The Education Issue Democratic Candidates Should Be Talking About

Democratic Presidential Candidates are overlooking a basic problem in education.

Education is a hot issue in the contest among Democratic presidential hopefuls. But none of what’s been said so far gets to the root of the problem.

Most of the many current candidates have issued comprehensive policy proposals or at least staked out positions on key education issues. Their prescriptions for reform cluster around the same basic proposals, listed below. Reasonable arguments can be made for all these ideas, and compelling ones for some. But none gets at a pervasive and long overlooked problem that has hobbled efforts to improve education for decades—and, if left unaddressed, will undermine the current proposals, should they ever come to fruition.

Like most education reformers and policymakers—of either party—the Democratic candidates have failed to focus on what is actually going on in classrooms, particularly in elementary school. They might be surprised to learn that in all but a relative handful, teachers aren’t even trying to provide kids with substantive knowledge. Instead, they’re spending hours every day teaching them so-called reading comprehension skills—or trying to. The theory is that if kids master supposed skills like “finding the main idea” or “making inferences,” eventually they’ll be able to use them to glean knowledge from any text put in front of them.

But scientists who study the learning process have long understood that reading comprehension doesn’t work that way. The most important factor isn’t some generally applicable skill. It’s how much background knowledge and vocabulary you have relating to the topic. So if we want to boost kids’ reading comprehension—and their general academic performance—we need to start building their knowledge as early as possible through social studies, science, literature and the arts. That’s especially important for children from less educated families, who are the least likely to pick up that kind of knowledge at home.

Instead, though, we’ve narrowed the elementary curriculum to reading and math, especially in high-poverty schools where test scores are low. That focus often continues through middle school, with the result that many students arrive in high school with such crippling gaps in knowledge that it’s nearly impossible for them to understand high school-level material. The longer we wait to start addressing those gaps, the harder they are to fill.

This problem isn’t new, but in the past twenty years well-intentioned reform efforts have only made things worse. No Child Left Behind, enacted in 2001—and some of the measures taken by the Obama administration in its wake—intensified the focus on test scores. Because reading tests appear to assess comprehension skills, teachers have doubled down on that kind of instruction. But if students don’t have the background knowledge to understand the passages on the tests, they can’t demonstrate their skills. That has become even more of an issue since 2010, when the Common Core literacy standards or something like them were adopted in most states. The passages on tests aligned to those standards include more nonfiction, which generally assumes more background knowledge than fiction. And yet most teachers have continued focusing on comprehension “skills” rather than knowledge.

The solution, briefly, is to get more districts or schools to adopt recently developed elementary literacy curricula that build students’ knowledge of the world instead of fruitlessly trying to develop comprehension “skills.” Unless that happens, the candidates’ favorite proposals will founder in different but related ways:

·        Expanded access to preschool: Yes, we need to start building children’s knowledge and vocabulary early, and preschools using good curricula can help. But if kids go from preschool to a black hole of knowledge in elementary school, whatever gains they’ve made evaporate quickly—a phenomenon known as “preschool fadeout.”

·        Making college free or less expensive: This is a great idea—for students who graduate from high school prepared to do college-level work. But many high school graduates are required to take remedial courses when they enroll in college, and they often never graduate. Making college free without also improving K-12 education could just encourage even more ill-prepared students to enroll, resulting in an even greater waste of time and effort—and money, even if students themselves don’t bear the costs.

·        Limits on charter schools: These proposals have drawn the most attention, but they wouldn’t address this basic problem. Charters could theoretically serve as models of innovation by focusing on content at the elementary level. For the most part, though, they’ve drilled kids on comprehension “skills” just as much as traditional public schools have—if not more.

·        More funding for high-poverty schools: Money could help, but only if schools understand what to do with it. If they just use it to fund more of the same meaningless comprehension instruction, as they generally do, the money won’t make much difference. And high-quality curriculum doesn’t cost any more than low-quality curriculum, so schools could do a lot more with the resources they have now.

