By Umesh Kumar
India is a diverse country – not only in terms of religion and caste but also in terms of geographical divide and economic perspective. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 focuses on improving both access and quality of education. This is where the advent of education technology (edtech) can help meet the goal of NEP in making learning more holistic and experiential. Though NEP-2020 focuses hugely on online education and hybrid mode of education, this diversity creates a lot of problems (particularly in online education) like language barriers; Geographical diversity creates digital infrastructural challenges. Moreover, there is always a question of the credibility of the existing online courses. The bigger challenge is the lack of motivation which we saw in the pandemic, or it might so happen that all children do not get the same parental support toward education. Therefore, it is necessary that children are self-driven towards reading and gaining knowledge which can be gained if the books or content is made interesting and dynamic.
Today, edtech has enabled teachers and parents alike to accept and adequately address the fact that each child’s educational journey and needs are different. Edtech allows children to have a tailor-made learning experience and meet these needs at their own pace. Bharat EdTech Initiative launched as a joint venture by GiveIndia and Sattva foundation aims to enable online education for 1 million underprivileged school-going children. Their content is available in 9 languages. Another notable example is that of the Indian unicorn and arguably the world’s largest edtech company, BYJU’S. The company aims to empower 10 million children with education by 2025 through its flagship social impact initiative called ‘Education for All’. The EFA program is based on digital learning and the content is made in 10 languages. Students can learn at their own pace which is a huge support for kids with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other attention disorders. The ‘Help India Learn’ initiative by Vedantu is another program working towards the education of kids who lost their parents during the pandemic.
The NEP has rightly called for extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, while also removing language barriers by making e-content available in regional languages. Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan already had digital education as an important component of the scheme, which was to be implemented through enhanced use of technology through smart classrooms, digital boards, and DTH channels. This shall now be reinforced through the latest education policy.
Providing high-quality free and compulsory education to all students aged 6-14 is not only a fundamental right now but also the moral duty of a welfare state like India. However, since education is a concurrent subject, it needs careful planning, joint monitoring, and collaborative implementation between the Centre and States. Leveraging technology in education can help India and the world achieve the goal of quality education for all by 2030 (SDG 4). Edtech or education assisted by technology can be the answer to achieving that tall task.
The author of this article is former executive director (India), Asian Development Bank. Views expressed are personal.