March 27, 2021 7:35:57 am
A shift in research and development towards public utility; using the online shift for greater scale in quality education; a future of ‘hybrid’ or ‘blended’ learning; deeper involvement of parents; more means of connecting and collaborating.
One year into the pandemic, as schools, colleges and other institutions chalk out tentative reopening plans, these will emerge as signposts in any future roadmap to education, a panel of educators and administrators said at the IE Thinc session on ‘Covid, Education and The Big Change’ on Friday.
IE Thinc is a platform where experts confront some of the most pressing issues of our times.
The panellists at today’s session were Dr Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Delhi’s Springdales School, Pusa Road; Dr Sunder Ramaswamy, Vice-Chancellor of Krea University; Dr V Ramgopal Rao, Director of IIT-Delhi; and Mr Sourabh Swami, Education Director with the Rajasthan government. The session was moderated by Uma Vishnu, Senior Editor, The Indian Express.
Speaking of his experience at IIT-Delhi, Dr Rao said Covid and the resultant circumstances had forced the institute to reexamine some of its fundamentals — something that would not have taken years in normal circumstances.
“During this period, we started certificate programmes. In the IIT system, typically, you have a huge entry barrier with the world’s most difficult exam, you pick a few people and give them high quality education and they all graduate with hardly any exit barrier. But we turned this model on its head by lowering the entry barrier for online programmes to admit a large number of students and provide them the same quality education, and then conduct a very difficult exam at the exit. Those who qualify will get a certificate from IIT-Delhi and become our alumni,” he said.
He also stated that in the past year, the institute has produced a lot of research to address COVID-related issues such as producing masks and coming up with affordable RT-PCR tests.
Dr Wattal spoke about the exceptional challenges that the year presented, particularly for young children. “As it is, school education was not a very happy situation; on top of it, Covid threw a spotlight on our inequalities,” she said, adding that among the youngest lot of school-going children, cognitive skills, such as the ability to write and communicate with people their age, had been hit. She suggested that the government provide common platforms along the lines of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which “will become like roads and railways that we pay for through taxes”.
Sourabh Swami recalled the manner in which the Rajasthan government tried to find their way around digital limitations, particularly in rural areas. “There were 80-85 lakh students in the government school system… only around 40-45 lakh were connected to WhatsApp. We created digital content for them… For those who didn’t, we had teachers going to households and gathering students in an open space,” he said.
Dr Ramaswamy was optimistic that the ongoing changes in education will not mean the end of universities as we know them but also cautioned that the changes should not be inequitable.
Highlighting that only 85 institutions have survived over the last 500 years, of which 75 were universities, he said, “The ones that will manage will come out of this but there I worry that we shouldn’t cleave this into haves and have-nots… Because the last thing that we want… is islands of excellence, opulence and opportunity surrounded by a sea of deprivation and lack of opportunity,” he said.
The session had Hiranandani Group as presenting partner, and NITIE Mumbai, MIT-ADT University and SP JIMR as associate partners. The live webcast partner for the session was 24 Frames Digital.
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