·        Increasing teacher salaries: Teachers in many places need and deserve more money, and teacher turnover has a negative impact on student achievement. But teachers also leave because they’re dissatisfied with their working conditions, including pressure to raise test scores; nearly half of teachers surveyed in one study said they’d considered quitting because of testing. If the current approach to elementary education continues, test scores will continue to languish—and the pressure will continue, along with teacher turnover.

It would be great if at least one of the 20 candidates who have qualified for the first Democratic debates later this week mentioned that we’re not actually teaching kids much in elementary school—and that we’re unlikely to make progress in addressing the problems plaguing our education system unless we start. But explaining that would take more than the few minutes they’ll be allotted.

Still, there’s time to get this message out before the primaries begin. There may not be a powerful constituency clamoring for this kind of reform right now. But if a candidate explains the issue well, several groups could get on board:

·        Teachers: In the few schools that have switched to a knowledge-focused curriculum, many teachers have embraced the change wholeheartedly. They say it’s the way they’ve always wanted to teach.

·        Parents: Kids don’t come home from school chattering excitedly about “making inferences” or “identifying nonfiction text structures.” But when they’re learning about the human digestive system or Greek mythology, parents are delighted by the rich conversations they can have—and how much their kids are enjoying school. With a solid foundation of knowledge, students will also be poised to succeed in later grades.

·        Employers: If schools adopt a knowledge-building approach, high school graduates will be far better equipped for the 21st-century workplace. Having a fund of knowledge and vocabulary can enable workers to understand on-the-job manuals, write coherent reports, and adapt to changing work requirements.

·        Those concerned by growing inequity: Reformers are starting to give up on education as an engine of social mobility. But it’s still our best hope for reducing inequality. The problem is that we haven’t tried to address the gap in knowledge between haves and have-nots, beginning in the early grades.

Elizabeth Warren, who famously has a plan for everything, doesn’t yet have one for K-12 education. She or some other Democratic candidate could stand out from the crowd by focusing on a vital issue everyone else has ignored for decades: our wrong-headed, self-defeating obsession with reading comprehension “skills.” And ultimately, millions of children—not to mention society as a whole—could reap enormous benefits.


New Education Policy: Non-inclusion of teachers in core committee deprived panel knowledge of on-ground challenges

Editor’s note: The draft New Education Policy, which intends to introduce broad reforms, is now open for public scrutiny. In this three-part series, Firstpost examines the structural efficacy of the proposed policy. This is the first part of the series.

“When was the last time you used a quadratic equation in your life?”

I have not used it in at least seven years. I am not suggesting that learning quadratic equations is not important, because it is, for a small set of people. But why is every child grilled through the same, then?

 New Education Policy: Non-inclusion of teachers in core committee deprived panel knowledge of on-ground challenges

Representational image. Reuters

Looking back, I would have benefited more if the school years taught me how my identity shapes my actions, how I may have been less misogynistic (#YesAllMen), handing rejections without being harsh on myself, normalising writing gratitude letters and learning to disagree without being bitter or losing the fondness for the other.

I believe I would have benefited more by combining music and science, history and physics, and computers and environment. I think others too would have benefitted from these. Instead, we were learning quadratic equations’ formulas.

It is in the context of such a disconnect between our individual as well as collective needs that having examined the specific provisions of the policy, I zoom out to examine the broad principles and approach of the New Education Policy.

New Education Policy is a piece of mixed news. It has its fair share of good news and a fair share of areas where the committee disappoints.

Several studies including the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) shows that more than 50 percent of our class 5 children are unable to read the basic text and perform basic arithmetic. This is a national emergency that is neither adequately discussed nor acted upon. With the majority of the children unable to read basic text, it is difficult to predict the future of these children or India because there does not seem to be one.

In that context, the New Education Policy lays emphasis on building foundational literacy and numeracy. The policy goes on to recommend sound measures such as dedicated time for foundational skills, reviewing textbooks for primary grades, redesigning teacher education modules to reorient focus towards building foundational skills, among others.

