalities of a society as sharply divided as ours. Schools need toilets, food attracts children to school, the curriculum needs to evolve and one can debate its contents, we can connect every school through some kind of a broadband network, but all these together can-not get the joy to learning that we all must have experienced sometime in our lives at the hands of a good teacher. And without that joy, learning can-not be internalized.

Its time to download the true killer app of education and of society.

By Rohit Pande, Co -founder and CEO - Classteacher Learning Systems