[This article was pulished in the August 2008 issue of the digitalLEARNING Magazine (http://www.digitalLEARNING.in)]
The nation as a whole is looking at a variety of methods to educate the children of this country. Technology has slowly but surely in the last decade or two made deep inroads into the field of education especially in main stream, urban schools.
St Mary’s School, Safdarjung Enclave
The nation as a whole is looking at a variety of methods to educate the children of this country. Technology has slowly but surely in the last decade or two made deep inroads into the field of education especially in main stream, urban schools. Once considered the strong point of private, elite, city schools, technology now finds a place in Kendriya Vidhyalayas, Navodhya Vidhyalayas and even in local government schools. With the advent of NGO’s into the education system in India, an IT led revolution in the way education is transacted in rural schools, adult literacy programs and vocational training institutes is in force. NGO’s backed by IT related business houses feel that the sure shot way of imparting education on a large scale is through the use of technology. The lack of well trained, educated teachers in both rural and urban areas is also a reason for agencies to see IT as an alternative to teacher led education.
It is imperative that we understand the demands that are placed by children on a comprehensive education program before we look at the benefits and challenges of introducing technology into schools. Most importantly it is necessary for us to understand the enormous role that communication and interaction play in the growth and maturity of young children. In this day and age where technology driven innovations such as mobiles and games have only served to isolate children, we need to take into serious account that physical, mental and emotional development are the cornerstones of an all round education. People and organizations that look to introducing technology in schools are faced with the great challenge of retaining the personal touch of teachers while reducing the relative alienation and isolation of the world of technology. The need to develop responsible citizens of tomorrow is yet another dimensional requirement of education. Mental and emotional literacy and basic education are required for people to manage their daily lives and participate in the democratic processes; vocational skills enable participation in the economy; and higher education enables Indians to play a more effective role in the global knowledge economy and international affairs. Given this insight, the challenge to technology is to find a way to address these various issues.
India has one of the largest networks of schools in the world. During the last six decades the system has grown manifold in size both in terms of institutions and enrolment. With the thrust of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan the nature of the Indian education system has shifted from a system for the privileged to a system of mass education. But while we may use the term mass education, as educationists we need to be aware of each individual and his/her unique gifts and challenges. The importance of inclusive education has been reiterated often enough in various national and international documents.
“Regular schools with inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, building inclusive societies and achieving education for all.” Salamanca Statement(UNESCO 1994)
Inclusive education takes care of the various dimensions of emotional, mental, psychic and physical by getting children to interact with a diversity of abilities. Technology that recognizes difference and celebrates it would be hugely beneficial to schools with an inclusive profile. Reducing the reach and scope of technology to only children with typical abilities will not only be discriminatory but also unconstitutional.
Another consequence of the expanding system of schools, with ever increasing enrolment and acquiring of mass character, is the increase in the complexity of school management. While the system demands new knowledge and skills from the teacher and head teachers it also demands greater capability at the school level to respond to the emerging diversity in the student population and among those entering the teaching profession. In effect, changes in the characteristics of the system have made the role of the school teacher and the school management system even more critical than what it was earlier.
In the struggle to use and to infuse technology, there has been an over-emphasis on merely building teachers’ technology skills. Yet knowing how to use a computer does little to guarantee the successful infusion of technology into the teaching and learning process. Teachers must be offered training in using computers, but their training must go beyond that to the instructional strategies needed to infuse technological skills into the learning process in classrooms. The use and abuse of the internet and how to tackle it is another crucial area that teachers need to be trained in, provided that the government is able to get an efficient system of internet connectivity in place. Broadband service should not be a luxury. It should become a basic part of the infra structure of education since it could decrease inequality in a country where huge disparities exist in the dissemination of knowledge.