Siddharth Chaturvedi, Executive Vice-President, AISECT Group

The education industry has been witnessing a rapid uptake of technologies and ICT solutions, be it for teacher training or dissemination of lessons to students. The Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated the adoption of digital solutions, making remote learning and online classes the new normal. Siddharth Chaturvedi, Executive Vice-President, AISECT Group, shares his views on the key technology trends shaping the sector, the opportunities and challenges brought forth by Covid-19, and the way forward…

How have the ICT needs of the education sector changed over time? What are some of the key technology trends shaping the sector?

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a structural change in several aspects of our lives. These trying times have altered the nature of work and the mode of learning. With a shift in the market requirement, the overall skilling ecosystem needs to undergo modification to impart skills relevant in the post-pandemic world. An in-depth analysis is needed to bring about an alteration in the required system. For starters, we need to bridge the demand-supply gap in post-Covid skills, covering district-level, state-level, national-level, and international-level demands for each job role and allocate training targets accordingly. To deliver industry-aligned training, apprenticeship should be encouraged. Apprenticeship helps in offering on-the-job training, effectuating placement opportunities for individuals. It can prove to be a career pathway for employers to develop and build their future workforce too. Soon, technology will be the most sought-after industry, providing employment on a large scale. Skills training for AI, machine learning (ML), cybersecurity, big data, etc. needs to be expanded rapidly.

What are some of the opportunities and challenges presented by Covid-19 for edtech players and traditional educational institutions?

The education system in India is facing a massive crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Other than its consequences for short-term learning, the elongated school closures have repercussions such as a loss of human capital and shrinking economic opportunities in the long run. The pandemic has brought the existing disparities to the limelight along with inequalities in the education system.

To resolve these problems, we need to address the existing digital gap. As technology can provide quality education with better outcomes, we need to understand its potential. The potential of the digital medium, and the necessary infrastructure and connectivity must reach the remotest parts of the country. Access to the internet and technology also needs to be treated as a necessity and not a luxury. Apart from that, this is the right time to pay attention and train teachers as well. The current digital education scenario has witnessed teachers struggling to grasp the digital ways to communicate with students. Even the increased expenses owing to digital education can be overwhelming for the teachers. To address this, educational institutions should subsidise and reimburse the costs incurred by teachers for online teaching. The government and institutions should also invest in mass-scale teacher training initiatives and workshops to resolve the problems faced by teachers.

What are your views on the use of technologies such as AR/VR, IoT and AI/ML in the education sector? How has been their uptake in India so far?

The Indian education system was falling behind earlier in terms of technological advancements when compared to global peers. However, during the Covid era, the country witnessed the rise of edtech startups and a focused government policy that fosters technological advancements. AR/ VR, loT and AI/ML technologies are becoming more accessible as education alternatives to uplift the system. Modern technologies are providing both students and teachers a personalised method of learning and training. With the improvement in technology, exciting developments are in store for the students of tomorrow.

Going forward, how do you see the education space transforming in India? What will be the key drivers?

There are manyfold advantages of digital education, which has been regarded as a feasible solution for India to bridge the existing gaps in education delivery. The NEP 2020 also emphasises digital learning as an alternative to the traditionally accepted classroom model as a communication medium between teachers and students. The policy targets to reform school education by focusing on subject flexibility and ending compartmentalisation between different streams of education.

It is also crucial to address the digital gap and gender divide to understand the potential of technology. For early exposure to skills such as ML, AI, and cybersecurity, the industry would acquire a better workforce that can drive its digital operations. Besides, the curriculum must stimulate critical and creative thinking. There should be more content in regional languages at the school level.