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Ignite the desire to learn

27 February 2021 | Source: The Hindu

How can we enthuse, enable, and encourage teachers to ensure better learning outcomes?

Most successful transformations are pivoted around a single idea because they are easy to understand, focus and execute. Indian independence due to non-violence, and the Green Revolution which transformed India from a food-deficient country to one of the world’s largest agricultural producers, are examples of this. What, then, is a single idea that can transform rural education?

According to early and conservative estimates by UNESCO, the pandemic-related lockdowns have seen 290 million students out of school across the world. Earlier this year, India’s school dropout rate was significantly low, but evidence suggests that the pandemic might undo that. Another issue is that, even when schools open, the problem of poor learning outcomes will continue to remain unsolved.

A lesson from Indian IT?

The Indian IT industry was built on an innovative idea that complex software can be developed by first mapping the product life-cycle, and then simplifying development by bringing in tools, technology and training such that, even a fresher can write zero-error high-quality code. Can the same be done in educations, especially in government schools?

The process of design thinking and innovation starts with a few critical questions. First, where is the value zone where learning outcomes happen? The answer lies in the interface of the teacher and the child — in the classroom. Second, who creates the learning in this value zone? Again, the answer is the teacher. In that case, what should we do to enthuse, enable and encourage the teachers to do this and more?

Nine thousand teachers were surveyed about the one ‘pain area’ they would like to see solved, to do their job better when school opens. Almost 80% of the responses mentioned the word ‘hard’. Teaching, managing a multi-grade classroom and multiple subjects, managing administrative tasks, motivating children...all this and more were hard.

What we can do

What will it take to make teaching easy and learning even easier? This is possible if we map the teaching and learning life-cycle and simplify each step by focusing on three aspects.

First, simplify the “how” of teaching, not just the ‘what’. Most teachers know what to teach, but do not know the most effective way. Thus, what we do not need is more videos that make teachers uninterested bystanders. Instead, mock classroom videos that explain ‘how to teach’ and are mapped to the syllabus are required. Teachers should be trained on ‘how’ and offered innovative teaching-learning material to make teaching easy and learning fun.

Second, simplify assessment. A teacher in a government school is teaching multi-grade classrooms without a tool to map an individual child’s capabilities. In today’s day and age, most entrance exams for higher education are conducted and reported digitally. So, why not do the same for schools? What we need is a free, AI-based personalised assessment platform that enables a 10X reduction in assessment efforts and a 100X reduction in the time to publish report cards. The platform should have gamified tests that make the experience fun for children, once the teacher sends them the link over WhatsApp. This platform should also deliver graphical analytics to teachers on their mobile and simplify tracking the learning journey of each child.

Lastly, learning at home. Why should learning for these children stop once they leave school? Can we create a game-based digital platform that enables the teacher and child to stay connected through a virtual classroom, even after school? The free platform should not be used for teaching, but for sharing and ensuring that interest in learning continues even at home. The critical aspect of learning is to first ignite the desire to learn, and the rest will follow.

As we move into 2021, we are at the crossroads of a fantastic opportunity to make education easy.