Education v2.0

The last few days have seen a bit of a furor about our graduates and their lack of skill sets and employability. In recent times, there are a lot of complaints about our educational system and the quality of graduates emerging from that system. I dont entirely agree with the blame cast on the system and have explained my viewpoint here. What I propose is an alternative to the existing system aimed at providing people with other options.

One of the major problems faced by  our educational system is the challenge of providing knowledge and learning to all students equally to ensure that none of them falter or are lagging. This means that teachers have to try to teach at a level of the slowest learner or try to ensure most students are able to clear the examinations through a process of learning by rote. Equally important is the necessary infrastructure required by schools. Schools and colleges require buildings, teachers and corresponding equipment for teaching students. Equally importantly, students need to have the opportunity and the time to attend schools or colleges. Lots of students miss out on an opportunity of education because they have to work for a living or the corresponding schools or colleges are too far off or too costly.

In an era when we have been using technology to solve most of our problems, small or large, it is time we took this as an opportunity to help our educational system evolve and adapt. There are multiple channels of technology we could avail but I would primarily like to discuss two models – one based on mobile phones and the other based on the Internet and Television.

There have been many reports about how the penetration of mobile phones has reached high levels, even in the rural districts of our country. Farmers and others are using mobile networks for business and personal reasons, thus helping themselves while also making existing systems more efficient and possibly eliminating the middle man out of the system. To help youngsters learn and improve, governmental schools, NGO’s and large universities such as IGNOU could work together to provide specific vocational skills such as better communication, a good grasp of English and other basic subjects , and most importantly career counselling for a large number of kids who either drop out of school or need to improve. Tying up with service providers to design Interactive Voice systems/ SMS Based teaching methodologies or phone lines where volunteers can try to answer the doubts and queries of children could go a long way in providing children an alternative to the existing educational system.

The other approach would be to follow the idea of Khan Academy or Coursera. This follows the concept of Social Entrepreneurship, an idea still to find its place in an emerging market like India. By building up alliances with Government and Private institutions of learning, we could build a database of lecture videos on a diverse set of topics and subjects aimed at making education more interesting and understandable for children who often get saddled with poor faculty and facilities at government schools.With state governments providing free televisions to so many, we can even tie up with television channels or DTH operators to provide these lectures as a free channel where students can choose the lecture they wish to view at any time they want. This facility of a wide choice of quality lectures coupled with systems for constant feedback and interaction could help poor students get better skill sets while enabling them to grow more comfortable with modern technology.

What I have spoken about is a very generic plan. However with burgeoning population problems, lack of real estate for schools and a rising student : faculty ratio, introduction of technology and innovative learning & teaching methods may be the only way to ensure that our graduating classes are capable of more than just performing a task by rote.The important point , is that our education system needs to realign itself to help the 99 % looking for vocation skills and new skill sets to adapt to the changing employment landscape. THe 1 % who have educated parents who can teach or guide them and can fund their education at better schools are NOT the target audience for these schemes. The government needs to remember that while implementing technology to aid the educational system

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