Mr. Suman Matcha, Chief Executive Officer, Online Adaptive Knowledge System (OAKS)
Education, today, is considered a democratic right. Delivering quality education is also one of 17 global goals that make up the ”2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. So, how does India fare in this regard? Today, 260 million students study in 1.3 million schools in the country. The literacy rate of the country has grown significantly in the last 30 years, from 39% in 1991 to 69.1% in 2018, according to an Educational Statistics report released by MHRD. Yet, according to an ASER report from 2019, when 30,000 students who had completed at least eight years of education were tested, about 25% of them were unable to read basic text fluently in any language including their mother tongue. Over half this number struggled with simple division problems. So, how effective is our education system? Are just a meagre percentage of students able to acquire a quality of education that truly equips them with the tools to succeed at work and life?
Weeding Out Rote Learning
The existing system’s idea of education, in a traditional sense, is that of teachers delivering lectures to classrooms with a very high teacher-student ratio. Children simply do not get the kind of personalised attention they need. In turn, millions of children turn to the rote-mode, out of mere desperation to pass on to the next grade. They end up with a poor grasp of the fundamentals, and are ill-prepared, both in terms of knowledge and skills, for the world of work. They are unable to compete and rise up to the demands of the workplace. Technology-enabled education solves many of the problems incurred in the traditional classroom mode, especially in a country as diverse and highly populated as India.
Leveraging Tech To Scale Quality Education
Today, almost every industry and ecosystem is embracing digital transformation. This is the new normal, and the education sector cannot be left behind. Technology-enabled education or Edtech has the potential to disrupt the status quo in the education sector, and raise the bar on quality and scale. It can also equip students with the technical, interpersonal and digital skills needed to succeed in a digitised economy such as India. This shift that is already demonstrating impact, led to the genesis of DIKSHA, an ambitious project designed to make quality education, a reality for millions of children across the nation.
One Nation, One Digital Platform
On a Sunday in May 2020, DIKSHA was launched by Nirmala Sitharaman, Honorable Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of India. Under the initiative, 100 universities will offer e-courses to 25 crore K-12 students, and 3.7 crore students pursuing higher education, starting from May 30, 2021. The vision of DIKSHA is to offer “multi-mode” access to education to students of Class 1 to 12, across the nation. The true value of this initiative lies in its flexibility, inclusive design and potential to meet diverse needs.
Reaching Every Student
Today, only 24% of India’s population owns a smartphone, just 15% of the rural population has access to the internet, and the number of DTH subscribers stands at merely 69.3 million. Via DIKSHA, E-content and QR coded textbooks, have been made available in 14 languages, with more in the pipeline. A dedicated channel is available for every class, from 1 to 12, and 32 DTH channels have been identified for those students who do not have access to the Internet. Additionally, audio content is available through 289 radio channels. Yet, despite the multi-mode approach to making education accessible, the key challenge is to be able expand reach and deliver this content to every child.
Making Content More Consumable
Breaking down content into byte-sized nuggets delivered via short, crisp TikTok-style videos, will help make education more engaging for students. Gamification of lessons will add credits to the content available, and enhance the overall experience and learning curve. To address the issue of reach, there’s a need for a massive drive to put more digital devices in the hands of students. Government initiatives like Vidyadaan, are aiding many school students across all states. Additionally, digital devices made available at subsidized prices with the help of CSR funds and programs like “adapt a school”, will be an added boon to students from severely underprivileged backgrounds.
Leaving No Child Behind
According to a UNESCO report from 2019, over 75% of children with disabilities never attend school. Those who do attend, have major difficulties due to the lack of accessibility and inclusiveness of our school system. In this regard, technology has been a game-changer for children with disabilities. DIKSHA makes it even more accessible due the design and delivery of its content. Special e-content has been designed for children with visual and hearing difficulties, and it is made available via the Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY) and Indian Sign Language on the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) website/ YouTube channel. Special radio podcasts have also been integrated to support students.
Digital Learning For All
Another group of students, often excluded by our education system, are those who learn differently. Our schools, for instance, are ill-equipped to support children with dyslexia. However, technology-enabled education via DIKSHA has the potential to empower dyslexic children to reach their true potential in a way that was always considered unimaginable. Through the use of bright colored video content, mind maps, gamified lessons and other interactive models, learning can become a joy for children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.
This inclusiveness is the true power of an initiative like DIKSHA, which has the potential to transform the destinies of millions of children, with diverse needs, stories and abilities.