Pankaj Agarwal, Founder & CEO, TagHive

Mr. Pankaj Agarwal is the Founder & CEO at TagHive, a Samsung Ventures funded company based in South Korea and with operations in India. His mission is to transform classroom learning with Class Saathi – an affordable clicker solution to drive engagement and participation in classrooms. Mr. Agarwal is an inventor on over 50 international patents and was selected as one of the Top 10 Innovators in India in 2017 by MIT  Technology Review and Mint. Prior to TagHive, Mr. Agarwal was with Samsung Electronics where his decade long career spanned several professional capacities – hardware circuit engineer, strategic innovation manager, and an advisor to the CTO of Samsung. Mr. Agarwal is the founder and Chairman of the IIT Alumni Association of  South Korea. He is also a trained magician and is fluent in Korean. He has a Bachelor of Technology degree in EE from IIT Kanpur, MS from Seoul  National University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

 

Education is a very serious business. It is make or break, do or die for most. The global pandemic revealed and accentuated a major problem – students who do not have access to digital resources are a majority world over. We already knew this as a concept but when students had to sacrifice their education because they couldn’t afford the digital infrastructure needed, the problem gained more visibility and airplay. These grim problems cost students across the globe their access to online education and many of them had to quit school and learning.

The pandemic taught us that education has to be dealt with more socially and progressively. All students, regardless of their family income, deserve access to education that can surmount challenges such as the ones posed by the global pandemic. Having seen the devastation caused by that event, equating entertainment with a field rooted in service can have very negative implications. Let us explore why!

There are very real problems in the education system and access to resources for and of learning are primary. We saw how tech-dependent we were as a population to sustain our efforts both personally and professionally. Given that situation, the first idea that needs to be proposed is to create equity in the system that allows everybody to access digital resources in the same way. Time and again, we have mentioned and reiterated that technology is no longer a luxury, it is a need, especially in facilitating better teaching and learning experiences.

Secondly, there needs to be a change in the way we understand and teach subjects. Following the pandemic, educators across the world and country have spoken about shifting the priorities in the curriculum structures across the world. More subjects need to be introduced and concepts taught. This is going to be a challenging and time-consuming process so if there is a big need for a movement in the education system, this is one that takes the crown!

Additionally, living in an era where students have had to cut short the amount of time spent in school, going back to the school routine is bound to throw out many challenges. Educators are complaining that students are experiencing classroom anxiety, reduced attention spans and growing learning gaps. We cannot ignore these as well. 

The challenges are obviously plenty and the idea is to get creative with the solutions we offer as companies in the education technology space. We have the brainpower and resources to make life effective for people in ways that were impossible just a few years ago! So to say that entertainment goes hand in hand is actually making light of a very serious problem.

Equity in education cannot be curtain dressed with animation and VR. Companies must offer solutions that are low cost and effective. They need to analyse the needs of the education ecosystem and cater to the problems arising from it. The underprivileged students are a global majority and also a global challenge to be solved. More companies must be encouraged and incentivized to create technological resources that benefit them over a privileged few.

Entertainment is well and good in its own space and must be enjoyed in that sense. Education has some very real and important problems that deserve to be dealt with seriously. It cannot be dealt with through entertainment. Entertainment can in fact be detrimental to the teaching and learning experience as it creates an environment where students will be trained to learn only if entertainment is the driving force behind a classroom teaching segment. 

Now we must also understand that entertainment is a very broad concept. What kind of entertainment are we looking for? How can it be turned into the curriculum in a way that helps students not rely only on it? What part of the creative process associated with entertainment can and must be retained are all questions that are barely answered.

It is a waste of time and competency to develop sustainable products for academic pursuits only if we are focused on creating stunning visuals and orchestrating an auditory experience in class for students. It doesn’t even dive into the fact that most schools in our own country are not in a position to financially invest in these ideas.

More detrimentally, this entertainment component will teach students to take interest in professional and academic pursuits only if there is “fun” associated with it. It nullifies unique experiences like allowing students to cultivate their own interests, being driven by passion instead of orchestrated classroom performances and it also teaches students that creativity is linear and can only be relegated to songs and dances.

As professionals working in the education field, we must be sensitive to the needs of the students and their teachers. There is no place for us to be in a field such as ours by suggesting that entertainment is the next big boom in the education sector. 

Entertainment has its own importance and it does hold a special place in the world. It is an escape from reality. Education is a way to level with reality. We must accept both these unique dynamics and respect the separation so far. 

To close, we do not suggest that we stick to outdated teaching experiences that operate on monologues. We believe in creativity, the creative use of technology, the effectiveness of smart tools in classrooms to increase interactivity and engagement. What we do not support is the need to fix entertainment in everything around us.

Education can and has survived and has been the reason why many have survived and for that reason, we must separate education and entertainment. See it as both uniquely important in its own right and reserve judgements that favour the use and implementation of entertainment in the education sector.

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