E-Learning Platforms allowing Students to Progress, Based on their Intellectual Capacities and the Levels of Comprehension

Nitu Channan, An alumnus of Punjab University, Chandigarh, is a silver medalist and an accomplished academician with almost two decades of experience in various academic and administrative assignments.  .

She believes today the role of a school is not only to impart knowledge that encompasses the prescribed syllabi of the institution but that of the world beyond the classroom, it should enable and equip children to lead a happy, productive life.

Her passion for education and all round excellence, strong interpersonal skills makes her a natural leader and her integrity and strong sense of purpose inspires her team to achieve focused objectives. A dynamic and highly motivated team leader she has been a key functionary in translating and executing the management’s vision for MADE EASY SCHOOL as a premier educational institution.

Nitu Channan, in an interaction with Ekta Srivastava, Education

Please tell us something about Made Easy School. Its concept and uniqueness

Education for the future is most accurately represented as a journey – a journey of exploration. This journey is guided by compasses, rather than maps: and the explorers in this journey are those who possess strong analytical skills, a knack for problem solving, adequate creativity and are humane in thought and actions. Delivering innovative education has been the inspiration of the Made Easy Groupfor starting the MADE EASY SCHOOL, a progressive, CBSE, K-12 school in Bandhwari, Gurugram.  Spread overa sprawling campus of 25 acres, the modern state of art facilities, nestled in the lap of the Aravalis away from the hustle-bustle and pollution of the city. Designed to be in complete harmony with nature we have naturally lit, spacious smart classrooms, open learning spaces, well equipped library, multi sensorial lab, an indoor sports complex for year-round sports activities and many such thoughtfully crafted amenities to enable your child to embark on his/her journey to a bright future. The school inspires an idyllic where children realize their full potential with expansive and empowering learning opportunities and unlock multiple avenues to explore themselves. The school provides an inclusive environment for learning that teaches every child to be sensitive, empathetic and accepting of the differences – be it language, culture or ability. MADE EASY is committed to building a value system that embraces diversity. The school focuses on sustainability education and is completely environment friendly. It has solar power plant for the entire campus, facilities for rainwater harvesting and its own STP plant where water is recycled and reused. The school is developing its own organic farm to grow in-house fruits, vegetables and grains which will be used for preparing meals for children in school.

What are the new situations and corresponding problems Indian education societies face nowadays.

Since Independence, there have had been many educational related challenges that have been addressed every now and then. These challenges range from improving quality of education across levels to making education affordable, free and compulsory education to everyone andthus leading to the improvement of the literacy rates.

Though, education literacy level has improved over the period of time in the urban areas of the country, primary and secondary school education in rural India is still facing severe challenges where a large number of students are still without an opportunity to study in a school. Societal influences based on gender, feudal and caste based disparities disrupt equity in education delivery. Inadequate and unequitable resources, woeful lack of basic infrastructure and poorly functioning schools, lack of books and learning material.

  • Low levels of learning and achievement because of the poor quality of education.
  • Shortage of staff, lack of interest and motivation amongst teachers. High rate of teacher absenteeism and vacant number of seats in the teaching domain with very less number of takers in rural India.
  • Teachers need to be professionally trained, adequately paid and well-motivated.
  • Ever increasing population: Demand far exceeds supply.
  • Poverty; believing in more working hands means more income in the family thus dissuading children from going to school and high.
  • Indifferent attitude of rural population towards girl child education.
  • Unskilled teaching staff.

Under new situations and challenges, what relationships should schools pay more attention to in the process of innovative development?

  1. Teachers need to be professionally trained and continuous workshops and trainings for teachers to update their knowledge in their subject and in the field of technology and latest teaching methodologies.
  2. Education system should be such that it focuses on practical knowledge and skill based education which ensures employment to one and all.
  3. Absence of Entrepreneurship development scheme: The majority of the students want to get a job after finishing their education and not risk starting their own business. Our education system should be such that it should generate enthusiasm to become a business person and generate employability options for others.
  4. Empowering teachers by imparting them special skills to handle technology requires special focus as it is crucial to the success of the mission.  The national skill development in concert with the AICTE and CBSE must evolve a robust strategy to fast track this urgent imperative.

Do you think India has adequate technology usage and adoption in the education sector? What more can be done in your opinion?

Technology has significantly contributed to the reach of education in the farthest most areas of the country and will continue to do so in future as well with many upcoming tech innovations impacting teaching methodologies. Not only in the online education segment, has it also created a strong foothold for itself in schools and colleges where smart classes have been one of the major and attractive USP for the kids.

Overcoming regional challenges in a diverse country like India are unique.  In many areas primary education is still being imparted in regional languages leading to the challenge of creating multiple content platforms

Another aspect of digital education is accessibility and affordability.  Digital education applies to only the upper middle class schools in metros and tier one cities which are funded privately. The access to basic infrastructure – buildings, electricity and internet in rural areas is still inconsistent. There is a huge deficit in trained and qualified teachers.

All this requires huge investment and unless the public sectors creates the backbone infrastructure affordability of e-learning would remain a perpetual problem for the deprived sections of society. Digital education must not remain an elitist enterprise confined to a few private institutions.  Its growth must be fully led by government through incentivizing e-learning and supporting it through adequate infrastructure

The transformation from classroom learning and tuition to non-traditional online learning aids is not easy. What challenges did you face?

The challenge is not the journey that has been covered between the traditional-teaching to non-traditional learning. But being able to impart the same level of knowledge with the similar kind of dedication which was given to us when we were in school. Digital boards, e-contents, ERPs etc. these are just the changing face of the tools which are being used to impart education but at the end what matters are learning.