The committee acknowledges that the syllabus currently imposed on students is unwarranted. Harvard professor Lant Pritchett has demonstrated negative consequences of overambitious curricula.

Ours is not only ambitious but disconnected. Recall the last time you used trigonometric equations? He showed that two countries with exactly the same potential learning could have massively divergent learning outcomes just because of a gap between curricular and actual pace—and the country which goes faster has much lower cumulative learning.

Ironically, the learning could go faster if curriculum and teachers were to just simply slow down, the research proved. Therefore, the recommendation of the committee to reduce the content curriculum making space for critical thinking and the arts is a progressive step forward.

The policy, however, falls short of establishing the connection between our national needs with that of its proposals. One of the most significant challenges our democracy faces today is the menace of fake news. The responsibility of building citizens that can identify the difference between fake and real news, facts and fiction, campaign and propaganda lies in our schools. The menace is eating up our democracy with no foreseeable sign of it relenting. In that light building institutions that can resist and counter to this menace is the key responsibility that the committee has failed to even take into account.

The committee that drafted the New Education Policy did not have a single school teacher in it. One is unable to understand the reasons and explanation for it if there can indeed be any. There are nearly 80 lakh teachers in India and they remain the most important unit of effecting changes proposed in the policy. Without their involvement and considerable say in the making of the New Education Policy, it remains to be seen as to how the teaching community responds to it. The fate of the No-Detention Policy is well-known because the teachers did not want it. Within two years of Right to Education, a review committee was set up and within seven years, the provision has been diluted significantly.

Not one school teacher can be found in the list of 217 eminent persons the committee consulted. However, the committee rightfully laments the loss of prestige of teachers and its approach provides evidence for it.

 The author works as a Secretary-rank officer in Delhi Commission For Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), Government of Delhi.

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In 2 weeks, government gets 50,000 suggestions regarding the draft New Education Policy

human resource development,HRD,NEP

A human resource development (HRD) ministry official said they have so far received nearly 50,000 suggestions and inputs from across the country.(HT Photo)

Opinion | Planning higher education for your little one

 (Illustration: Sudhir Shetty)

Most of us have been part of family conversations that go, “When I was young, everything was so cheap” with multiple examples thrown in ranging from food items to petrol prices. The absolute changes in values are very significant, but when you put them down in numbers, the changes are mostly in line with inflation over the years. However, costs of education and health care have gone up at a significantly faster pace than other products.

Over the last 15 years we have been working with clients and their families on setting and monitoring their financial goals. One of the biggest shifts that we have noticed with respect to financial goals is the desire and dream to ensure that children get access to international education—either overseas or in institutions that offer international curriculums in India.

The shift to the dream of an “international” education has been driven by a combination of factors.

These include increased international exposure due to foreign travel for work and vacations, the proliferation of international schools over the last few years that have an experiential learning system rather than rote learning, the brutal competition domestically for the best institutions for higher studies, and of course, the significantly higher disposable incomes driven by salaries that are at global standards, as well as the increase in double income families.

How much money do you need for it?

The starting point to achieve this objective is to estimate the cost of education accurately. The cost will depend on the type of the course and the location of the educational institution. While estimating the amount, remember that factoring in only tuition fees is not enough. You should also consider other costs such as extra-curricular activities, living expenses, medical costs, books, supplies and travel cost of the child and parents. Living on or off campus could make a huge difference in costs too.

Impact of total inflation, not just education inflation

Since planning for education is usually a long-term goal, considering the right inflation rate is important as most people underestimate inflation rates and its compounding impact.

While that is probably true for general inflation, education inflation globally does tend to be much higher than general inflation.

Education inflation in the US, for example, is currently between 4% and 5% per annum, down from 6-7% per annum that it used to be, but still high enough that education costs double in 12-15 years. In addition, the exchange rate movement will also need to be factored in.

