Despite all the knowledge and hype, are IC technologies being utilised enough for the education sector? “No, IT has obviously not been utilised to its full potential in the Indian education scenario,” saysSomenath Nag, Director – ISV and Enterprise Solutions, AltenCalsoft Labs.“Although, many education institutions have started using technology, it is restricted only to computers and mainly for administrative operations. There is great potential for IT enabled learning particularly through digital content, enabling interactive and better quality learning. Technology does not restrict students to a physical classroom and enables convenient learning even at home, to supplement shortcomings, if any. More importantly, intervention of IT makes way for adaptive and personalised learning addressing the specific needs of an individual. Content is crucial for effective learning and this is best achieved through content that is adaptive rather than just literal translation.”
A big factor in this underutilisation is low operational budgets. AddsTony Sandberg, Director, Industry Solutions and Market Development, Polycom Asia Pacific,”Many schools and universities face serious obstacles to improving student achievement, such as large class sizes, high poverty rates, and geographical distances. Nearly all institutions are also under pressure to reduce operational budgets. To prepare students for today’s digital world and global economy, the teachers must deliver a wide range of information in several different ways to students, administrators, and other educators every day. Educators must also find innovative ways to enrich their teaching with fewer resources, to provide the best quality education even as class sizes grow.”
Another issue is that administrators and educators are tasked with doing more than just teaching. “Challenges they face include working to achieve increased access to education, managing instructor shortages, expanding students’ learning experiences, and keeping up with a constant stream of required professional development and training courses,” he adds. “At Polycom we believe the Indian market is gradually realising the benefits that technology brings to the educational industry. As such, with greater awareness comes the benefit of increasing adoption and utilization across the region. In a vast country like ours, collaboration technology will play a key role in extending the reach of education across distances and provide greater access and equity to remote populations. Our students are living and working in a digital world and accessing and consuming information in a number of ways; schools must therefore do their part in providing the tools to make their learning experience up-to-date, engaging, and effective.”
Understanding that effective education transformation can help increase student competitiveness, build job skills and competencies, support economic development, and provide social cohesion.
“ Intel’s approach embraces policy, curriculum, professional development, infrastructure and research. In India, Intel has been working with relevant industry associations, the government and academia on policies and curricula that successfully integrate information and communication technologies (ICT) into school and college education,” says KishoreBalaji, Head – Strategic Alliances & Digital Inclusion Programs, Corporate Affairs – South Asia, Intel.
So what are the challenges to optimal adoption of ICT in the Indian education scene?
Despite having an extremely strong technology expert community, India is facing issues in utilising their skills in the education sector. The biggest reason is a lack of adequate infrastructure. While education is a fundamental right in India, the right to continuous power and broadband connectivity, which has been recognised worldwide, is still a dream in India. It will take the governance some more time to realise the realities of our age- almost the whole world lives online, and it’s time we considered power and broadband as essential as water and electricity. Especially in government run schools, there is paucity of even the basic requirements; proper classrooms, toilets and learning areas including labs…network and power are still very far away. The business leaders need to collude with the government authorities and work out this issue of basic infrastructure before any technology advantage comes to this sector, on the grassroots level.
Says Troy Malone, General Manager, APAC at Evernote, “The adoption of technology in the education space is fast paced. More and more Indian schools and colleges are evolving towards this digital transition and are open to explore technology. Classrooms are slowly transforming from being teacher-centric to student-centric but there must be new models of learning including the use of technology. The use of technology in education is inevitable as students today are born with technologies, and we need to get technology to the heart of education. There is a need for continuous professional development, proper infrastructure and resources to facilitate professional development, which in turn will result in enhancing the learning outcomes of students. Technology combined with extraordinary talents of teachers and leaders can provide an opportunity to revolutionize education.
Agrees Sandberg of Polycom, “Driving the use of technology will make teaching and learning better and will give students the applied skills they need in the workplace. Video collaboration is one of the most important tools for today’s digital classroom because it is quickly becoming ‘the’ preferred method of communication within businesses, at home and schools. When it comes to utilisation, some of the biggest challenges which schools face today are broadband availability and access, infrastructure and funding, lack of teacher readiness and training which would enable the digital classroom and push adoption.”
Infrastructure seems to be the biggest challenge facing this sector. Another significant challenge is the lack of relevant and complete customization that would cater to specific needs of education.
Opines Kishore Balaji, Head – Strategic Alliances & Digital Inclusion Programs, Corporate Affairs – South Asia, Intel,” Some of the key challenges that we need to overcome on the road to digital literacy are the needs to customize and localize the digital experience in the Indian context. The government, industry and eco-system need to accelerate focus in addressing the domestic usage of technology. We believe that it is imperative for the Indian industry to expand this promising market for local technology services, with the government focusing on setting up centres of excellence.”