New Delhi: The onset of the health pandemic has affected schools and colleges particularly hard as it shut down their core operations. The prolonged lockdown – particularly in case of schools and colleges, has exposed the weak tech readiness as they lacked infrastructure to swiftly make a transition to online learning (particularly in K12 where only 15-20% of the schools had a working computer). To overcome the hurdle and to ensure seamless education across all segments of society, a report titled ‘Digitization of the Education Ecosystem’, published by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in association with NSDC and Amazon Web Services (AWS), finds that cloud based infrastructure is a key requirement to enable delivery of online education while solving for content digitisation, storage, data security and delivery at scale.
According to the report, cloud service providers have played a critical role in enabling the technology solutions solving for specific education needs. As technology in education institutes becomes mainstream, institutes and technology must work closely to unlock the power of the cloud and deliver technologically secure, and efficient solutions at scale.
The report finds that technology stack adoption varies by schools and student type. There is a high adoption (~90%+) of technology among students from grade 9 to12 followed by grade 6 to 8 (~75%+). Significantly, private schools lead in technology adoption while government initiatives are currently focused on grades 9 to 12.
According to the report, pre-pandemic tech readiness was low with ~250K schools had a working computer (~15-20% of total schools) and ~20K schools had a smartboard/ smartboard like tools installed (~1—2% of total schools). However, despite low readiness, schools responded to lockdowns and adopted technology to stay relevant. ~30% schools conducted live tuitions (and share pre-recorded digital content) and ~50% rely on pre-recorded content only.
As only about 15-20% of the schools have required infrastructure in place (% of schools in K12 with a working computer), and considering ~22% teachers still don’t have a graduate degree, technology adoption needs to be approached from both (a) solving device access/ affordability and (b) teacher readiness. To create an impact at scale and deliver learning outcomes, teacher centric products that empowers them to deliver better will be key going forward.
Despite challenges, both schools and students are however, optimistic about their technology usage going forward, even after schools reopen. Interestingly, use case for emerging technologies (e.g. Cloud) and learning management systems is at all time high and likely to sustain even after educational institutes resume normal operations.
The report also states that For Policymakers, the most important problem to solve is to address the growing digital divide. Mid-high income households at large have benefited greatly from having access to devices and ride the wave of tech led democratization of education. But, the vast segment of population belonging to lower income category have not been able to harness the benefits from digitisation of education.
As the technology gets mainstream, policymakers must focus on limiting the digital divide in education:
– Increase access to devices for both schools and parents
– Incentivise digitisation of schools – particular among government and affordable private schools
– Establish teacher accountability to ensure the digital is leveraged and the benefits are passed on to all students