There has been a paradigm shift in the very ethos of learning. The tools and methods of imparting a robust education have transformed. The surprising thing is that with hardly 10% of the over 1.3 million schools across India that have adopted some form of Smart Classes & Digitized Learning Solutions, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the potential that the country presents for an Education Revolution.
Having said that, we need to pause and take stock of how we are moving forward. We need to ask ourselves if perhaps we are diluting a very essential ‘human’ element from our teaching practices in lieu of blind-digitization and technology adoption. The answer to progressing in a holistic manner, I think, is to strike a balance.
Digitization with a Conscience
Traditionally, Indian school systems & boards did not call for much ‘exploration’ or ‘questioning’ from a student. What was to be learned was in a text book and as long as a student committed that material to memory, he or she would fair well. Now, with the introduction of International boards such as the Cambridge system and the International Baccalaureate; pupils are being exposed to a different way of learning. By research, exploration, consolidating their thoughts into a definite yet very individual opinion. Seeing this trend, Indian Boards too are overhauling their curriculum to become more ‘discovery-based’. This calls for resources outside of prescribed texts. A lot of what is called Secondary Research is now the need of the hour. This naturally means increased reliance on the Internet.
In this milieu, the growing adoption of smart classes and internet usage at school is great. However, a balance needs to be struck. It is a well-known scientific fact that not only does over-exposure to any kind of ‘screen’ adversely affect a student’s faculties, it also prevents the development of the brain itself. So to limit exposure to screen/online time is a must. To have the technology and have access to it is great, if permitted in monitored, regulated intervals. The second aspect to this digitization, arguably more important, is to ‘control & curate’ the actual content that is being disseminated and consumed by young students. If looked upon as an opportunity, digitization in education can become a great tool to make students aware and sensitive towards a variety of pressing global issues. Screening short films that are entertaining yet delivering a social message is one great way of inducing some conscience into the digital-wave. A film on Gender Equality, a Documentary of Animal Cruelty are examples of how Educators can harness the power of digitization towards a more deep and meaningful education, rather than employing screen-time only for academic-syllabus related viewing.
Back to Nature
While we are busy embracing the tech-fest that is on globally, we also need to make a conscious effort to reacquaint the young learner with nature. An almost forgotten and instinctive relationship that our forefathers shared with the planet and the environment has now given way to copious amounts of time in urban, constructed settings. If it is an outing, it will be to the Mall. If it is leisure time, it will be playing video games within the house. If it is a birthday celebration, it will be at an air-conditioned play-area!
I feel that an emerging trend for education in the coming year will be a much-needed return to nature and natural surroundings. Students need to be out and among natural settings. Not only does being outdoors literally open up the mind’s eye to newer possibilities, it develops an awareness and a bond between man and planet. Camping, Afforestation trips, river rafting, cycling, trekking; are all great outdoor pursuits that are invigorating, uplifting, and extremely educative in a variety of ways, from exposing children to flora & fauna, natural phenomena, and giving them the opportunity for genuine adventure, which, at the end of the day, arguably more than a text book, is what will shape their characters and make them evolve into independent, strong-willed individuals with the potential to lead the future.
This cradling of values and a oneness with the self and with the environment, and a courage of conviction to lead, is best developed in nature. It must be encouraged, and with a few schools now taking the lead in returning their pupils to the lap of nature, it can become a healthy, and welcome trend for 2019.
Collaborate to Educate
The final aspect of a changing education landscape is a pressing need for Education to be seen and practised as a collaborative effort. Gone are the days when students will accept just about anything from their teachers and educators. Students today will question, disagree, and want to be convinced. This is a good development because it makes students hone the vital skill of forming opinions.
Having said that, it is a change that educators will not just have to accept but embrace. Discussion-based classes will be much more palatable to upcoming generations of learners rather than lecture-based teaching. Brainstorming on ideas for projects, events, even answers to academic questions will prove to be a much more effective way for teachers to engage with students and impart a meaningful education rather than dictating answers that learners don’t know the genesis or reasoning behind.
The Educators of tomorrow therefore have to keep abreast with the latest. They must also be intimately familiar with the likes and dislikes, interests and leanings of the generation of students they are teaching. Because for any kind of real engagement between teacher and pupil, the teacher must be able to reference the student’s world and world-view. He or she has to be well versed with the worlds the students inhabit. With depleting attention spans and a myriad of instant-entertainment options, it is the easiest thing for a student in class, to lose interest in the lesson. It is therefore only through a genuinely involving and joint learning process, where educator and learner are equal stakeholders, will a robust education be imparted.
With these three pillars of a new education system, we can rest assured that 2019 has the imminent potential of resurrecting the guru-shishya relationship that once was. The future looks bright, just as long as we are careful about a few vital elements.