Digital content, DIY learning

Topics education | e-learning

In the season of school examinations, it is worth reflecting on the tyranny of rote learning which still hobbles Indian students. 

Rooted in obsolete British era objectives, our education is stagnating in the era of fourth industrial revolution. Rote based learning is preventing education institutions from riding the benefits of the technology. 

Tinkering labs set up under the Atal Innovation Mission of the government have provided a glimpse of what could be done to revamp the learning ecosystem. Embedded in schools, these labs help students to learn while they tinker with scientific experiments using robotics 3D printers etc. Over 5400 schools and 6 million students have benefited from this initiative according to the government. 

This is but a drop in the ocean. Digital classes combined with do-it-yourself (DIY) learning is our best hope. India is struggles to prepare hundreds of millions to survive in an age where automation is everywhere. 

The Global Learner Survey by Pearson has surprising insights for educators. About 81% of people around the world believe that "learning will get more DIY the older they get." In many countries DIY education starts at an early age. Bringing private tutors for home studies is common form of DIY in India which supplements and sometimes even replaces classroom teaching. 

DIY education is transforming with the rise of online courses and digital learning materials. Personal tutors are being replaced by their digital avatars. Moreover, school and college students are realizing that is integral to their future. 

Respondents were asked in the Pearson survey about the language considered most important for future of work. English, Chinese and Spanish were among the top four preferences, as expected. The number two choice was surprising: coding. A choice which was often the preserve of technology students, is now considered a mainstream option by most. Coding is the new second language. 

About 30% of respondents feel that knowledge of coding is more important than learning Chinese or Spanish. This sentiment will only increase with time. Already the top business schools in US and elsewhere are beginning to offer coding for management students. 

Coding and digital learning will reinforce each other as they spread across schools and colleges in India as well. Educators should now ensure that coding is offered to everyone and not just computer science students. 

The good news from the Pearson survey is that India is high on upskilling. A global upskilling divide is emerging, but India is on its right side. "People in China, India, Brazil and Hispano-America are more likely to upskill or retrain than workers in the US and UK," says the survey. Over 76% respondents from India said they felt the need for further education for their job. And most of these took a course, self-taught themselves or accepted a training programme from their employer. Indians are realizing the futility of depending on degrees and academic education and from schools to colleges to mid-career education. There is a crying need to foster DIY learning and digital classrooms. In many ways this approach is age and sector agnostic. Corporate and government employers must reduce their fixation on degrees while emphasizing on ability and skills. A recent six-month course in data science can be more valuable than a 10-year-old degree in mechanical engineering. A student who can recite poetry and code as well, can be more valuable to an organization than one that scores 99% in a school board exam. 

Indian learning ecosystem should step away from rote and tighten its embrace of DIY learning.

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