Education Awaits Radical Transformation

The Massive Open Online Course is going to revolutionize the way education is provided currently. As in every revolutionary programme, there are doubts about its success initially. But this is the only programme which is capable of meeting the requirements of universal education genuinely. It has advantages over the traditional methods of teaching and learning. First and foremost is the quality of education. The artificial distinction of public school and government schools gets demolished in a full open online course. I say so on the strength of personal experience with Hindi language programmes made available free on line under a programme of the Government of India in technical collaboration with the Centre for Development of Advance Computing(C-DAC), Pune. These programmes-Prabodh, Praveen and Pragya-could be learnt through the medium of the English language or 14 other Modern Indian Languages(MIL). These programmes were an instant hit and are available currently free of any charge. As is known, India is a multi language country with more than 117 “Major” languages as per the Census of India, besides English. Inter language communication is a necessity in the country. Reaching out to the people in such a big country was proving difficult otherwise. Besides, now these courses are available to the citizens of the global village we inhabit today. Removing language barriers by facilitating simultaneous translation in chatting on line between two persons not knowing each other’s language is possible only through technology. Work is in progress to make available programmes with whose help speakers of two different languages shall be able to chat comfortably one day. The on line course holds out the promise of quality and uniformity of education and facilitating access to whosoever wishes to learn. This is the biggest advantage of the course.

It is going to change the whole education system globally. As the course content and methodology get standardized, its popularity will increase. More than 3/4th of the population is deprived of the education that the rest have access to, because they can’t “afford” such costly education. The deprived sections have to feel contented with schools in the open under a tree as there is no school building, without a black board or even a trained teacher. The complaint often heard is that middle school children can’t read a sentence or count up to 50. Graduates are termed “unemployable”. Can such education be called education at all? No, it can’t be. So it is a cause for public dissatisfaction with the government. More than 25 years ago, the government started a programme “black board” and a knowledgeable person remarked that it was not possible to meet the requirement of black boards in the country even if all the trees were cut down. On line courses alone hold out the hope of a revolutionary change in the situation.

Of late, regular school and college education has been replaced by coaching classes run commercially by private businesses, only on the strength of better quality. The teaching standards have gone down for several reasons and students can’t get high scores in their exams unless they engage private tuitions or go for coaching in private centres. Subjects like Mathematics, chemistry, statistics or English require extra coaching for majority of students. The open online course is going to mitigate the misery of the students in this respect. The MOOC will impart education through visual graphs, diagrams and interactive methods in a class room that may not be bigger than a living room but with scores of other mates. The possibilities are enormous, the benefits immense and the costs nominal. By the time we step in to the next century, broadband connectivity would have become common.

New technology brings unimagined benefits, but rarely without terrible losses too. Online education is going to save millions of meters of class room space globally. It is going to affect course book publication business largely due to digitization. It is going to save on commutation costs. It will result in saving of precious time for students, teachers, parents and people generally.

Let us highlight some advantages briefly:-

  1. Children can learn all basic skills  in the best way without the unnecessary stress of present day pre primary education ;
  2. They can learn all the required language skills to read, write & speak with greater ease than the class room situation of today;
  3. Maths can be so much fun from day one with the help of online courses, unlike the frightening ways of the teachers in schools generally;
  4. A virtual laboratory can inspire interest in science from early childhood and inspire the learners to pursue the stream as they move to higher classes;
  5. It helps children maintain good health, especially good vision. Presently children as young as 3 years are traumatized every morning at 0500 hours to prepare them to leave for school by 0600 or 0630 hours. More than 90% children wear spectacles!
  6. Parents also run blood pressure due to the morning stress, especially the mother. Their health will be protected;
  7. In India, the problem of absentee teachers makes mockery of school education. Teachers simply don’t come to school or even appoint someone locally to run the classes for them, even as the proxy can’t write her name! Online courses will end this foul practice which even the government has failed to remedy in the past 60 years.
  8. Indifference towards teaching or simply not delivering the required lectures afflicts senior school students as well as university scholars. Students suffer due to teachers’ apathy as self learning is difficult In higher mathematics, literature or any other subject. There is no alternative available to students, who are forced to go for private tuitions. Online courses present the much needed alternative, and several degrees superior to the class room teaching in more than 80% educational institutions in the country, including private engineering and medical institutions.
  9. Online courses are going to mitigate the criminal practice of ragging in colleges in India, where it ends up brutalizing the new comers and even death. The firing or stabbing incidents in educational institutions will end. Like in America, in India these incidents have started with the bullies and politically connected taking to unprovoked deadly violence on campus.

10. Government will save up 70% plus on education expenditure while registering improvement in standards;

11. What can’t be learnt online will always need education as at present.

12. Any perceived threat to teaching jobs is imaginary. On the other hand more teachers may be needed. Have jobs in the banking sector increased or decreased with the introduction of computerization? Just take in to account the existing vacancies: more than 20000 in higher education and millions in school education. Teaching has become the last option for any unemployed youth because of low payments and very poor working conditions;

13. The current criticism of online courses or their limitations is nothing more than initial resistance to the approaching revolution in education. It is natural because of the apprehensions of all round upheavals it is rightly considered to trigger. But it is because of the computer illiteracy of the older generation, which will become extinct as the new generation, computer savvy replaces them. Can the new generation live peacefully without the internet for even 8 hours?

14. The opposition to online course will disappear in thin air very soon. When we visualize the future class room, we enter an “intelligent class room”. These will have walls, desks and boards where children could write, draw, scribble or paint as they do in homes. What a fun learning would be!

15. An Indian term, Pandit ji, is now a part of the global lexicon. We respect a person for his knowledge. So he is called a Pandit or the knowledgeable and “ji” is honorific in India. I call my computer “Pandit Ji” for it keeps me connected to the cyberosphere or the cyber world, where I am able to learn about anything of my liking. It shows no attitude and is quite helpful in understanding the subject. All this at the click of the mouse. It can read out to a person visually challenged. In the modern knowledge society, can one do with less than that?

With the standardization of online courses and more interactive facility, they are going to be the future of education!

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