By Mansi Kasliwal
True freedom is when an individual has the liberty and the means towards a better life, and education is the first step that can get us there.
For the individual and for the collective: More than 750 million adults around the world don’t have basic literacy skills. A majority of them are women. The ability one receives from education, even something as simple as reading a sentence, has the power to influence everything—from the kind of livelihood one can make to how much one can depend on oneself in times of adversity. When a child misses out on her education, she is deprived of this power of self-determination.
Attaining education has also been linked to core markers of what makes a secure life. As per the UNESCO, if all adults in the world were to complete secondary education, global poverty could be cut by half. Studies have found that high levels of education in communities lead to better outcomes in nutrition, and maternal and child health.
When more individuals receive education, the wheels of communities and the country as a whole churn forward. For India, this holds particular significance given our large, young population. Currently, the country has 255 million youth in the age group of 15-25. This is a massive opportunity for the nation to achieve economic progress by way of providing quality educational opportunities to the youth to help them unlock their true potential. India will grow stronger when its people have the agency to determine the future they truly deserve.
The dilemma of access: One of the most common obstacles in educational ecosystems is the lack of access and infrastructure—not enough children have a way into schools. This insufficiency further hinders the opportunity for students to meet the most important stakeholders in their educational journey—teachers.
Teachers put social justice into action through their work every single day. Yet, globally, there aren’t enough educators meeting the populations of students in classrooms. While India has about 9.5 million teachers, they aren’t evenly distributed by location or across the levels of education they teach. By solving the demand of teachers we can close an important loop in learning systems. This vitality of teaching is reflected in India’s New Education Policy.
Leveraging technology for catalysis: A 21st-century truth is that technology is making the unimaginable, possible. This is true for education, too. Even in the midst of the extreme uncertainty of Covid-19 school closures in 2020, technology helped teachers bring classrooms online in a way that halted rampant learning losses. A World Bank report on learning during Covid-19 identified edtech as one of the key aspects that ensured continued education while creating new channels for delivery at scale.
Edtech, however, isn’t only a pandemic response. It has the ability to bypass physical inequalities by leveraging existing and rapidly evolving technologies. India’s communication technology is the perfect example of this. In addition to having some of the cheapest data costs in the world, India is projected to reach 1 billion smartphone users by 2026. As a country, we are poised to take learning to the masses. With our collective ability, we can make learning available digitally at scale, particularly to those from underserved communities who may have little to no access to traditional educational infrastructure.
This is an endeavour that we have taken up at Byju’s as well through our Education for All initiative. So far we have been able to positively impact 3.4 million students from the remotest corners of the country across 26 states and 340-plus districts. Some of these students are not just children but also adults seeking to catch up on their education. One such project is our association with Masoom Foundation through which adults across all districts of Maharashtra use Byju’s products to supplement their learning at night school. These individuals are primarily school dropouts who are looking to better their lives by completing their class 10 education. More than 75% of these students are above the age of 25.
Beyond numbers and statistics, however, the fact of the matter is that each one of us has a social responsibility to the collective. For an industry like edtech that works in a space like education, this responsibility becomes enhanced. Given the potency of education in changing lives, it is imperative that we take the solutions we make to those in need the most. Social justice begins with quality learning for the masses.
The author is vice-president, Social Initiatives, Byju’s. Views are personal