Education: next 15 years

The time is ripe for modernization of the education system in the country
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First Published: Sun, Feb 10 2013. 11 13 PM IST
In the corporate industry, the employability of Indian engineers has shamefully diminished, compared with other countries. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
In the corporate industry, the employability of Indian engineers has shamefully diminished, compared with other countries. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Updated: Sun, Feb 10 2013. 11 13 PM IST
At the most fundamental level, our current system of education has not been revised for at least 300 years.
The concept of printing and transferring knowledge, using textbooks and notebooks as the modus operandi, is at least several centuries old—evidently archaic. The method of education, training of teachers, infrastructure at schools, and investment in labs has changed significantly but, the fundamentals of education have remained the same. In addition, with marks and grades becoming a proxy to a job, students, parents and teachers divert focus onto obtaining higher scores in exams than actual learning.
The side effect of this education system is that India is producing enormously competitive and hard-working students with outstanding marks scoring capabilities but who are at the same time utterly lousy with respect to causing an impact, being creative or embracing efficiency in their professions. We are beginning to unearth its consequences. For example, in corporate industry, employability of Indian engineers has shamefully diminished compared with other countries. A gradual realization is developing for the need of authentic education and actual learning. I strongly believe the time is ripe for modernization of the entire education system.
Recently, my daughter, who is in high school, was discussing the human heart and its functioning with me. Her text book could not completely answer what happens in all the four heart chambers at any given time. This is not the author’s mistake because, explaining things that are happening in three dimensions and in simultaneity (heart functioning) through linear two-dimensional text is quite hard.
Consequently, a simple, two-minute animated video on YouTube was far more beneficial in understanding the exact functioning of the heart compared to absorbing and visualizing with the aid of several pages of description in the textbook. This is one such uncountable instance which begs for a change in knowledge imparting techniques. Teaching concepts through visual animation along with audio makes the process more efficient to assimilate and definitely enjoyable.
Tablets have increased processing power, great stereophonic audio and can access videos. With Internet connection, one can bring the power of cloud to every tablet. Entrepreneurs are starting to think of smart apps with integrated content, visualization, assessment, highly engaging and interactive user interface, social, and gaming capabilities.
Apps are starting to become highly adaptive and personalized to individuals based on their background and their capabilities. Students can learn every concept at their own pace with interest, apply what they have learnt on online projects and submit their achievements to their fellow friends and students across the world. In this new world, teachers become passion builders and curiosity igniters for students rather than teaching how to score high marks in their next exam.
We are already seeing this change happening in India and across the world. We are seeing companies that are training engineering graduates on several practical multiple disciplinary projects using both online and offline learning methods. Several companies have started to simulate electronics labs, where the set-up and testing of entire electronic circuit using real-world looking components and simulated osciloscopes give an opportunity for faster experimentation.
Online skill enhancement training courses with the best professors for a worldwide audience is starting to emerge. We are also seeing hundreds of education games that are fun to play and at the same time teach mathematics to children.
It is just a matter of time, where, even learning a new language, history, music, and art will move to personalized tablet-based education. It is not too far away, where our students can learn about Mysore Palace by not reading about it, but actually seeing it as if they are visiting the palace and listening to experts talking about intricate details. For a change, students can start really loving history classes again.
Shekhar Kirani is a partner at Accel India, a venture capital firm.
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First Published: Sun, Feb 10 2013. 11 13 PM IST
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