How you can save for this goal

Using a combination of the estimated cost of the education today, the total inflation and the number of years before this money is required, the total corpus needed can be estimated. The good news is that not all this money is likely to be required together, so a year-wise amount can be arrived at.

Accordingly, a portfolio investment strategy with a robust asset allocation will need to be developed in light of risk tolerance and historical returns of various asset classes.

Based on these estimations, you can arrive at an investment amount. While most investors tend to be overwhelmed by some of these numbers, it is important that the numbers are broken down into smaller amounts like monthly savings amounts and then increased over a period of time. Like most other goals, a high quality education goal(s) can be achieved, with the right planning, discipline and execution.


Opinion | New education policy misses a critical chance to address inequalities in system

Not specifying a common minimum standard below which schools cannot fall, creates conditions where quality of facilities in some schools will only sink lower. (Mint)

The draft National Education Policy (NEP), 2019, is full of provisions that many in the education sector have been desperate to see for decades. The conferring of the Right to Education to children under six and above 14, doubling of the overall financial allocation to education and strengthening the teaching profession bring cheer. However, many of the policy’s omissions and contradictions, combined with the previous track record of central and state governments in implementing existing education policies, diminish this hope.

The omissions: While the policy talks about the need to bring “unrepresented groups” into school and focus on educationally lagging “special education zones”, it misses a critical opportunity of addressing inequalities within the education system. It misses to provide solutions to close the gap of access to quality education between India’s rich and poor children. It proposes to remove the expectations that all schools meet common minimum infrastructure and facility standards, and that primary schools be within a stipulated distance from children’s homes.

India’s schools already vary across the scale—from single room structures without water and sanitation, to technology-enabled international schools. Not specifying a common minimum standard below which schools cannot fall, creates conditions where quality of facilities in some schools will only sink lower, widening this gap.

This is even more of an issue since it proposes a roll back of existing mechanisms of enforcement of private schools making parents “de-facto regulators” of private schools. Parents, and particularly poor and neo-literate parents, cannot hold the onus of ensuring that much more powerful and resourced schools comply with quality, safety and equity norms.

India should have moved towards a national system of education that shapes India’s next generation and enforce standards of quality across the country.

The contradictions: While the policy places considerable emphasis on the strengthening of “school complexes” (clusters of schools sharing joint resources) and decentralized mechanisms for supporting teachers, their everyday management appears to have been tasked to the head teacher of the secondary school in the cluster.

Furthermore, no separate funding appears to have been earmarked for this. This is false economy, since this is a full time activity and needs to be staffed and resourced accordingly.

Lessons from non-implementation of past policies: The policy’s implementation is predicated on the assumption that the education budget would be almost doubled in the next 10 years through consistent decade-long action by both the centre and states. However, the revenue is decentralized to the states and it is unclear what would be done to ensure that resources needed will be allotted. The sheer scale of changes expected, the rapid timeline, the absence of a strong mechanism for handholding states on this journey and the probable inadequate budget raises questions on the full implementation of this policy. India’s history is littered with ambitious education policies that have not been fully implemented. The National Education Policy risks following this tradition, unless the government addresses the reasons behind the past policy-practice implementation gap and makes conscious efforts to carry all of India on the same road towards improvement in education.


3-language policy: National Education Policy draft revised, 2 members object

3-language policy: National Education Policy draft revised, 2 members object

The criticism forced the HRD Ministry to issue a statement Saturday clarifying that the policy was only a draft and will be finalised after incorporating public feedback and views of the state governments. (Representational image)

Two members of the government-appointed committee led by scientist K Kasturirangan are learnt to have objected Monday to their chairperson’s decision to revise a contentious paragraph in the draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2018, dropping a reference to Hindi and English in the recommendation on the three-language formula.

Following protests by political parties, mainly in Tamil Nadu, on what they called the “imposition” of Hindi, the HRD Ministry, at Kasturirangan’s behest, has shared a revised document on its website, which dropped the recommendation that stipulated the languages that students must choose to study from Grade 6.