One of the major advantage of e-learning platforms is that it allows students to progress based on their intellectual capacities and the levels of comprehension.  Fast learners could potentially navigate faster through the curriculums while others need to labour over the same.

The major challenge faced is that no longer does a teacher enjoy a positive knowledge surplus over the taught.  In fact, the knowledge gap is rapidly narrowing between the teacher and the taught.  Modern teachers will need to reinvent themselves by embracing technology and constantly evolving to remain ahead of the knowledge curve.  They will have to reach out to their students and play catalysts for converting information into knowledge.

While the digital wave has and shall continue to radically redefine traditional learning, the institution of the teacher would continue to remain central to any education system.  The modern education needs demand teachers not only to accept technology but to also harness it in an innovative manner.Teaching in the digital age is increasingly challenging.  The teacher not only has to acquaint and harness modern aids, but also has to infuse age old and time tested virtues of social, physical and mental well-being in an increasingly cluttered and a highly competitive environment.

For e-learning to fully replicate the conventional system, a change in societal mindset is required.  The conventional school has a strong institutional connect with the Indian mind.  The tradition of guru-shishya is held in high reverence and reaches far beyond mere imparting of knowledge to teaching other social graces and life skills.  Homeschooling and distance learning are still considered taboos used to correct educational imbalances rather than mainstream options for education.  E-learning is still preferred as an adjunct to conventional education systems – an enabler to learning rather than an end in itself.

What technology initiatives do you see gaining maximum ground for K-12 schools?

The disruptive influence of e-learning is here to stay.  The young learners of today are comfortable with electronic devices and will easily adapt to technology.  However, e-learning cannot and must not replicate the conventional means.  We must harness technology to deliver knowledge efficiently and expand its reach and penetration to larger society

Some technology initiatives undertaken by the government will not only take education to the remotest areas of the country but will certainly increase the literacy rate, the only challenge being, taking technology to these areas. Some initiatives which are gaining momentum are listed below

Bharatavani – Learning about India’s culture and heritage through Languages

Bharatavani’sobjective is to deliver knowledge in and about all the languages in India using multimedia (i.e., text, audio, video, images) formats through a portal (website). The portal is designed to be all inclusive, interactive, dynamic and will be moderated to ensure quality content.

ShalaDarpan – Monitoring and tracking students’ progress in schools

Under ShalaDarpan, launched by KendriyaVidyalaya, the parents were allowed to keep a watch on their child’s presence at the respective classrooms. They could also check their performance in the class and the teachings given to them.

This will help track of the enrolment and progress of students in schools.

ePathshala – NCERT’s push for digital books and note taking

The Digital India campaign has promoted extensive use of ICTs in the teaching learning process based upon the fact that mobile and technology can reach where sometimes even humans can’t.

ePathshala is a joint initiative of Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India and National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and will be disseminating all educational e-resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals, and a variety of other print and non-print materials. Students, Teachers, Educators and Parents can access eBooks through multiple technology platform that is mobile phones, tablets and from the web through laptops and desktops. Features of these books allow users to pinch, select, zoom, bookmark, highlight, navigate, share and take notes digitally.

CBSE’s Saransh portal and mobile app – connecting schools and parents

Saransh is a tool for comprehensive self-review and analysis for CBSE affiliated schools and parents. It enables them to analyze students’ performance in order to take remedial measures. Saransh brings schools, teachers and parents closer, so that they can monitor the progress of students and help them improve their performance.

SWAYAM Prabha – Education comes Direct-To-Home

The Government of India has recently approved the SWAYAM Prabha project which will provide 32 Direct to Home (DTH) channels serving educational content to teachers, students and other citizens. The channels are expected to launch in September this year.

These curriculum based programs will be designed like courses and will include classes in arts, science, commerce, performing arts, social sciences, humanities subjects, engineering, technology, law, medicine and agriculture.

Do you think eLearning can help in educational progress in a vast country like India?

The rural urban divide is starkly evident in education where the disparity is glaring.  The rural education landscape in India is distinctly different from the urban setup.  While modern schools with modern infrastructure designed in western concepts focus on modern experiential method of learning, the rural setup is still reeling under extreme paucity of infrastructure, lack of quality teachers, skewed teacher-taught and a societal overhang which still does not give primacy to education.  The phenomenal growth in the education sector has largely benefited the urban elite.  Rural India continues to learn by rote.

The Digital India mission presents an opportunity to correct this glaring ambiance and fast track rural India to contemporary education.  As bulk of India still resides in villages, the potential clientele for such a venture would be vast.  This would lead to cost effective infrastructure, affordability and would a significantly increase the mean years of schooling in Rural India.  This would significantly raise the employment quality of the rural workforce, and would impact the lifestyle of subsequent generations.

The growth of the education sector in the recent past and the rise of Digital India are two simultaneous event which must transform rural education.     As long as we are still a developing nation, the challenges of such an exercise will remain.  There is a woeful lack of infrastructure to handle digital education.  Infrastructure costs would be significant, particularly in the initial phases.  These costs must be supported by the government through subsidies and enabling schemes under the ‘Digital India’ umbrella.

Empowering teachers by imparting those special skills to handle technology requires special focus as it is crucial to the success of the mission.  The national skill development in concert with the AICTE and CBSE must evolve a robust strategy to fast track this urgent imperative.

The deprived sections of society must be given access to quality education at affordable costs.  This would unleash a self-sustaining demand and usher quality.  This would not only usher inclusive growth but also create equitable living standards, promote creativity and confidence and propel a young vibrant India far forward on the human development index.

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