e-Learning in Primary Education – An Indian Perspective

The Annual Status of Education Report (2016) points that learning levels remain depressingly low across the country, while 97% of children (aged 6-14 years) across rural India are enrolled in a school, only 13% of the children in grade 2 can read from their language textbooks. Current scenario becomes worrying given the status of quality of education.

The reasons for this state of affairs vary from infrastructure to availability of qualified teachers, from pedagogical to gender biased approach. Though there are many aspects which need to be addressed but amongst them the student-teacher ratio remains an important factor which affects quality of education. In many areas a single teacher is found teaching multiple classes which is not an exceptional arrangement but has become a routine affair. Upon that one can easily see the wide range of variance, at one end we have urban students competing at the global level and on the other hand there are rural students who lack basic infrastructural facilities such as school building and sanitation facilities.

In the context of student-teacher ratio and other factors affecting quality learning of students, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) finds a unique place to bridge the challenge. In the contemporary global telecom workspace, India is one of the leading players. In terms of its quality of internet and its affordability, India has the best tariff plans globally, thanks to the domestic competition.

In my childhood, cartoon characters like ‘Tom and Jerry’, ‘Mickey Mouse’ were a choice for urban well-to-do children. In the contemporary time, Indian characters like ‘Choota Bheem*’ and ‘Doreman**’ have not only reached every household but have made themselves an integral part in children’s life. I have seen many instances in the recent times where children have started learning ‘Choota Bheem and Doreman’ before learning ‘Papa and Mama’.

It is high time that these things are noticed and leveraged to improve the quality of primary education which is the building block of an empowered nation in terms of human resources.

While appropriateness of content has been a subject of discussion for a long time, the delivery of content to the children has been an obvious challenge. This is the scenario where e-Leaning can play a catalytic role in bridging the gap and addressing the challenge. It must be understood that e-Learning needs to evolve continuously with recent innovation and should not be restricted to digitization of course material or videography of classroom sessions.

There is enormous potential in designing the content where children’s perspective is at the core; probably the way ‘Choota Beem’ has done in large scale. The fun aspects drive children rather than an animated teacher teaching some student who asks the same question every time the program is viewed unlike in the computer game where there is a degree of unpredictability every time.

Children use a computer for the first time at our Mission Education centre in West Bengal

Success of a pilot project is probably the easiest thing to do and scaling & mainstreaming is the most challenging phase in an innovative program. We have witnessed many successful case studies demonstrating the success in a limited scale such as in a couple of schools or for some hundred students. e-Learning is an area where mainstreaming is feasible because the base for deployment is ready – the only thing required is innovative way of content development and deployment. All stakeholders must be taken into confidence while doing so as to realize the maximum efficacy of the program.

There is power dynamics in each and every ecosystem. If we try to create a system that will replace the existing one, probably it will not work in scale. Any initiative of this scale must undergo a transformation process and things must be adapted to the requirement in the due course of time to make it more contextual.

Gaming has been a big global business and there are millions of game players. The best part of it is that it attracts (most of the time people get addicted) the player again and again. Probably, we have to learn the same in designing an e-Learning module. The obvious underlying factor is that it needs huge investment and a multi-stakeholder partnership to make it a success. The e-learning material must be designed keeping the smart phone in mind so that it will be able to reach the un-reached population.

Human resource is the most precious resource of a country and their fundamental knowledge building is quite crucial for building a nation. Once fundamental is built properly, any amount of innovation can flourish and be harnessed to its optimum.

*Choota Bheem is a cartoon character who is brave, strong and intelligent.
**Doraemon – A robotic cat which travels back in time from the 22nd century to aid a pre-teen boy named Nobita Nobi

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Author

Kedar Dash

Kedar Dash is working in ICT4D domain for the last 15 years and has been instrumental in designing many successful solutions to bridge development challenges. He is a consultant to World Bank and has worked with many development agencies in various capacities. He is also founder of Indev Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. – A company dedicated to designing appropriate ICT technologies.

Comments

    Mukesh Garain

    (4th October 2017 - 2:32 pm)

    This analytical report will help stakeholders including Government to understand the gaps and make improvements in school education. Thanks to Mr Das, who made an affort to write such a important topic in details.

    Dillip Dhal

    (5th October 2017 - 8:24 am)

    Thanks Mr. Das for the detailed research. Now a days e-learning is the game changer specifically in underdeveloped and developing countries. Good Job sir.

    Subrat

    (6th October 2017 - 1:03 pm)

    India is rapidly marching towards a smart phone revolution and with it’s vast demography it would required similar innovations keeping smart phones as a medium to connect is very critical. Look forward to more such article on digital innovations Kedar.

