As the basic building block of the country’s growth, education in India has been constantly evolving its teaching methods with several startups at the forefront of this revolution. According to Inc42 Datalabs, there were 3,500 edtech startups in India in 2018. Between 2014 to 2018, 182 edtech startups were funded with a total of $1.34 Bn.
Mary Meeker in her Internet Trends 2019 report said that online education space has been attracting huge traction and growth over the past few years. As the technology becomes essential for the next-gen upgrade of the quality of education in India, the government has taken a step beyond allocating budget to support the Mission Education in the country.
After more than two years of consultations, the committee of draft national education policy, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has submitted the draft for public consultations.
At the core, the draft policy has “proposed the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems.”
The draft policy says that technology will play an important role in the improvement of educational processes and outcomes. The draft policy says that the relationship between technology and education at all levels is bidirectional. Here are some key points discussed on this tech+education synergies:
National Digital Library: Upcoming Challenge For Edtech Startups?
The draft policy says that the high quality specialised content will be made available in open educational repositories so that all learners have access to high quality educational content, copyright-free educational resources including textbooks, reference books, videos (ideally with subtitles), teaching-learning materials, etc.
These will be created and curated from national and global sources at all levels of education and in multiple Indian languages, and made available in a single online digital repository e.g. the National Digital Library or NROER.
They will also ensure that the library remains a high quality and up-to-date resource so that it will be of value not only to teachers and students in the formal education system, but will also be a powerful enabler of lifelong learning.
“Hence a mechanism for creating and reviewing these learning resources will be devised (e.g. through online feedback on quality, relevance, and usefulness of content from users, both teachers and students, as well as competitions leading to national recognition for outstanding content creation). Thus, the platform will showcase the work of the best teachers, teaching in exemplary styles, across the country in every subject, level, and language,” the policy reads.
The platform itself (as in the case of all shared resources) once piloted and identified to be more widely usable by NETF, must be maintained by specialist organisations such as the CDAC or by private industry.
The funding for this kind of professional maintenance of shared resources will be provided by the Central government.
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Improved Access Through Technology
The draft policy says that the use of technology will be to improve access to education for disadvantaged groups, including differently-abled students, girls and women, and students living in remote areas. The policy is looking for supporting technology for planning, administration and management of the entire education system.
Further, the draft policy advocates focused electrification of all educational institutions at the earliest, since access to electricity is a basic requirement for all technology-based interventions. Further, it enhances on the feasibility of sophisticated educational applications that can gather, process and share data.
The policy also advocates that to ensure that data is secured against misuse and that privacy concerns are carefully addressed. In the view of the disruptive technology trends, it is worth highlighting their implications for infrastructure, end-user hardware, software development, deployment and data.
The draft policy also notes that the use of technology in education is likely to require considerable investment in basic infrastructure such as electricity, hardware and connectivity.
Further, it supports that the educational institutions must be allowed to purchase and maintain institutional devices to support technology-based educational activities such as blended learning and computer-based laboratories.
National Educational Technology Forum
The draft policy says that the National Educational Technology Forum will be a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to improve learning, assessment, planning and administration.
The NETF will have the following roles:
- Provide independent evidence-based advice to central and state government agencies on technology-based interventions
- Build intellectual and institutional capacities in educational technology
- Envision strategic thrust areas in this domain; and d. Articulate new directions for research and innovation
To support the development of a vibrant body of knowledge and practice, NETF will organise multiple regional and national conferences, workshops, etc. to solicit inputs from national and international educational technology researchers, entrepreneurs and practitioners.
Hardware, Software And Data: Key Components Of Technology In Education
The draft policy says that the technology use and integration will be pursued as an important strategy for improving the overall quality of education.
Therefore, the focus will not just be on creating and delivering high quality content, but also on using technology to:
- support translation of content into multiple languages
- assist differently-abled learners; improve the quality of pedagogy and learning processes through the use of intelligent tutoring systems and adaptive assessment systems
- create new types of interactive and immersive content (e.g. using augmented and virtual reality)
- strengthen educational planning and management and bring greater transparency and efficiency to the examination system as well as to administrative and governance processes
- assist in the management of education such as supporting teacher development programmes
- scale up the ODL system so that it can respond to the growing demand for education from all age groups, across school education etc.
The basic guidelines for the use of hardware will be to prefer solutions such as cloud-based commercial infrastructure and personal computing devices for end-users
For software will preferably be FOSSEE and where necessary, the government will pay for professionally developing and maintaining the software, and will acquire the rights to distribute it to learners, teachers and institutions for free-and-unlimited offline usage.
Further, all public data will be owned by the government and will be used for improving educational standard. However, individuals will retain full ownership of their own data, which may not be used without their explicit permission.
The educational institutions can address issues in hardware and software through the creation of a large number of prestigious ‘IT Ambassador’.
The Tech Support For Students And Teachers Alike
The draft policy envisages that the teachers will be completely empowered through adequate training and support to lead the activities and initiatives related to the use of appropriate technologies in classrooms, and for all other uses of technology in educational institutions.
Further, the educational institutions will be encouraged to offer course credits to students who complete specified courses (especially advanced electives) online, e.g. via SWAYAM or other such platforms developed in the future.
This will include courses on topics such as IT Enabled Services (ITES) and other such areas of vocational education and adult education that can benefit from online courses. A National Education Technology Forum will also be setup under the Mission, as an autonomous body, to facilitate decision making on the induction, deployment and use of technology. This Forum will provide evidence-based advice to central and state-governments on technology-based interventions.
Using AI, Blockchain And More
To counter the problem of fake degrees, each State government must commission its own depository of certificates, like the ‘National Academic Depository’, for all educational institutions within the states which will leverage blockchain technology.
The draft policy states that at its core, artificial intelligence lowers the cost of prediction tasks that use existing data to fill information gaps.
“As the cost of artificial intelligence based prediction falls, artificial intelligence will be able to match or outperform even skilled professionals such as doctors in certain predictive tasks and will therefore be a valuable aid to them in their work. Hence, artificial intelligence’s disruptive potential is clear,” the draft reads.
Further, a National Repository on Educational Data will be setup to maintain all records related to institutions, teachers, and students in digital form. Also, a single online digital repository will be created where copyright-free educational resources will be made available in multiple languages.
Edtech Startups Skeptical On Implementation
Anil Nagar, founder and CEO, Adda247, says, “Drafting policies is the accountability of any government. However, what makes the difference is how they implement these policies. We have heard promises, we have seen revisions, but what’s been missing is effective implementation. Hopefully, this time we wouldn’t be disappointed from the government.”
At the same time, Zishaan Hayath, cofounder and CEO, Toppr says that the National Education Policy also highlights the importance of technology in education. It emphasises on using adaptive assessments at all school levels, across the country.
“This will help teachers evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of every individual student, and mentor them better. Adaptive practice has always been one of the pillars at Toppr. As the government moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach at a school level, we will continue growing the adaptive approach at an after-school level, Hayath adds.
However, Shobhit Bhatnagar, cofounder, Gradeup looks back at the previous upgrades of education policies and welcomes the new initiatives. However, he says that many issues still need attention.
“The proposal for pre-primary or early childhood education and the extension of RTE up to class 12 is a welcome move. In the draft, the govt has also shared the school enrolment rate which is 95% at primary level but reduced to 51% at the secondary level. This is a matter of concern and a reason to revisit our teaching methods and education system at the school level. It was proposed we spend about 6% of our GDP on education, but we haven’t been able to spend more than 2-3% on it,” he adds.