Committee members Ram Shankar Kureel, former founder vice-chancellor of Baba Saheb Ambedkar University of Social Sciences in Madhya Pradesh, and K M Tripathy, former chairperson of Uttar Pradesh High School and Intermediate Examination Board, are learnt to have registered their opposition to the revision of the draft with the government.

Responding to an email sent by an HRD Ministry official, informing all committee members of the change effected at the behest of Kasturirangan, Kureel is learnt to have called the move unfortunate, while Tripathy objected to the changes made without consulting the committee members — especially since the changes had been discussed and decided against during the panel’s deliberations. The panel has a total of 11 members.

When contacted, Tripathy refused to comment on the matter. Kureel told The Indian Express: “The committee had submitted the hard copy to the HRD Minister (on May 31) and that is the report of the NEP. I stand by that report. The three-language formula is in the interest of national integration.” He did not wish to comment any further.


The formula, the opposition

The three-language formula, dating back to 1968, means students in Hindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English and, in non-Hindi-speaking states, Hindi along with the regional language and English. Tamil Nadu has always opposed this policy, and the new row is over the draft NEP proposing its continuation.

Advocating for bringing in flexibility in the implementation of the three-language formula, the earlier version of the draft NEP, uploaded on the ministry’s website on May 31, read: “In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6, so long as the study of three languages by students in the Hindi-speaking states would continue to include Hindi and English and one of the modern Indian languages from other parts of India, while the study of languages by students in the non-Hindi-speaking states would include the regional language, Hindi and English.”

The revised version states: “In keeping with the principle of flexibility, students who wish to change one or more of the three languages they are studying may do so in Grade 6 or Grade 7, so long as they are able to still demonstrate proficiency in three languages (one language at the literature level) in their modular Board Examinations some time during secondary school.”

The draft NEP was submitted to the new HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on May 31, following which it was made public for feedback and suggestion.

The earlier version of the draft’s pitch for the proper implementation of the three-language formula in schools across the country drew strong reaction from the DMK, which dubbed the suggestion as an effort to “thrust” Hindi on Tamil Nadu.

The criticism forced the HRD Ministry to issue a statement Saturday clarifying that the policy was only a draft and will be finalised after incorporating public feedback and views of the state governments.


Forget Sats – find a true measure of education

pupils sitting an exam

 ‘The way we evaluate schools, as well as the way we teach and assess pupils, have to be rethought,’ writes Mary Bousted. Photograph: David Jones/PA

Amanda Spielman may be warning the wrong people about exam anxiety, certainly as far as younger kids are concerned (Ofsted chief says teachers can cause ‘subliminal’ exam anxiety, May 14). My 10-year-old is not worried because I have told him Sats are irrelevant to his life. His secondary school will determine how best he will fit in, based on its own testing, when he gets there in September. I did ask him to do his best in sympathy with the people who are sweating it out this week: his excellent teachers, whose lives – and the rating of the school – depend on how he does at rote nonsense.

Meanwhile, the true quality of his education is illustrated by the year 6 leavers’ scrapbook year after year, which always tells the same story: the stellar moments each child remembers are extracurricular experiences such as acting in plays, spending a week together on Exmoor or learning about Mary Anning in Lyme Regis. We parents can also play our part – as a lawyer, I have supervised the trial of three teachers for “murdering” the headteacher, with the local police arriving to oversee the investigation. (They were all acquitted by exemplary 10-year-old jurors, I am glad to say.)

We should deliver a token of our respect and thanks to the anxious teachers when the Sats end on Thursday. Meanwhile, when will the government accept that teachers should be allowed to inspire, rather than having to cram tedious material down the throats of their enthusiastic goslings? Perhaps begin by allowing them a free day a week to seek out the child’s passion.
Clive Stafford Smith
Symondsbury, Dorset

 Fiona Millar warns us of the risks of abolishing Sats and says we should not go back to the pre-testing days of the early 1990s (Education, 14 May). But no one in the debate reignited by Jeremy Corbyn and Layla Moran is advocating a system without assessment. The right kind of assessment matters, because we need to support pupils’ learning more effectively. It matters because we need to identify problems in schools and put them right. There is no dispute about this.

