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Technology can enable the required disruption needed in education

By Mahesh Srivastava

2022 was an interesting year for education in India. Despite the significant shakedown due to high valuations and low returns, the indisputable fact is that India emerged as the edtech capital of the world. The private sector continues to play a key role, with the public sector acting as a facilitator and as a Result, today there are more than 4,450 edtech start-ups in India, helping more than 300 million students. Of these, 40 million are students in higher education.

The COVID-19 pandemic emerged as a major catalyst that suddenly brought technology to the fore and almost overnight edtech along with its technology and IT tools for inclusive, engaging and personalized learning became a buzzword. But that is only one aspect of the story. Today, in the post-COVID world, technology has become synonymous with education. Schools, colleges and other learning institutions have all jumped on the technology bandwagon.

This should also be seen in a long-term context. By 2030, India will have the largest number of young people in the world, a population size that will only be a blessing if these young people are skilled enough to enter the workforce. India will therefore need to lead from the front to ensure the global success of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The Indian education system therefore needs to create a climate for a future-proof 21st century India and technology can play a vital role in this. The good news is that the new Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) also puts a lot of emphasis on the use of technology – including the use of gamification and apps, tools and other technology-based processes and platforms.

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The pandemic forced many schools to look at other methods of educating children as doors closed. Some districts used Learning Management Systems (LMS), but others switched to educational tools such as Google Classroom. It provides a solid platform for learning to take place. It organizes many tools and resources for a streamlined learning experience for parents, students, and educators. Similarly, under the Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary programs, Cambridge International introduced digital literacy, learning how to use digital technology safely, children can protect their own physical and emotional well-being and learn the skills needed for future employment. Another new course has been introduced in Mathematics – Mathematical Thinking and Working (TWM). TWM encourages students to think like mathematicians, solve real-world problems in elegant and creative ways, talk to others, challenge ideas, and provide evidence that validates conjectures and solutions. This supported higher-order thinking that helps students view the world in a mathematical way.

Going forward, there are many other technology inclusion opportunities for educators to consider, especially in an ecosystem that increasingly encourages e-learning, both at secondary and higher levels of learning. Integrating chatbots – widely used by enterprises across India – could be a transformative addition to the digital education ecosystem. With the use of AI, chatbots can answer questions and help reduce the current workload of teachers, who can then focus on more creative tasks.

For students using eLearning platforms, personalized engagement and feedback at scale is a challenge. This is where AI can come into play again – not just to create content, but also to help with grading. The advantage of AI is that it can also improve over time, constantly learning and relearning from student and teacher feedback, and constantly improving recommendations. Over time, e-learning platforms powered by AI could give each student a personalized tutor.

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In addition to providing personalized feedback, AI models can also help reduce dropout rates that are currently just 4 percent at the elementary school level, but rise to as much as 20 percent at the higher education level. AI and machine learning models can also be used to predict the risks of school dropout among children, identify vulnerable targets, and help educators establish timely recovery mechanisms.

New technologies will continue to create exciting and interactive learning environments. Most importantly, a greater sense of accessibility and inclusion allows more people to benefit from life-changing educational opportunities.
Technology, AI and machine learning have the potential to significantly transform the education system – democratizing it further, raising standards of teaching and addressing some of the challenges India faces due to the lack of sufficient teachers.

The author of this article is Regional Director (South Asia), Cambridge International. Opinions expressed are personal.

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