Tech enables rural education

Education Sector saw sudden change drastically during pandemic which resulted in innovations of e-learning, online exams, digital platforms etc. The adoption of technology can lead to faster penetration of education in longer run which would help in constructive community adoption of technology in education. Mr. Anand Chawla. His designation is Sr. General Manager – ICT, Podar Group of Schools in a discussion with CXOtoday shared more insights on the same. 


How did Rural India adapt to the changing dynamic of education through the use of technology?

The year 2020 was a revolution in education. None thought that students could learn online for good 2 years. Education changed its course dramatically and resulted in innovations of e-learning, online exams, digital platforms etc. The only source of learning online for Rural India was a smartphone with internet which belonged primarily to the parents. As per the survey by Hindustan Times, there is the availability of smartphones for more than 68% of households in rural areas, but that does not necessarily indicate that children had access to teaching online Since there was no alternative the children/teachers had to get used to the digital transformation. The adaptation was forceful as well as unplanned.


What challenges did people in the rural region face due to the sudden emergence of technology in schools?

The teachers had to undergo a substantial psychological change as they used to be present physically in the classroom. Students with siblings had to struggle to share mobile phones for online classes. Internet connection speed, coordination with students, shortage of devices, parents working from home, lack of space etc were some huge challenges for all of them.


Is Rural Education in India Undergoing transformation?

I feel there is a start due to the situation, people do realise the importance of technology, but it is far from the transformation. There still exists a greater divide between rural and urban India. Efforts are needed from the government to encourage synchronous and asynchronous learning for children. Infrastructure upgrades are required to achieve this on a larger level.


Will community adoption of technology lead to faster penetration of education in India?

The adoption of technology can lead to faster penetration of education, but it needs to be purpose-built. There are certain objectives and parameters required which in       longer run would help in constructive community adoption of technology in education. Once the schools have started, it would be interesting to see this momentum continuing. I foresee that the use of digital platforms & e-learning would continue for the betterment of education.


Did technology bridge the difference in teaching between urban and rural education?

Personally, I feel, it bridged the gap to some extent, but there was a larger digital divide created between haves and have-nots. Similarly, this would create an opportunity for governments, schools, and colleges to update themselves and work on innovations.


Has Vernacular education through technology gained prominence during the pandemic?

It may be to some extent in rural areas, but specifically, teachers like to teach the language online similar to the offline teaching in the school.


Has learning become shared and interactive for Rural India through the use of technology?

Learning has become creative, but for it to be shared and interactive in Rural India, we need to have a thorough digital transformation plan. Schools should have access to digital content which is available to students/teachers at any given point in time. A reporting system to track students learning progress. Devices availability and technology upgrades in and around the school are also to be planned.


What measures are taken by various schools to help students of rural India? 

Schools are trying their best to work with the limitations of technologies, especially on the parent’s end. WhatsApp Groups, Emails, Printing out sheets, and free platforms like Google Classroom, and Teams have come to their aid. State-wise infrastructure improvement is required to give this a bigger boost.


Should there be a focused training program for such teachers, if there isn’t any?

Small focused group training of teachers is the need of the hour. The urban population has greater exposure to tools, and technology and far larger acceptance by the people. Similar efforts are required in the Rural area. Unique partnerships among the rural and urban schools, train the trainer formats as well as connecting the schools and finding innovative tools for sharing the learning materials and the resources.


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