03 January 2022 07:28:38 IST

Tech set to reshape, disrupt Indian education


The shift will be towards agile and future-oriented curricula as dated knowledge is revisited and replaced.

The pandemic has clearly demonstrated that change in education can happen in real-time. NEP, a progressive policy framework that is now in place, will provide significant tailwinds behind Indian education, taking us to being, not just the second-largest education system, but an education system that acts as a talent pipeline for the world at large. The landscape of business and India itself has transformed over the last few decades.

The rate of change is increasing drastically. There seemed no apparent reason for education to lag behind enterprises by decades. Yet, even as our academic institutions were slow to transform, the world pressed ahead, and education began to chase a moving target. In 2022, it is time for education to make fundamental shifts in areas that will take us towards realising the promise of India’s demographic dividend.

Gradual, slow change over decades in cloistered campuses has been propelled exponentially at educational establishments. Schools and universities rolled out new ways of teaching and learning in a matter of weeks during the pandemic. We changed how we teach, and now the focus is on what we teach, and how much has been learnt.

The sprint towards flexible, agile and futureoriented curricula will be one of the most interesting developments over the next few years as dated knowledge is revisited and replaced. The World Economic Forum Education 4.0 Framework, for example, calls for unique areas of learning beyond baselevel creativity, communication and critical thinking — to areas like citizenship skills, selfpaced learning skills and advanced technological skills, even at the school level. To keep pace, Indian education must catch up and then build mechanisms to continuously create dynamism in curricula.

The tech explosion

Data science and digital skills have redefined literacy. More recently, 1.6 billion students migrated online during the pandemic, and the virtual classroom along with asynchronous learning became a way of life. Tech is now set to reshape education as big business enters new opportunities that are driven by cuttingedge technologies.

Education will go from programming and analytics to disruptive technologies such as Internet of Things, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles and genomics — along with a very potent combination of using multiple technologies together. With drones in agriculture, personalised medicine in health care, edge computing in manufacturing, blockchain and cyber security — India’s tech opportunity is large, and education will need to become a solution provider for industry.

At the same time, we must take on the responsibility of teaching students to coexist with technology in an ethical manner. A wave of entrepreneurial thinking is underway in Indian higher education for three distinct reasons. One, the creation of startups is an important development strategy as an engine for wealthcreation, jobs, and economic progress. Two, entrepreneurial thinking is about an innovation mindset that encourages solutions to complex problems.

Finally, it represents the kind of work that will be the last to be automated or outsourced, marked by ownership and deep insight that is the mark of an intrapreneur. With portfolio careers and the gig economy, it is the insurance cover that every graduate needs, and will be a focus for universities of the future. The startup incubator is oncampus and is here to stay. It will become a catalyst for students to take the entrepreneurial plunge and will propel the next wave of startups. We need to personalise education once again.

Students must have choice-based curricula. Personalised, AI-powered study schedules are becoming a reality. Admissions must allow alternate pathways into universities, delinking admissions from just the one score that one earns in Class 12. Micro-credentialling, nanodegrees with employers of choice, competency-based qualifications, collaborative models through credits across universities and online courses have all become the new vocabulary of education.

Educating Gen Z

The university and school ecosystems have come together from across departments and administrative silos to support students during the pandemic. This has led to a neverbefore focus on student well-being — be it in terms of counselling and emotional sustenance, listening and feedback culture, and personalised mentoring.

Students today are demanding even more investment in cultures that support their aspirations and quest for work-life balance. This calls for a growing focus on values, attitudes and wellbeing.

Lean education model

Students have the tools they need to discover knowledge independently. There will be a renewed focus on learning, rather than broadcast teaching and facilitated networking. The university of the future will be lean, hybrid and with different cost and value structures. Education itself must become competitive and sustainable, and this will require reconfiguring learning models and the value we bring to students.

Having made the shift towards agility, there must be a push for momentum, a gathering of speed that will take us towards building talent for enterprises and contribute to nation-building. As we pass through the pandemic and acknowledge the significant shifts in education, there is more change ahead, even more quickly than what we have seen. Education must step up and draw out the full potential of our young people.

(The writer is President, BML Munjal University.)