Gagan Jain, Co-Founder & CEO, Uniform Junction

Spending three years at Mafatlal Industries as Head of E-commerce and Modern Trade, Gagan was closely watching the online learning space as more and more players flocked the field. It didn’t take much time for both of them to zero-in that the market for online learning was burgeoning. The onset of COVID-19 pandemic infused a fresh lease of life to Gagan’s entrepreneurial dream which he had been slowly nurturing. With a strong experience in retail, E-commerce and technology, fueled by a strong demand uptick for online learning, thanks to the pandemic, Gagan gave wings to his entrepreneurial dream in December 2020 by co-founding Uniform Junction along with Priyavrata, a one-stop shop for all education related products and services. Both of them share a common vision – create the best way to serve schools, parents and children in the K-12 segment. Apart from his stints with global brands like Landmark group, The Times of India, Globus and Mafatlal group, Gagan has played a key role in setting up operations for couple of startups like Moneysaver (Now Snapdeal) and Mad (e) In India.   

 

Schools have to bring up citizens that have the required skills to act in our changing world, which means schools are the first to adopt and drive changes and innovation. 

Schools have always been providers of basic foundation of knowledge. But today when world is changing so drastically, schools have to shoulder the responsibility to foster a generation that has the skills to adapt and survive in the changing world. So now schools have to become drivers of change and innovation.

School Tech: Need of hour

School tech is the term used to describe the new industry that combines education and technological advances that allow schools to serve a larger and more diverse audience and to enable teachers and student to foster relationships in an interactive way. Covid-19 had accelerated the digitalization of schools across the world.

The digitalisation of school took accelerated path due to covid world over. Though initially online teaching was adopted to manage things under Covid crisis, very soon schools like many other sectors started seeing the benefits of technology in workflow. As its said, humans tend to turn crisis into opportunity and that is what happens in School-Tech space.

Tiding educational crisis 

Over the past year, the global K12 education system has largely moved online, which has influenced student learning performance and wellbeing. Indeed, school closures caused by COVID-19 are estimated to have affected up to over 84% of the world’s student population and still continue to impact many locations worldwide.

As a stopgap measure, many schools started using digital education tools to offer online teaching while students stay at home. Zoom became a household name and best friend to teachers in times of crisis.

Making of global Citizen

The online education broke the barriers of learning. Now a student in Manawer (small town in Madhya Pradesh) can learn AI course by best of the teachers based out of Israel. All you need is an internet connection, basic smart phone & willingness to be globally competitive. Schools can now empower their students & teachers with best of interactive learning and assessment tools, while giving parents a real time update on the progress of their children. Schools were always very local in their approach till date. But now they can access and communicate with global learning companies, data scientists and behaviouralist to impart universal learnings in science and technology.

The most important point is the opportunity is not limited to curriculum-based courses. Now it is possible for any one to have grand master as chess teacher or Oscar winning actor to conduct Master classes in acting. The real democracy is when everybody has equal chance of learning. Through School Tech, every school can broaden horizons for their children.

Challenges ahead

There have been concerns about introducing new forms of digital education so abruptly, especially in terms of learning effectiveness and cybersecurity. 

The fast inflow of new online courses and digital education in the market in a way is also a cause of concern when we look at it from point of view of learning effectiveness and cyber security.

Such challenges will likely be addressed over time as schools, teachers, and students become more familiar with the digital learning environment and online teaching approaches are refined. 

However, immediate concern is, online learning has also deepened the exposure of students to cyber-risks and affected social skills. Online classes are leading students to grow accustomed to spending more time online, blurring the distinction between physical and digital spaces. There are cases where technology adoption has become technology addiction. Lack of interaction and socialization also has negative impact on mental health. That is where school tech will play an important role. Unlike exclusive online learning platforms, schools can adopt a hybrid approach and enjoy the benefits of both the worlds. Schools are the only place which can ensure 360 degree grooming of the children by creating a tech enable space suitable for offline interaction and online learning at the same time.

Conclusions and outlook

The widespread digitalization of the educational sector is happening now, and schools need to ensure that this transformation occurs inclusively. Such outcomes would go a long way towards ensuring sustainable development of the digital economy and its potential to transform the lives of countless individuals through digital skills education. I believe that online learning will play an increasingly important role in the K12 education system. 

The digitalization of the education sector is part of broader trends in the global economy as a whole. Online and offline options are no longer dichotomies; the digital world is becoming increasingly fused into our daily lives and schools must make a concerted effort to ensure that all students are supported with digital education and training to thrive in this digital age.

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