    Sraban

    (8th October 2017 - 7:17 pm)

    I appreciate your perspective to integrate ICT in the classroom teaching learning process but there are couple of limitations or to say pre-preparation do be done.
    1) We need to ensure that the institutions have that basic facilities of having separate class room, electricity, alternate power back-up and most importantly a trained helping hand.
    2) Coming back to the content part, it has to be viewed very seriously. Because being India being the land of multi-languages and of course dialects, it need to be designed cautiously as such to bridge that language gap (Phonetics and Phonics).
    3) Lastly the most critical point, from which class we may use or take the help of e-learning. Because we all know at the early stage the child growth rate and brain development is high. Audio-visual aids always being a passive or one way form of interaction. Further the child at this stage need to have physical exercise as well, which is sometimes not possible in this form of medium. However, with all such limitations, we cannot deny the fact that the e-learning is the next generation learning method, given the fact as cited in your article.

    So, for me it is time to start a process where by parents, teachers and of-course children understand the fundamental of this technique or platform i.e. it’s not about gaming or making fun out of it, as rightly pointed out by you in the above. Further side by side we also have to influence the stakeholders that there should be bounding or at-least provisioning of using e-learning as a platform in the school by authorities and simultaneously capacitiate the concern authorities to use it as a tool in teaching learning process.

      Kedar Dash

      (14th October 2017 - 7:20 am)

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

      I do agree with you view point. An integrated and inclusive approach is necessary.

      Regards,

      Kedar

    Sourav agrawal

    (9th October 2017 - 7:11 am)

    We can use ICT in all aspect of life but our integrity to the subject play greater role. Mr kedar people like u are doing a great job to uplift the down trodden by using technology.

    Sushama Dash

    (15th October 2017 - 5:44 am)

    It is an undeniable fact that the learning level of our students is depressingly low.Despite technological advancement and implementation of various projects we are not able to achieve our goal. There are multiple factors responsible for this undesirable situation. E-learning may partially be supportI’ve to abate this problem, but it is not a holistic solution. In rural India, where unscheduled power-cut is so common, e-learning seems to be only a part of Anandamayee SikshaYojana (joyful learning system ).Moreover, the digital screen may adversely affect on the tender kids.Their mental health and eyes are quite vulnerable. In higher classes the audio -visual aids can highly be supportive to the youngsters to keep them abreast of the global scenario. It’s really a matter of concern and kudos to Mr Kedar Dash for his efforts.

    Akhil Choudhary

    (15th October 2017 - 7:20 am)

    You are absolutely right Kedar Digitization and usage of ICT in education seems like the only solution to challenge the existing hurdles in primary education.
    … And the best part is today we have all the necessary tools available with us. I think we are going in positive direction and future looks very bright

    Abel Desai

    (15th October 2017 - 9:54 am)

    Thanks for very well written article.

    Yes, of course e-learning can play vital role in the classrooms as children easily relate to it. I have seen kids reciting Doroemon, Chhota Bhim and Shin Chan title songs even if they are not in English Medium School, or rather have not joined any school yet. Why? just because they have seen it on TV sets in in their or their neighbor’s homes. This is where E Learning comes into the game. It is possible if the learning content can be be designed in interactive manner that the language does not matter.

    Only obstacle is to convince government machinery that It is not meant to replace traditional teachers but to aid them to provide quality education in a interesting way. There is need for better educational equipment and internet connectivity/bandwidth in the Government schools which is still not up to the mark for even commercial consumers. India being global software player deserves adequate ICT facilities for it’s future, children be it from any rural town or from any metro city.

    Sourav

    (17th October 2017 - 6:05 am)

    Absolutely right e-learning can play vital role in the classrooms, Anything learnt without pressure sticks to mind and stays there for a long time. when they learn with self-interest and out of their choice, find it a pleasure to learn online. ministry of electronics and information technology need to develop tools and technologies to promote e-learning. The result is greater productivity through higher retention capabilities.
    Thanks for such articles.

    shivani

    (17th October 2017 - 12:31 pm)

    Well said that e-learning plays a vital role in education. The students learn faster and remember for long time through e-learning. Thanks for sharing such article.

    arun

    (17th October 2017 - 5:56 pm)

    Teaching childrens using games and cartoons is really a very nice approach.
    Govt schools in rural areas should adopt this approach for teaching.

    Regards
    Arun

    Sippy

    (23rd October 2017 - 3:50 pm)

    E-learning is rapidly increasing in India.But I want to know
    how cost-effective is the approach?

    Sunil Meshram

    (24th October 2017 - 10:42 pm)

    E learning using simple to grasp content is the future for making quality learning happen.

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