Sunday, August 23, 2009

Educational Technology in Indian Schools

After visiting several schools, talking to teachers and closely watching how they are trying to use educational technology and content made available to them, I am disturbed. Teachers are not equipped with the time, skills, right technology and content.

Business wise, observe the noise made about investments in Education. VCs are desperately looking for funding opportunities, obviously to make quick bucks and exit.

Management of schools across India appear to think that deploying these technologies (in their current form) will genuinely help teachers and students.  Unfortunately, most of these schools get carried away by the USP this "technology" will add to their school in the immediate community. These schools want to stand out. It is now proven that most of such solutions deployed, I mean nearly 90% and above in India, seems to be ineffective.  Sadly, teachers begin to resist, principals and the management begin to question teacher commitment in using this technology. The school management, principals, teachers and the parents realize its ineffectiveness only after about 1 or 2 years after the investments are made and by then it is a sunk cost, almost sunk cost.

In one way, what is happening in India is nothing different from what happened in the western countries. However, the kind of design and implementation flaws we see in India now have been mostly corrected in the west about 10 years ago. As Education Science, west is ahead of India by few decades. I must add that countries like Singapore, Malaysia are also ahead of India.

In such a situation, the easiest thing for us to do is to examine why and where the west failed and ensure that we do not make the same mistakes. Parents money is being wasted, they are the ones who bear the brunt of this, they pay for the increased school fees. No one else suffers.

This is not to say that Educational Technology will never work. I love it. The possibilities of using it are limitless. Not just that, India badly needs it for capacity building to sustain economic growth. We are still in the euphoric phase of Educational Technology, with little substance being delivered. As a country, India is wasting billions of US dollars in experimenting in certain areas of Educational Technology that does not require any more experiments, if one were to see the west and learn. In areas of implementation, India does have few unique challenges. Indian ICT solution providers and buyers of such solutions in schools, colleges and universities need much higher understanding of design, development and implementation of Educational Technology solutions. Just spending funds on this technology is not the answer. How well have we used the money, say in the last 10 years and what are the results achieved? Think about it.

Interestingly, this problem is not unique to Educational Technology, it applies to all types of investments in India, is it not? Most of it may be in government projects, but it does happen in private sectors and schools too.

I was just wondering, how about some accountability for all the stake holders involved in the Educational Technology investments? 

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