Here’s how technology has powered education during the COVID-19 pandemic
The story of human evolution shows how we have always adapted to survive extraordinary circumstances. While our history is replete with examples of how some of the greatest scientific discoveries and creative works happened during crises, human beings have shown remarkable tenacity in exploring and creating new options when what they are accustomed to is no longer available.
A 2015 study by The University of Oxford in the UK called The Benefits of Forced Experimentation: Striking Evidence From The London Underground Network studied the impact of a two-day Tube strike on commuters in London. It showed that a significant number of them were not travelling their optimal route. The strike forced them to explore and discover superior routes, bringing permanent changes in many of their behaviours.
That same trend is playing out on a global scale now, with people forced to isolate at home due to the pandemic. While the world has been readjusting to the Work-From-Home trend, a younger demographic is waking up each day to the Learn-From-Home phenomenon. However, there is a larger challenge at hand and many are unable to learn as India continues to grapple with a lack of qualified teachers.
Looking for guidance
According to government estimates, India faces a shortage of one million teachers, with a decreasing student-to-teacher ratio. Challenges to education have been exacerbated by restrictions due to COVID-19, especially for those from poorer backgrounds or in remote areas. There is also a vast variation of student-teacher ratio across states in India.
A report by the Government of India titled Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP) says that "A low student-teacher ratio indicates the burden on a single teacher of teaching multiple students as well as the lack of time that each student gets. Apart from this simplistic effect, in an institution of higher learning, a smaller number of overburdened teachers are also unable to pursue any research or encourage their students to do so."
Another major hurdle in the Indian education system is the lack of qualified teachers. Despite the 2009 Right to Education Act stipulating that all government school teachers fulfil the minimum qualifications laid down by the National Council of Teacher Education, as recently as 20016, the education ministry found that of the 6.6 million teachers working in primary schools, 1.1 million were untrained. While 512,000 were in government schools, the number in private schools was higher at 598,000. At the secondary school level, out of 2 million teachers, 14 percent lacked the necessary qualifications.
Filling the gap
Lenovo’s SmarterEd is our endeavour to bridge the country’s massive student-teacher gap with smarter technology. The platform was created in collaboration with eVidyaloka, an NGO that connects volunteer teachers with students.
This secure platform allows students, regardless of where they live, to find a teacher best suited to their unique needs. The multilingual platform serves students across social segments between Classes V to XII and across state and national education boards. The best part is that all of this is being offered for free. This platform supports English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu. English and Hindi and other languages will soon be available.
Using smarter technology, teachers and students are matched using an algorithm that takes into account their respective teaching and learning styles and empowers all segments of the society with quality education. SmarterEd is a secure, extremely accessible, enriching, and relevant medium for the present-day scenario, where schools across the country have been forced to suspend classes.
The teachers on the platform are passionate and talented volunteers with rural and semi-urban students, who are empowering India through better standards of schooling.
In addition to the 1-on-1 learning experience on SmarterEd platform, volunteers can reach out to eVidyaloka, to disseminate classroom sessions over the internet, subject to a screening process. India has made rapid strides in education, but we still have a long road ahead. At Lenovo, we believe that smarter technology can help us bridge this gap better, faster and more efficiently.