Rohan Parikh | MD | The Green Acres Academy advocates for increasing use of technology in education even after the pandemic induced restrictions are over.
What are the education technology trends and their use cases in making education rights equal for all?
As a private school, right now the fee point ranges from Rs 60000 to Rs 1 lakh. We have a self selecting group of students. When we talk about making education equal for all, what we are trying to consistently do at Green Acres is lower the cost of education. The cost of education basically comes from the cost of having teachers and the cost of having facilities. So what we have been really working on is how we can maximize the time of the teacher and the use of our school buildings to give learning to the maximum number of students. That allows us to then reduce the cost of education. We are looking at a model currently where we do some sort of blended learning and allow the kids to spend less hours within the school building and thereby allow us to charge lower fees. I think the best way of looking at making education equal for all is to find ways to make it more affordable and technology is a great way of doing that.
How Green Acre academy is leveraging frontier technologies especially during these difficult times?
This all kind of came together with lock downs and restrictions on School attendance. We needed to use technology to deliver learning. I do not know if it is really Frontier, but EdTech has been around for a while. We kind of realized its immense value when we were faced with the current crisis. We are essentially trying to reinvent the way we approach classroom teaching by moving our content online. It is not so much technology as a method which changes, if you want to deliver a maths lesson through online we have to approach it very differently in a way we approach a maths lesson in a classroom.
If you are just expecting a teacher with the board behind her teaching the way she would in a classroom, through a Zoom call that is going to be a disaster. But there is a lot that technology offers us in terms of work children can do synchronising by themselves. Mastery work can also be done, as well as customisation. So it is time of rethinking how education is delivered. These are the things which should happen whether we have corona virus or not. Hopefully, something would remain with the system going forward.
How teachers / faculty at Green Academy are updating themselves for adopting these technologies?
We had a couple of months where the teachers really had to put in a lot of work and effort to update themselves and pick up the technologies. Fortunately Google classroom kind of technologies are pretty self-explanatory and once our teachers got the hang of it, in fact then they were suggesting the unique ways of using it. We have to invest a bit of time and effort on professional development. But our teachers came back and said why we did not do this before. It took a massive effort and sacrifice on the part of our teachers and specially the school leaders to put all of this together.
How skill gap can be reduced in India and what initiatives Green Academy has taken in this sphere ?
It is more like an implementation gap, and it is not just in India. The use of Technology in education has not been done system wide anywhere outside a handful of small countries. What needs to just happen is the implementation, like more and more schools need to go down this path of keeping the learning from online education that they learn through COVID and using that throughout the year and even when schools resume. There is so much efficiency that can come through blended or even some sort of flipping of classrooms. There is so much that we can expect students to do on a self based or through self learning and then come to school to really do the value added stuff.
The days of a teacher sitting in front of a blackboard and reading out a chapter from textbook are behind us, because that is just not what should be happening in classrooms. At Green Acres, we invest primarily and our single biggest concentration is in training and developing our teachers. We look at ourselves as the Green Acres management, view ourselves as people who train and develop teachers and the teachers then teach our children and this is literally the single biggest focus we have. That is the only way to increase implementation of this method in India by investing time and budgets on teacher development.
How do you foresee education system evolving post COVID19
The only business that has been successful during COVID is EdTech. They have seen a lot of venture capital flowing in. There are some things that now seem so obvious. I do hope that we continue to use tools like Google classroomWe use a maths program called Zearn. There is another great app call Epic books which has online books. I just hope that we continue to use the efficiencies that these provide the value added to learning so that we can actually ensure our children can learn much more and much better stuff in less amount of time. The implication this has for the school system is that it massively reduces the cost of education. Post COVID19, educational technology will reduce the cost of education, increase the quality and allow much more democratization of education.
What is on your IT Agenda for 20-21?
It is finding and using more tools that are delivered through some sort of Technology. In the end it comes down to only two factors– either it should increase efficiency of a classroom which means that is more learning happening or it should reduce the cost of education for the students. So we are looking at several things like we are looking at digital assessment, continuous digital assessment where the teachers can consistently and constantly monitor how students are doing and tailor content to children who were either going too fast or going too slow.
We are looking at digital applications for mathematics learning. We are looking at digital applications of benchmarking our children’s performance with children across India and across the world. We have developed more and more of professional development as online only so the teachers do not need to come in on a Saturday for training. But they can do it on their own time at their own pace which greatly increases the satisfaction amongst teachers and allows them to go at their own pace and learn. It all comes down to essentially continuously investing in IT enabled processes that either reduces cost for our parents or increases the learning capability of our students and teaching capability of our teachers.