What Corbyn and Moran – like the OECD and many national governments – have pointed out is that the system we have neither supports learners nor provides useful information about schools. That’s why it needs to change. Nor is anyone suggesting that changes to assessment alone will be enough to mend the damage done to our primary schools. The way we evaluate schools has to be rethought, as does the way we teach and assess pupils. To this end, we need to think boldly and comprehensively. Millar’s approach, which points to the size of the problems as a reason to doubt the capability of reformers to address them, falls short of what is required.
Dr Mary Bousted
Joint general secretary, National Education Union

 Most present and past teachers, like myself, could confirm the sense of the research finding in your report (Teacher assessment could take place of many tests, study says, 13 May). Most have been arguing for years about the negative effects of excessive testing and league tables.

Teachers work closely with students to help them make progress in their learning, while nurturing their wellbeing. It is their job – in my case, a vocation and what I spent four years training to do. I hope politicians will heed this research.
Ann Moore
Stocksfield, Northumberland

 Not long after I read your report on research suggesting that replacing exams with teacher assessments “would arguably benefit the wellbeing of students … and help to bring joy back to the classroom”, my son told me that after his first GCSE paper on Monday some of his fellow students found it so difficult that they were in tears. It wasn’t so long ago that he said he wasn’t being taught to learn, more to pass exams. Add the drop in students doing foreign languages because the papers are too hard – people should look at maths too – and it’s easy to conclude that our education system is deeply flawed.


Closing the early education gap for rural families

The mountain of evidence that early childhood education has profound and life-long effects for students has been building for decades. Educators have made efforts to expand access to high-quality early education opportunities, but that access is not evenly distributed–rural communities are often left out of the loop entirely.

Approximately one in five Americans live in rural areas, and, according to the Center for American Progress, 59% of rural areas are defined as “child care deserts.” This term refers to areas that have fewer available child care spots than there are children in need of them. Even more concerning, there’s no guarantee that those available spots even offer high-quality preschool instruction.

My formal title is director of curriculum and instruction at Greenburg Community Schools, but I also serve as the coordinator for our Federal Title I, Title II, Title III, and Title IV and Rural and Low Income Schools grants, as well as those for high ability and gifted students.

These positions allow me to see where students are when they enter our school system at the kindergarten level and watch them evolve, experience, and mature through graduation. We see students who have been enrolled in childcare facilities since they were six weeks old, others who have attended preschool for two or more years, and still others who have never been away from home before they enter kindergarten.

I have found that there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to providing early learning opportunities for rural communities, but at-home, online programs are helping to fill the gap.

The Challenges

A lack of available preschool options isn’t the only challenge facing rural parents seeking to educate their children. With more than a quarter of rural children coming from economically disadvantaged families, cost is also a significant issue. In my own experience working with rural populations in Indiana, I’ve seen this firsthand. Many parents are unemployed or underemployed. They may be working but no longer able to earn a living wage after factories that paid upwards of $20 an hour have closed, forcing them to make due on part-time work from temporary staffing agencies that pay $9–$15 an hour. Some preschool options can cost as much as $200 per week, which puts them firmly out of reach for many rural families.

Transportation is another significant hurdle. Rural communities are geographically isolated. Coupled with the grim economic picture, this means many families cannot take their children to preschool, either because they cannot afford it or because they don’t have flexible enough working hours to take them. A lack of public transportation in these rural areas often takes preschool completely off the table as an option.

The Solution

Luckily, the answers are suggested by the challenges themselves. If high-quality early education is too expensive for rural families, let’s educate their children at no cost to them. If transportation woes prevent them from taking their children to free high-quality options, let’s bring those options to them.

