Naveed Anjum, IDA
The new type of schooling is taking over with the advancements and introduction of technology in education sector. The use of new-age digital platforms in education is enhancing the academic landscape in India and across the world. The use of technology makes learning more interesting and fun. This phenomenon has created a new fear of whether teachers will remain relevant in the near future. The students across the globe are closing their exercise books and are opening up their tablets and laptops. Delivering lectures through gamification, taking students on virtual field trips and using other online learning platforms, encourages a more active participation in the learning process. The use of Virtual reality and augmented reality has transformed education into an ‘active experience’ compared to the traditional learning experience. Virtual reality and artificial intelligence has already made its mark in the education sector.
With the popularity and reach of online education, it is of no wonder that education can get much augmented with the aid of technology. The main constraint of accessibility gets diminished as lessons become more dynamic, with the click of a mouse/button. Videos and interactive features on smart devices have become a popular mode of learning among students, with even rural India getting the right skills to enhance their chances of being employable. Now, the future is vast as machine learning and artificial intelligence backed data is helping students and educational institutions reach a plateau of enhanced learning. The world of education looks exciting as technology moves ahead to achieve what was considered impossible earlier.
The teaching profession has no doubt undergone significant changes in the last few years with plethora of resources available via apps and websites, making teachers no longer be called as the experts. The teachers once considered as “sage on the stage” will instead be known as “guide on the side” as they will be moving into the role of facilitators. While artificial intelligence can teach students skills or reinforce difficult concepts for struggling students, the question of technology completely replacing a teacher is still debatable.
Technology complements teachers
According to the World Bank study of seven sub-Saharan African countries, half of nine-year-olds cannot read a simple word and three-quarters cannot read a simple sentence. The reason is terrible teaching. The same study found that only 7 per cent of teachers had the minimum knowledge needed to teach reading and writing effectively. When classrooms were inspected to see whether a teacher was present, half the time the answer was no.
In such schools where the teachers are very poor or frequently absent, technology can complement teachers and can provide a baseline of education inputs for students to study on their own. However, edtech can also help improve teachers. For example, Kenya’s literacy programme Tusome, uses coaches equipped with tablets who visit classrooms, evaluate students’ reading skills, provide tailored advice to teachers and upload assessment data to administrators. The ideal situation is to combine good teachers with technology, for example in a “flipped classroom” where students learn the material on their own through videos and other instructional material while class time is devoted to problem-solving and project work with a high level of interaction between teachers and students.
Teacher as an epitome of classroom
The death of classroom teacher may have been greatly exaggerated but their role is going to change. Aristotle once said, “Man is a political animal” what he meant is that mankind’s innate desire is to interact with one another and learn from one another, socialize with one another. In current times, we may say that social media does this, but does it really? The question here arises that if future holds that learning means encouraging young people to stand in front of computer screens, exposed to largely unregulated material in an unsafe environment then that is clearly not the way forward.
Student-teacher relationship is much more complex than what we think. It is about trust and bond between a teacher, a student and parents. This bond is crucial and creates the environment where learning can occur and grow. Virtual learning or machine learning cannot develop this bond and trust. The relevance of a teacher is more needed now than it was before. Only a human can create an environment that will work for virtual learning to be progressive. It is the teacher who can facilitate that environment where machine learning can become a part of pedagogy.
Instead of focusing on who replaces what, there is a great need of collaboration between the government and private sector to take education system to another level. Focusing only on the technological aspect won’t solve the persistent glitches in our education system. We should learn from Singapore’s education system, considered to be the best in the world. The country consistently ranks at the top of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial test of 15-year-olds in dozens of countries, in the main three categories of maths, reading and science. The country is consistently focused on developing excellent teachers. In Singapore, the teachers get 100 hours of training a year to keep them up to date with the latest techniques.
We should also stress more on teacher training programmes, making them more familiar with the latest technologies which are going to revolutionalise our education system. India has a long way to go in adopting technology in classrooms on a large scale as there is a huge economic inequality in the country. It will take decades to bridge that gap and then we need to talk about technology replacing the teachers at least in India. Although, the National Education Policy (NEP) does talk about the creation of the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to improve learning, assessment, planning and administration. But there is lot more to do about teachers and technology going hand in hand. There is a greater need of providing proper training to the teachers in order to make proper advantage of technology adoption in our educational institutions.
However, the fact is that good teachers will never become obsolete. They will always be there to help in locating and using digital resources for learning. Teachers may no longer be valued as content-area experts, but they can help students learn how to build knowledge for themselves from the excess of tools and information that exists. It is the teachers who care about us and inspire us to do our best. And that will never go out of style.