It is so ironical that sometimes you get to know the person better only after he has left you. When our former president Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam left this world recently, a lot of us were introduced to the kind of life he led, to the hardships he faced as a child and yet how he successfully created a path-breaking career for himself. Not many after all get to become the President of one of the largest democracies of the world.
One of the most striking things about his early life was that little Kalam used to travel several kilometers every day to reach his school. We have heard such stories before as well. Few years ago, in a Bollywood movie titled Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, we see a barely teenaged Milkha Singh swimming across the river to reach his school. Such is the passion of these young kids to get themselves educated that at times it seems surreal. Strange thing however is that such stories are not present in abundance.
Although no such research exists yet, but if you ask some young kids around you whether they enjoy going to school, what is the most likely response you expect to hear. It is not as if education was a lot of fun earlier, infact the format was such that it was only so difficult. And yet these characters from a few real life stories found a lot of passion to get them educated. We are actually trying to raise some questions here:
- What motivated Kalam or Gandhi or Milkha Singh to suffer such hardships and yet be so inclined on going to school? Can we find that factor and infuse the same in the young kids of today’s generation?
- How do we ensure that a child of today is equally excited to go to school and get the best of education?
A study on human psychology might reveal what motivated our heroes but unfortunately there exists no such pill that when taken will give anyone the same elements as characterized by them. Yes, we will still have some individuals across different time phases who will be a part of the same education system that exists today and yet rise to do something extraordinary. But, our world cannot progress riding on the back of just these individuals; neither can we wait for them to arise. As a system, we need to strive towards improving the percentage of students who would enjoy going to the school and be motivated enough to do well and excel. Because, that is how the nation gets build. It is the people who build the nation, people with the best education, best skills and people who are motivated to perform well. And these people who will build the nation of tomorrow are currently sitting in the classrooms right now.
Very briefly, let’s look at how our education system currently works. A teacher walks into a classroom with anywhere between 40 to 50 students and starts writing on the blackboard. In some urban schools, you will have teachers using multi-media content and smart boards to teach the lesson. Although the system has existed since centuries, in this 21st century world, we see a number of challenges:
- The system relies too heavily on the ability of the teachers. Unfortunately, once a teacher joins a school, there do not exist many programs, which work at either improving their skills or giving them tools to make their job easier. The current system in fact over burdens them with lots to handle. In every industry, experts stress on the importance of a well functioning HR machinery, and it is in the most important of all the industries (if we can call education an industry for a while), there exists none. Go to any school and none have any programs to look after their teachers. Teachers therefore are stressed and do not look at their jobs as anything more than enabling their school to finish the regular curriculum. And because the teachers are stressed, there is unfortunately no scope for innovation as well, as ideally it should be driven by those very people who are closest to the students
- The child of today is a little too much exposed. At home there is TV, 3G enabled smartphones of their parents, computers with wi-fi and at school they have a peer network, which also accesses the same things at their homes as them. By default or may be by designs, the child of today has surpassed way beyond the conventional education system. From the tools available to him/her, the child is already accessing so much content and in so many different forms that there is a good possibility of them getting bored by some teacher standing in front of them and engaged in a monologue. There would still be some kids who would enjoy the old form of content delivery but majority will not
- Another challenge is that of diversity. Every child is different from every other. Our existing education system does not recognize this. While some may like listening, some enjoy reading more while some other may enjoy looking at moving content (video) and some other enjoy playing games more. Some like it more indoors while some may like it more outdoors. The existing system treats every one of them as same and therefore ends up binding many of them. As a result, they lose interest
Educationist and the entire school ecosystem needs to now understand that the world today is changing and changing very fast. The 21st century learning framework as defined by UNESCO identifies skills like collaboration, communication, understanding ICT, being able to solve real life problems more than your grades.
The face of education is changing and it will be in our best interest to finally recognize that. Through our work at iDream Education, spanning over several years and a few hundred schools, we have to come to one understanding. The next face of education has to be in the form of personalized and play-way learning.
Imagine a Math class. The teacher walks into the classroom and writes the topic on the board – Pythagoras Theorem. He then divides all the students into groups of two and hands them their android-based tablet. He then instructs them that they have two hours to figure out what Pythagoras theorem means. What do you think will happen next? Our estimate says that everyone in the classroom will know much more than what the teacher could have taught them in the two hours. More importantly, they would have enjoyed doing the same. Do take a note that at no point are we underestimating the need or role of teachers. The teachers being subject matter experts will still continue to play a critical role. However, the tab based interactive form of learning may also help teachers to start enjoying their work and thereby increase the scope for innovation.
The personalized form of learning holds true for any subject, be it Math, English, Science or any other. It is a good sign that a number of individuals and organizations including Facebook are working at bringing to life this interactive form of personalized learning which is not only the need of the hour but is soon going to become a necessity. The schools that adopt this quickly and evolve into a future ready school will have better chances of surviving and producing remarkable students who would form the part of the next gen of work force.
The next decade is going to be one of great interest and that of hope as we experience this change in the face of education.