Teaching is regarded as the noblest of all professions and for good reasons. A teacher helps in shaping future generations, guiding them on the right path and helping them acquire the skills necessary to lead a productive life and contribute to the society that we live in. Teachers also contribute immensely in the creation of a society that is healthy, productive and peaceful.
An inspired and well-informed teacher is the most important factor that can influence learning outcomes in students and their future contribution to the society. The profession of teaching is, however, not without challenges and shortcomings. A teacher in the classroom has to deal with a room full of students with starkly different aptitudes and behaviour. Some may be quick learners, while other may struggle in the learning process.
Moreover, the learning capability and attention of each student is not the same, and this makes teaching a challenging task. Also, the proliferation of the Internet and web-enabled devices has effectively changed the way classrooms operate and how education is assimilitated by students. Advancements made in technology have also given rise to increasing digitisation of classrooms as well as educational content.
Such a disruption in the process and functioning of teaching and classrooms poses serious challenges for the teachers. While we have seen currency changing forms ~ coins to paper and now the newer crypto variants ~ knowledge and education continue to remain the most important currency of every society. India is no exception.
With a growing urban base, increasing Internet penetration, and rising millennial population, India is on the cusp of a major digital transformation. E-learning has the potential to be a harbinger of social change in India. With more than 400 million Internet users and more than 330 million connected smartphone users, and being the world’s second social site user, India has immense opportunities to grow and tap the potential of technology in the field of education. There is an increasing realisation that initiatives like Digital India will have a major role to play in shaping e-learning.
With the focus on imparting education through digital platform, there is an opportunity to access learning sources through a global platform, providing accessibility to teachers as well as students, which can break socio-economic barriers towards gaining quality education. However, to achieve the same, there is need to have a targeted approach to improve education through digitisation.
The integration of technology to our large and complex school system can have a major impact. In the academic sphere, development of e-learning teaching strategies that encourage greater engagement and also takes into consideration different learning styles can help improve the effectiveness of teaching and academic achievement. The tried and tested traditional process of teaching has suddenly given way to a new process defined by the fast and easy access to unlimited information.
However, in order to harness the full potential of technology in education, teachers need to possess certain skills and knowledge to help them understand how and when technology can be fruitfully harnessed. Thus there is urgent need for teachers to hone their skills in terms of technology as well as undertake capacity expansion. In the recent past, there has been renewed focus on teacher training by the HRD Ministry in an effort to standardise the quality of education at the school level.
The National Council of Teachers’ Education (NCTE), a statutory body tasked with overseeing standards, procedures and processes in the education system in the country, is preparing to implement stricter quality control in teachers’ training and recognition of teacher training institutions across the country. Such renewed focus on teachers’ training from the government is a clear indication of its importance for quality education.
Private players in the education sector can play a major role in augmenting the government’s efforts towards teacher-training and development. Scores of educational companies have made significant investments of time and money in developing updated contents and learning aids for students. So far, a bulk of the investment by private players is towards digitisation and smart classes. In the process, these companies have accumulated significant experience and expertise in content development and enhanced delivery. This knowledge and expertise can be utilised in the development of cutting edge training material and modules for teachers with the same refinement and sophistication seen in students’ learning materials.
Partnerships and collaboration with government agencies as well as international educational firms of repute can further enhance the quality of modules and training material. Concerted efforts involving the government as well as private players is crucial if we are to successfully implement an all-encompassing teachers’ training programme for government as well as private school teachers in India. The next few years will see India leapfrog in the field of education aided by technology.
In the journey towards reshaping education, it is important that a structure is put in place. There is need for collective and equitable public-private partnership to address the large gap. The ecosystem should be spruced up to make teaching a profession of choice and not something that ‘happened by chance’. Teachers should be empowered in terms of improved competence, better growth opportunities, and a sense of fulfilment.
Furthermore, the education system should support the start-up ecosystem, and learning should be geared towards competence. As in e-commerce and telecom models, we are witnessing innovations and ideas that are India-specific. And these very ideas will enhance the relevance of content, delivery, and access across the country.
(The writer is with the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management, Kolkata)