One organization I partner with–the nonprofit–offers an online early learning solution called Waterford UPSTART, which is designed to help children develop early literacy, numeracy and science skills.

I had previously worked with this organization when I was at a larger district. While there, I saw how the platform helped struggling and at-risk students prepare for kindergarten. When I moved to my current position at Greensburg, we adopted it as an early intervention tool with the help of an Early Intervention Literacy Grant.

All of our kindergarten students and our seven kindergarten teachers at Greensburg use Waterford UPSTART. I also serve as a local education partner with the organization for a project in which they provide the program free to pre-K students. Participating children are asked to spend 15 minutes a day, five days a week working with the program. If the family doesn’t have a computer, Waterford provides one. If they don’t have internet access, that’s provided free of charge as well through programs such as an EIR grant.

Families get their own academic coach, who monitors the frequency and duration of use and checks in with them frequently to ensure their children are neither over- or under-using the program. My role is to help promote the program in our district and identify students eligible for the free benefits.

Connecting with Families

As an educator, it has been a joy getting to know the local families I’ve had the privilege to work with and watching “my” children grow from our first meeting through our frequent family engagement events. In April, Greensburg Community Schools will hold its annual Kindergarten Round Up, where we’ll hold an open house for our new students and their families before administering baseline assessments for all incoming kindergartners. I look forward to comparing my online pre-K students’ results to those of their peers and cheering them on as they progress through their academic careers.


How technology is helping teachers redefine education

Vineeta Garg, an educator at the SRDAV Public School in Delhi, uses virtual reality (VR) to make teaching more impactful for her students.

“VR helps me to take my students anywhere in the world – from Mount Everest to the Statue of Liberty,” she said. “My students could easily learn history by visiting stunning ancient ruins in Greece or significant war sites in Vietnam without leaving the classroom.”

Garg was one of the educators selected to attend the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) in Paris in recognition of her use of technology in education.

VR field trips

Similarly, Mohammed Fazil uses virtual reality to take his students in Bengaluru on virtual field trips. The students explore the Taj Mahal and national parks, go on underwater expeditions and then write about their experience. He also uses a Microsoft Kinect controller to get the students to play motion-sensing math games such as Jumpido.

Technology in education is also making an impact in rural areas. In a zila parishad school in the Warud village of Maharashtra, a 31-year-old schoolteacher, Amol Bhayur, has not only deployed Amazon’s Alexa, but also installed the device inside a self-designed robot to pique the curiosity of the students.

“Armed with a power bank, a mannequin, an Echo smart speaker, and a mobile hotspot in the absence of wireless internet infrastructure, Amol was now ready to debut Alexa into the classroom,” said the company’s blog. He has realised that Alexa could be a game changer for education, the blog said.

“The emergence of technology has had a profound impact on the educational landscape, especially in rural India,” said Lloyd Mathias, senior technology executive and former Asia Marketing Head of HP. “It has helped in learning. It helps students have an active engagement with the learning material. By using the internet, students can research real issues, keeping their learning contemporary and relevant. The internet or software tools can help them create virtual communities that connect them in real-time with other students and teachers,” he said.

Tech solutions for the world

India is one of the first few countries to receive grants from’s $50-million global commitment to support non-profits that are building tech-based solutions to tackle challenges in education in developing countries. “We are committed to enabling and democratising access to high quality, world-class education to everyone. Our objective is to ensure that India’s large developer and student community can equip itself with all the latest technology, and inspire them to not only build products to solve the needs of users in India, but also for the world,” said the company.

The Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert programme, created to recognise global visionaries in the field of education who use technology to pave the way for their peers in the effective use of technology for better learning and student outcomes, has a community of 660 educators from India.

“By leveraging the power of technology, these passionate teachers are adopting new approaches to teaching and learning, and are reinforcing critical skills in today’s youth in India,” said Manish Prakash, Country Manager – Public Sector, Healthcare and Education,Microsoft India.


