Three Global Questions in Education – Note from WISE13

6 Nov

Educationists from the world over gather once a year at Doha  — a city that rose in the middle of the desert powered by the gas under its sands — and share what they have done and learnt over the years to improve education. Much business is done, but even more significantly, a number of good initiatives are triggered off and receive support. This is probably the one gathering within education space, other than the United Nations, where translators are essential. To share insights into what works in Guatemala with those who are working on the ground and then to to suggest a solution that has worked in India (or vice versa) is good; It is even better when that perfect fit of problem and solution, or seeker and solution provider occurs. Three themes emerge for India: Funding, teachers and data.

India and its education naturally get attention here driven by the sheer demographics. There are only a few funding agencies that do not have at least one ‘project’ running in India. Others are daunted by the sheer scale of the challenge — and it is true that every project and initiative feels like a drop in the ocean. Globally (and we have known this), a project that serves 25,000 people is a large project. In India, it barely qualifies as a pilot scheme. And for India’s education issues — this is the real challenge. Very few ideas and solutions are able to scale up so much without collapsing, nor is it easy to manage at that scale and still be answerable to one’s donors and declare success.

The issues across the globe resonate. The biggest issue is funding. Where does one find the resources to do good work? Government funds are never enough, though Governments obviously are in a key position to have maximum impact. Outside of the Government system, there is a keen sense of competition for the philanthropic funds that are so necessary for scaling up projects that are having an impact on the ground. How do we know that they actually have an impact and are doing real work? Because each of these donors monitors and invests in impact assessment. The educators who receive these funds must watch and measure the difference they make to education achievements of their target groups.

The language of success in these is very different from the language used in Government projects — here you hear terms heard in management and manufacturing applied to the process of education. It is heartening to hear the leaders of Gali Gali Sim Sim (in India) — the Sesame Street project speak of applying kaizen, among other tools, to improve the quality of her projects.

How does this translate to India’s teacher shortage? Does India need more textbooks — is this the technology-will-resolve-for-scale solution that we are banking on for the next decade as teachers are prepared for the next generation? Will edutech solutions impact class sizes to allow the limited number of good teachers to look after more students than before? I think not, in traditional schooling, though it clearly has a role in both post-school support education and in flipped classrooms. Edutech has a clear role in improving achievement levels and in allowing the teacher to focus on what is more important in the context of that classroom. While it is not a part of the core solution for scaling up quality education (that responsibility lies with teachers and principals), education technology solutions have a strong role to play in the whole solution for improving and standardising learning outcomes.

This was published as on Oct 31, 2013

Edutech has a role in higher learning

Thursday, 31 October 2013 | Meeta W Sengupta | in Oped

Very few ideas and solutions on education are able to scale up in India without collapsing. It’ isn’t easy to be answerable to one’s donors and declare success


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