Analysis of State efforts to link Education with Technology

This article discusses the evolution of Educational Technology in India, its success and failures with respect to time, state's policies and state's implementation strategies. It analyses the reasons behind various ups and downs Indian Education System has gone through in its journey towards a better model of ICT in Education. 

Interlinkages between Education and Technology

Many studies suggest that there is a significant gap between the knowledge and skills, a student acquires, in the traditional schooling system. Thus there's a dire need of enhancing skills of the students which are required at workplaces and in social surroundings. Integrating Education with Technology provides that opportunity to break the monotony and offers variety in the teaching learning process (Agashe 1995). Technology in Education can be described as an array of tools that are helpful in advancing student learning outcomes through different methods such as e-learning, blended pedagogy, online learning, virtual learning etc. transmitting through audio, visual, video, teleconferencing, blogs or any other form of media which can be used to transmit information to the learner, basically an umbrella term to encompass all communication technology.

Time-Frame Analysis

India has been engaging with technology since colonial times but with no proper objective of linking it with Education (this dates back to 1923 when it all started with radio broadcast). In the period of 1930s, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) started airing Educational and Cultural programs. With the inception of All India Radio (AIR) in 1937, broadcasting of Educational program continued but they didn't cater to the diverse set of audience (Agarwal, 2005). A pilot project was conceptualized in 1961 as Educational Television (ETV) with the help of UNESCO and Ford Foundation. Through this project, lessons for Physics, Chemistry and English were televised to secondary school students in Delhi (Mohanty, 1984). These experimental projects kept on running but were not able to make any concrete impact, as they were mere replicas of the textbook content in the form of videos or audios. These projects were not able to engage children since they were heavily loaded with information and nothing else was there to engage the learner more. Moreover, the content was in the form of monologue as compared to dialogue, discussion or other such things similar to the structure followed in the school system by the teachers, Thus they were not able to garner strong audience for such programs which can withstand through these television programs.

An evaluation study of the CLASS project finds that students had a positive attitude towards computer learning regardless of the type of the school (Agrawal, 1996, 2005)

Indian government realized the importance of Education Technology in 1970s when they included Education Technology project in their Fifth five year plan which set up an Education Technology unit in the Ministry of Education and Social Welfare. However, proper project on ICT in Education was formally started in 1984 which was later adopted in the Eighth five year plan. Computer Literacy and Studies in School (CLASS) pilot project was introduced in 250 higher secondary schools where approximately 12000 computers were provided to make students learn through technology. An evaluation study of the CLASS project finds that students had a positive attitude towards computer learning regardless of the type of the school (Agrawal, 1996, 2005). Later on, the state governments and the central government implemented the project at a large scale realizing the power of technology among the teachers and other actors involved in it.

India has gone through considerable changes in its ICT in Education program since pre-independence but still the quality of Education has not improved substantially especially in the rural areas. There's a divide clearly visible in the public and private Education system. Nowadays, most of us think that Public school Education system cannot provide quality Education, therefore we prefer private schools irrespective of their cost. With the advent of ICTs, and the continuing commodification of Education, parents easily get sold to private schools offering Education Technology facilities like smart boards, projectors, computers and Internet.

Paradigm Shift: ICT@School Scheme

As soon as the Economic Liberalization started making its roots after 1991, private players started pouring in the Education domain. The profit motive of most of the private schools and players in Education led to maket driven smart boards, projectors, audio-visual aids etc. On the other hand, the quality of Education in public schooling kept degrading all through this time. All this forced our governments to show off that they were also concerned about implementing ICT in School Education. Thus came the new policy ICT@School with the objective of providing Computer Aided Education to secondary and higher secondary schools and also establishment of smart schools which can serve as a role model for other schools in the vicinity areas. The implementation of the scheme was supposed to take place through BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) model with the help of Public Private Partnership(PPP).

Since, students enjoyed learning through technology in different forms such as videos, audios, interactive games and puzzles through Computer Aided Education, it also improved the learning outcomes of the student thereby teachers understanding the importance of Technologies in Education. Private entities had a stake for a considerable amount of time, creating a belief that Public Education System cannot make any significant impact in quality Education without the support of these private entities. Majority of these private entities belong to MNCs or are linked to them. This raises concerns among many - whether they are actually doing some benefit or are just gaining profits. Another question which arises is - Does the state really want to make any considerable change in the public Education system or is it doing all this Education Technology exercise only to show-off?

Natural or Forced Phenomena?

India's interest in ICT for Education comes also from its dominant position in ICT services globally. With the integration of ICT in everything (Education system too), India strongly looks at itself in the row of developed nation. Interestingly the harsh reality is, we are not able to accomplish the goals envisaged in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) or Education for all (EFA). These very important Educational goals takes a backfoot with such a strong obesession with ICT in Education with a false impression that this would improve the quality of Education as enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal. It is important to understand that the platform which has been set up for such ICT integration programs wouldn’t have taken place if the Economic growth of the country wouldn’t have created interest among the global corporates. When Education becomes a commodity, there's a lot of economic benefit to derive which is what these MNCs and Corporates are good at.

India still needs to focus more on the development of the thought process of the stakeholders of its Education system rather than superficially focusing on the implementation of the Education through Technology. There are several reasons which makes us say that ICT in Education programs have been a forced phenomenon rather than a natural process. The state has missed the most crucial step of strengthening the system from grass root level and developing the competencies of all stake-holders in our Education System.

Conclusion

It would be incorrect to deny the importance of Technology in Education but the strategy, timing, structure and intent needs to be thought of while visualizing such a program at a large scale. We need to understand the nuances of the teachers too by realizing their limited capabilities with respect to technology, however, many of the teachers are getting exposed to technology through mobile phones and social networking sites. The intention of this paper is not to demean the importance of Technology in Education domain but the process, strategies and policies adopted by the government has several loopholes. We know that new forms never replace the old one. TV never kills radio and internet never kills TV. But, it overcomes the previous one.

References
1. Agrawal, B. C. (1996). Pedagogy of Computer Literacy: An Indian Experience. Concept Publishing Company.
2. Agrawal, B. C. (2005). Educational media in India. In U. V. Reddi & S. Mishra (Eds.), Perspectives on distance education: educational media in Asia. Vancouver, B.C.: Commonwealth of Learning.
3. Mohanty, J. (1984). Educational broadcasting: radio and television in education. New Delhi: Sterlin.
4. Agashe, L. Evolving Programmed Learning Material for Ensuring Mastery in Biology for XI and XII Grades Students. Ph.D. (Edu.), Guru Nanak Dev University 1995.
5. Charania, A., & Davis, N. (2016). A Smart Partnership: Integrating Educational Technology for Underserved Children in India. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19(3), 99 - 109.

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