Incorporating missing digital elements in formal education in India

education in India

A very essential part of the skills that are missing in Indian education system are digital skills. In the digital world that we live in, most of the everyday tasks are done online or on a computer. The world is an extremely data driven world, writes Siddarth Bharwani, Vice President – Brand & Marketing, Jetking.

The Indian Economy is one the fastest growing economies in the world. With an expected growth rate of 7.3% in 2019-2020, experts believe that India will soon become the third largest economy in the world after US & China. However, the ground reality of this growth rate is quite different. If we look at the employment scenario in the country, we realise that India is not doing very well. The unemployment rate in the country is extremely disproportionate to the growth rate the country is witnessing. A closer look at the job market in the country will reveal that this paradox is due to a simple but major reason: the disconnect between formal education in India and the expectations of recruiters.

To make sense of that data and to get maximum utilisation of the plethora of opportunities that a business is getting these days, it is important to harness students with ways to make use of them to make them more employable. Let’s enumerate the 3 most essential skills that need to be an integral part of the curriculum today.

Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an extremely influential aspect of marketing today. Students that have an understanding of SEMand know how to capitalise on it will be seen as a great asset for an organization to upgrade their online search visibility. Companies spend hours updating their website and their content to make sure that they can effectively capture a larger audience. While most companies train their employees on SEO & SEM, it is a great advantage for students to have a working knowledge of them while applying for jobs.

Data Analytics

Data has become the hot word in every organisation’s dictionary. With the digitised world, there is an excess of data available which is extremely difficult to sift through and make sense of. Data Analytics is the study of various analytic tools and processes through which you can derive relevant insights and information through the refinement of raw data. Students need to be equipped with at least a basic knowledge of data analytics so that they know how to read and understand large chunks of it in a faster and more efficient manner. Companies prefer being backed by data instead of just going by trends which is why it is an important function to include into the formal education system.

Social Media Analytics

Social Media has taken the world by storm. Brands across the globe spend a lot of manpower and budget on creating efficient social media strategies. It is constantly changing and coming up with new ways for companies to stay relevant to its customers. The fact that people now spend over 50% of their time online just goes to show how important it is to include something as seemingly simple as social media into formal education system in India.

Apart from enhancing digital capabilities, it is also important to imbibe in student certain other life skills to ensure employability. Most of the education imparted is in theoretical with little or no exposure to the practical implications of the theories learnt. Recruiters often find it hard to hire people due to the lack of an understanding of the outside world and how the industry works. Soft skills like flexibility, leadership, teamwork, etc. is missing in the education system. These skills are acquired from practical exposure and it is important to allow students to experience and learn them while they are a part of the system. Recruiters look for candidates who know how to think outside the box and are able to think on their feet. The notion that these traits are something that people are born with is a myth. With practice and learning innovative thinking methods, it is possible to learn to be a critical thinker and an all-round performer.

The key to bridge this gap is through digitisation of the education system and bringing in innovative teaching pedagogy into the curriculum. E-learning has gained great traction in recent times in the education industry. The rampant increase in internet connectivity and data consumption has led to e-learning a spot in the centre stage of the education industry. Apart from providing access to education from anywhere, e-learning also allows professors to individually attend to all students giving them a better and more effective way of bridging the gap in the education system. Additionally, the role of teachers needs to change to create the link between the missing elements of the system. They need to be facilitators and not the leaders in a classroom. Attention should shift from teachers talking to students engaging and participating to motivate them to grasp more information.

To conclude, India needs to be more aware of the skill-gap and find ways to address it. Government bodies like National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) are created to deal with it but the awareness of this problem still exists. It is the duty of more educational institutes to create opportunities for its students to learn these important skills and make them job-ready. While corporates are making their own effort in skill-training by associating with various institutes to create specialised courses to suit their needs, educational institutes need to integrate these skills into the values of their organisation and curriculums. Only then will the country truly see the growth that it boasts of.