Amit Bansal is the CEO & Founder of WizKlub. He is a serial entrepreneur with over a decade of start-up experience across three edtech ventures; and 10 years of corporate experience across strategy, business development, technology, product management, and marketing for consumer and enterprise technology products across India and North America. His earlier ventures include Xcelerator and PurpleLeap. Amit holds an MBA in Marketing from XLRI, Jamshedpur.
Covid-19 has shattered life as we knew it. In every sphere, it has created a huge adverse impact on livelihoods, mobility, and management of business activities on an unprecedented global scale. India still reels from the tragic impact of a ruthless second wave, more than a year after the disease first made its impact known to the world. But there is another effect looming at us, waiting to cripple our future even more and it is education.
What is the current scenario?
Students have been out of classrooms for more than a year already. While higher education has revitalized itself with completely online modules of learning to aid students at the cusp of entering college, it is the younger kids who are missing out the most. Over 260 million school students in India have been impacted according to UNESCO and NCERT.
Understanding the need gaps in the current online learning environment starts from the class size. India follows a 30:1 ratio for students to teachers as per the Right to Education Act, but considering the lack of experience in working with digital tools, school classes have been stripped to an ‘I speak, you listen’ model. This is not a conducive environment to foster discussions and debates when students are put on mute and maintaining order is difficult. This method only imparts knowledge, it does not encourage or promote any Higher Order Thinking Skills such as critical thinking, analysis, problem-solving, or decision making. The teachers are also used to picking visual cues from the students to figure out the understanding level of the kids and in an online environment are not geared to figure out whether the kids are really comprehending or not.
Another big gap that online classes are failing to bridge is the peer interactions that often help develop social skills as well as analytical, evaluation, and decision-making skills. In a physical environment, just because of the sheer number of interactions, these skills would get developed to an extent without any structured interventions.
With both these handicaps, we need to ensure that the kids are developing well on higher cognitive functions.
Key shifts in the learning methods and efficacy
Behavioral shift to virtual learning: Due to an extended period of pandemic led lockdowns across the nation, students have had to move to regular, online classes. Smartphones have enabled students in even remote villages to attend school via phones. However, lack of resources is a great challenge and citizen-led initiatives have brought used smartphones back to life in order to help underprivileged students attend classes online. A key outcome of all of this is a permanent behavioral shift in the average school learner who is equally comfortable learning online as s/he was learning through face-to-face interactions. In a lot of use cases, where it is more convenient or more efficient to learn online, the learner would continue to learn online compared to the traditional classroom. We foresee this change more so in categories that require specialized instruction such as tech areas like robotics or cognitive acceleration programs in logical and analytical thinking.
Tech-based assessments: A rapid need to shift online has made schools adapt to technology and yet virtual classrooms only are not enough to do the job right. Teachers are getting insights from technology-enabled teaching and assessment tools which help identify strengths and weaknesses in the learning path of individual students. Interestingly, AI-enabled assessments have shorter, aptitudinal formats and generate reports with analysis of cognitive development of a learner. We foresee that the adoption of more scientific and tech-driven assessments would continue to accelerate and over the next 5 years, most schools will shift completely to digital assessment systems.
Supplementary learning: Extensive efforts have been made by each parent to manage individual responsibilities and their kid’s learning. Edtech solutions have made it possible for urban parents to engage their children in not just curriculum-based learning but explore creative interests in different things. Be it learning through structured programs in technology, social skills, or cognitive excellence or substituting toys with more engaging kits, edtech is expanding its offerings in making learning fun, effective and accessible.
Important skills where edtech can bridge the gap
The most critical situation is for the younger students in the 5-14 age group. They belong to the last two stages of cognitive development where social setups form the grounds for important skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Group activities have moved to online classes and overwhelmed parents are grappling between work from home and watching over their child’s classes. This is where India has taken a fundamental leap towards app-based, interactive learning for young kids. Even tier 3-4 towns have significant smartphone penetration today, leading to more and more parents looking for solutions to help kids learn, in a structured, effective manner. India’s burgeoning edtech businesses are proof of the fact that the right solutions will eventually reach the right audience and encourage the adoption of digital tools among wary parents.
How does the future of learning look like?
Curriculum-based learning is now supplemented with interactive skill-building tools, coding, robotics, and more. Younger kids are missing out on critical phases of cognitive skill development (5-14) and the edtech industry has been constantly finding new ways of developing effective learning tools for such learners. Classrooms will return post-pandemic, but what is interesting about edtech adoption is that it will continue to be a preferred choice for students and parents alike for supplemental education. The sheer creativity in putting a subject of learning across through digital, interactive content has far-reaching effects on the minds of the learners and retention of concepts. I strongly believe education is a concerted effort by teachers, parents, and silent educators, who are working behind the scenes in developing the most effective ways to empower a child with the skills required for a successful and happy future.