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Geography Is History

Will students from India get to experience content and delivery on a global standard? Will they have an opportunity to learn from the best teachers and professors from across the world at an affordable cost, at a time and place of their convenience?

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma


Imagine a sector which has languorously adopted technology over the past decade and is now coerced to embrace it completely. No prizes for guessing this sector – It’s Education!

The recent COVID-19 crisis has thrown the sector into a tizzy, with most part of the world under some form of a lockdown and an estimated 91 percent students away from schools and colleges. How can an entire sector pivot to a totally different model of delivery? What are the challenges for the students and the trainers and educators? Will a new model emerge?

The K-12 segment ("K-12" being an acronym for kindergarten through Grade 12) in India is the largest in the world, with more than 300 million students. It is estimated that roughly 25 per cent of the total number of schools are private schools, but they account for 40 per cent of the enrolment. Quality of education has been a pervasive issue in government schools, with some islands of exception like Delhi.

In the K-12 segment, teachers have only known the face-to-face (F2F) model of teaching and in some private schools, technology has been used more to support the functioning of the school. There was never a need to bring it to the core. Until now! For a start, F2F has a new avatar – a virtual meeting! A huge effort will have to be made to infuse technology into delivering content online. For a start, teachers have started online classes using popular platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, etc. These classes have tried to mimic the real world classroom, albeit in a virtual environment. While there have been several challenges, online delivery has proved successful on several counts and will certainly become mainstream in some shape and form, post the current crisis.

Can a more efficient model be conceived? A possible method could be to build the content of “rock star” teachers which can be reused on a need-basis, with felicitation by co-ordinators. The normal sequential method of teaching could also be replaced by segregated teaching, which is consumed by students from their homes. Schools will now need to accelerate a holistic adoption of technology for content, teaching, assessment, collaboration and for operations. None of this is without some serious challenges. Teachers and students will need a mind-set change, physical space will need to be dedicated at home and social interactions will be lesser. While private schools are likely to rapidly adopt all this, technology providers will need to conceive affordable models for the swathe of students in government schools. From devices to bandwidth to space, the needs are vast.

And what about higher education and the 40 million students in this space? Digitization and online delivery of content in this segment is not new with global initiatives like MOOCs (Massive online open courses) available for anyone to enroll and a determined thrust by the government of India with Swayam, which offers an impressive catalog of courses relevant to the Indian education system. This trend will accelerate, and students will truly want a model of “anytime, anywhere learning”. The importance of a physical campus will slowly diminish, and a hybrid model will emerge. Regulators will need to bless this emerging model, which is different from the physical campus model, which has an overarching need for students and faculty to be physically present. In the US, there have been experiments with pure online universities like 2U and the Minerva project. Will India see such models? The time is ripe and if such models are successful, it will ensure increase in the present GER (Gross Enrollment ratio) of around 28 percent. It is estimated that more than 7 lac students go abroad from India every year for higher education. With the many hybrid models that will emerge, the amount of time a student spends in an overseas campus is likely to reduce, making the education process more affordable. Universities which rapidly move to a technology-based model will see higher traction from students, from countries like India.

Post any depression in an economy, there is an upsurge in the demand for executive education, upskilling and reskilling. And we are likely to see the same trend now, with a small difference. The demand will largely be for online delivery of these courses, which are amenable to being delivered online on a rapid scale.

If all these changes coalesce, it will lead to an entirely different world of education. Digital will become the backbone of the sector and online delivery and assessment will become mainstream. Will students from India get to experience content and delivery on a global standard? Will they have an opportunity to learn from the best teachers and professors from across the world at an affordable cost, at a time and place of their convenience? Given that we can now travel through a game reserve in South Africa from the couch in our living room, seeing how music concerts and museums have entered our homes, we are certainly shifting to a borderless world of learning. In which case -- Geography is history!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Ninad Karpe

The author is Partner at and can be reached at [email protected]

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