‘Tech a great enabler, will change education’


The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education, the role played by technology in aiding learning, challenges of digital divide, and the changes envisaged by the National Education Policy (NEP) — these were some of the key issues that thought leaders, policymakers, educators, and industry experts deliberated upon during a two-day education conclave that ended on Friday.

Focused on the road map for the future of learning with technology and the new order of education, the conclave saw wide-ranging discussions on a gamut of issues pertinent to the country’s education landscape.

Presented by Hindustan Times, the Lenovo Smarter Ed Conclave saw discussions on the New Education Policy (NEP), the digital divide brought to the fore by the shift to online learning during the pandemic, developments in education technology, upskilling teachers, and encouraging interactions with decision-makers across schools and institutions of higher education.

Policymakers and educators also discussed government policies, as they emphasised the need to focus on upgrading the education sector with innovative tools and ideas.

Amit Khare, secretary, Union ministry of education, on Friday, said that the spread of technology usage during the pandemic had coincided with the introduction of the NEP and together, the two would aid the shift to a technology-based learning experience.

Calling NEP a forward-looking policy, he said that it was being implemented gradually to avoid disruption, and would be rolled out based on the accreditation of universities and credential of institutes.

“NEP came into action in July 2020, the pandemic was in the air, and a large wave of technology took over. Due to the pandemic, the use of technology has spread at a much faster rate. It’s a positive development and needs to be leveraged. NEP is bringing the government and the private sector together and is enabling teachers to adapt to technology,” he said.

Khare said that while there were issues pertaining to the digital divide and the lack of devices, technology was a great enabler and would change the face of education. Calling NEP a transformative policy, Khare said that it encouraged critical thinking with a focus on employability and entrepreneurship.

“Over the next few decades, the landscape will keep changing. The skills that we impart today may not remain relevant in the next decade. Therefore, a spirit of critical thinking is required and that is what the policy brings about. It will encourage innovation,” he said

He said that the policy will empower citizens and while the results will take a few years to show, the policy was forward-looking. He said that the government was implementing NEP in a phased manner because it did not want disruptive change.

Karnataka is the first state in India to implement the National Education Policy (NEP), and the state’s higher education minister Dr CN Ashwath Narayan said that the policy facilitates effective integration of technology in pedagogy. He said that while there were challenges, the state was well placed particularly after the Covid-19.

“In the backdrop of emerging technologies and bridging digital divide, NEP was much awaited for the country and system, particularly to have a better future in the 21st century. There is a lot of lacuna in learning, because it is working in silos and we are not trying to integrate with the industry. There’s a disconnect between academics, industry and a complete mismatch particularly with regard to research and innovation. Probably, the one way it can happen is through education, innovation and technology,” said Narayan.

While laying emphasis on the future of education, Richard Henderson, director, Global Education Solutions, Lenovo, said virtual education will be a key component of learning in future. He said that the remote and blended learning model required technology and thus, it was crucial to build tools that allowed continuous learning.

“We shouldn’t need different tools when students are in the classroom versus when they are away from the classroom. Like a workspace, in education too, we need tools that are continuous. Education continuity is needed within a classroom setup so that we don’t have to retrain our students and teachers to use different tools. We need to develop collaborative and engaging toolsets for teachers and students,” said Henderson.

Dr Rukmini Banerji, CEO, Pratham Education Foundation, said that besides technology-driven engagement in urban elite schools, it was important to increase engagement between parents and teachers in public schools and built a personal connection.

Pointing out the different experiences of teaching in private and government schools, she said it was important to look at the present and the future simultaneously while taking cognizance of the challenges of the digital divide and accesses to devices. “We need to think about the issues of connectivity and devices in a more coherent manner as a country. In our experience, we have seen positive results where groups of children or communities have shared devices. In the future, we could imagine a library of shared devices which groups of children can access,” said Banerjee.

Speaking about the role of technology in teacher training, Ramya Venkataraman, founder and CEO of Centre for Teacher Accreditation, said access to technology was building gradually, even in remote areas. She said that while the development was not universally prevalent, there was progress. “Across the country, the access of technology at the level of teachers is increasing quite a lot which we are able to leverage in two ways for teacher education. There are parts of teacher education which we are able to deliver fully online. On the other hand, through local internships, teacher are able to put in practice what they have learnt online ,” said Venkataraman.

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