Dr. Narendra Shyamsukha: Corona Outbreak Revolutionising the future of Indian Education System

Dr. Narendra Shyamsukha, Founder and Chairman of ICA Edu Skills said the Corona outbreak is in fact, revolutionising the future of India’s education system.

In a free-wheeling chat with The Indian News, the educationist spoke about a gamut of things about the changes that are taking place in the arena of education after the outbreak of pandemic to the Editor, Jayashankar Menon. Excerpts.

Dr. Narendra Shyamsukha, Founder and Chairman of ICA Edu Skills

TIN: Can you explain as to how the face of education in India has changed ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus?

NS: Within a matter of few months, the face of education in India has witnessed humongous change. With the Corona virus spreading across the globe, nations have been taking numerous swift actions to lessen the development of a full-blown pandemic. As per a report, the OECD estimated that over 421 million children are affected due to school closures announced or implemented in 39 countries. These closures of educational institutes have caused inconvenience initially but later prompted new heights of educational innovation.

TIN: What is the kind of changes that are taking place in India in the education horizon?

NS: Even the decision of launching ‘PM eVidya’ programme by the Government of India during the unprecedented times of COVID-19 is a stepping stone towards revolutionising the education sector, which was reeling under the adverse effect of the massive lockdown to cease the spread of the deadly virus. The programme is aiming at providing a multi-mode access to digital education so that 100 Indian varsities can start online courses immediately. Digital education has emerged as a clear winner during this pandemic around the world. The programme is also encouraging for students, who were quite perturbed about their future thinking whether regular classes will take place this year or not.

TIN: What are the implications of the ongoing crisis?

NS: What with any vaccination to be discovered and lock down getting extended, the implications suggest the pandemic could have a lasting impact on the trajectory of learning innovation and digitisation. There are the four trends that could be at the forefront of future transformations: Change in education might as well lead to greatest innovations, the expansion of digital divide, the time to build resilience and Public-Private educational alliances coming to the rescue.

TIN: How does change in education that would lead to greatest innovations?

NS: We have lamented numerous times about the slow-pace change in the education process be it outdated classrooms, lecture-based approaches to teaching. However, with COVID-19, the whole world has adapted to the innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time.
For instance, the students in Hong Kong began learning at home via interactive apps. In China, 120 million Chinese students gained access to learning material through live television broadcasts. In one Nigerian school, standard asynchronous online learning tools (such as reading material via Google Classroom), were augmented with synchronous face-to-face video instruction, to help preempt school closures. Similarly, students at one school in Lebanon began leveraging online learning, even for subjects such as physical education. Students shot and sent over their own videos of athletic training and sports to their teachers as “homework,” pushing students to learn new digital skills. What is more, even 4G and 5G technology in countries such as China, US, Japan and India, have promoted the initiative of ‘learning anywhere, anytime’ of digital education in a range of formats. Traditional in-person classroom learning will be complemented with new learning modalities – from live broadcasts to ‘educational influencers’ to virtual reality experiences.

TIN: Can you shed light on the expansion of digital divide that is happening in the country?

NS: Most schools in affected areas have come up with digital teaching to continue the education process. Nevertheless, it has been seen that the quality of learning is dependent upon the quality and access of the digital platforms. After all, only around 60% of the globe’s population is online. Many students are relying on lessons and assignments sent via WhatsApp or email. The situation is not the same in less-affluent societies. When classes transition online, these children lose out because of the cost of digital devices and data plans. Unless access costs decrease and quality of access increase in all countries, the gap in education quality, and thus socio-economic equality will be further exacerbated.

TIN: Do you think this is just the time to build resilience?

NS: The wide spread of COVID-19 has at least taught us how to become resilient during this pandemic time. We have to be quick in adjusting with various threats right from pandemic disease to extremist violence to climate insecurity, and even, yes, rapid technological change. The most important skills, which are needed based on the informed decision making, creative problem solving, and perhaps above all, adaptability. To ensure those skills remain a priority for all students, resilience must be built into our educational systems as well.

TIN: Do you think the Public-Private alliances have come to the rescue?

NS: As soon as the lock down was announced, we have seen many partnerships taking place with diverse stakeholders – including governments, publishers, education professionals, technology providers, and telecom network operators. They all are coming together to promote how to utilise digital platforms for a better future. These initiatives are a saving grace for many emerging countries, where education has predominantly been provided by the respective governments. Therefore, it is evident that educational innovation is receiving attention beyond the typical government-funded or non-profit-backed social project.