Quality Inclusive Education for All:
Supporting text for a talk given at the National Institute of Open Schooling on 17th June 2013
Prof. M.M.Pant, former Pro Vice-Chancellor
Indira Gandhi National Open University
1: Why inclusive education:
The traditional model of education is a very exclusive one, in which ‘merit’ decides to what level and in which domain a person would be entitled to receive an education. England had a tradition of doing this filtering with an 11+ exam to determine what kind of further education a child could get.
The emergence of the Knowledge economy has made it clear that countries with overall better levels of education are more likely to move upwards. It is no longer adequate to have a few islands of excellence and tokens of brilliance, but it is the general upward movement of all sections of the population in terms of learning, innovation and creativity that can drive the desired rapid rate of economic development.
Just as cheap energy was the key to success in the industrial era, the creative and innovative contributions of skilled humans would be the drivers for success in the knowledge economy in the post Internet post WTO world.
Both Globally and Nationally, Millennium Development Goals and Education for All are essential elements of policy.
2: The Challenges:
One can identify some obvious and apparent challenges. These are:
* The challenge of numbers
* The challenge of relevance
* The challenge of quality
* The challenge of speed
* The challenge of access
* The challenges of costs
But the most important is the challenge of mind-sets.
Education has not been seen as a discipline like Science, Technology or even Management, nor have Educators been seen as Professionals, like Doctors, Engineers or Lawyers. While in fields like Medicine, the outcomes of research are applied in practice in the area of healthcare. And technology has advanced beyond recognition in the last decades, educational models remain enshrined in centuries old tradition, and educational practice remains unaffected by progress made in our understanding of how learning happens.There is urgent and immediate need for experimentation, exploration and implementation of new models and policy appropriate to inclusive education.
3: The Standard response:
Universalisation of education or inclusive education has been axiomatically interpreted as meaning a huge bureaucratic enterprise echoing what Mahatma Gandhi said in his famous Chatham House speech about not being able to make all our citizens literate in a hundred years. Getting them to be appropriately educated is a taller order. All data indicates that it will not be done in any reasonable time. The Universalization of education implies five things namely, universalization of provision, universalization of enrolment, universalization of retention , universalization of participation and universalization of achievement. And along all each of these dimensions, the performance is very poor.
If one follows the discourse on ‘matters educational’ in this country, one hears of the Constitutional amendment on the right to education, the concomitant lack of teachers and the miserable pass percentage of ‘qualified’ teachers in the CTET or similar tests. This miserable performance has led to the country shying away from participation in the OECD organised PISA tests. The last time, we went there with a small sample, we were second last among seventy odd participating countries.
Aamir Khan with his ‘ 3 idiots’ did draw attention to another fundamental issue with our education system, but seems to have left the message that chanting ‘ all izz well’ will solve the problems.
Most humbly, I beg to differ. We have to catch the proverbial bull by the horns and address the fundamental challenges to education that we have before us.
4: The wrong direction:
As I have drawn attention to earlier, our education model is driven by bureaucratic authority and that incompetence is further compounded by judicial intervention. We quote ‘ ad nauseum’ from Vivekanand that ” education is the manifestation of perfection, already present in man”, but then talk of a ‘ right to education’. We might as well constitutionally confer a ‘right to breathe’ to clarify the ‘ right to life’ enshrined in Article 21.
I want to draw attention here to a situation described by Edward de Bono:
” Fixing vs changing directions by Edward de Bono”
Imagine a ship at sea that is in trouble. The lights keep going out. The engine is faltering. The rudder is unreliable. The first mate is drunk. The crew is very demoralised. The service is appalling. The passengers on the ship are very dissatisfied. Then a new captain and first mate are brought in by helicopter. Very quickly everything changes. The morale of the crew is lifted. Service improves. The engine is fixed. The rudder is fixed. The lights stay on. Everything is fine.
But the ship is still heading in the wrong direction.
That is usually the case when we set out to fix things.
We might be very successful in fixing things within the existing context (or direction) but it does not occur to us that the basic context may need fixing. You can have a street that is muddy and dull of puddles. You put a lot of people to work keeping that street clean. But it might have made more sense to fix the drainage instead. A great deal of effort is put into improving education within its own context but it may have no effect whatsoever on changing the context or direction of education.
5: The recent shifts:
The critical duo in the process are an empowered teacher who in addition to teaching, also coaches and mentors motivated self-directed learners, who begin all their learning expeditions by asking the right questions.
As a result of the knowledge explosion and the rapid developments in new technologies, the attributes of an ‘ educated person’ in the future are also changing. Apart from a well informed and a well skilled person, the educated person in the future would be expected to have a well formed mind capable of responding to unknown and unexpected challenges. The ‘ second strand’ comprising attributes and abilities such as grit, perseverance, resilience, integrity, optimism , coping with failure are probably more important than the purely cognitive abilities ( and skills in STEM) for prospering, flourishing and thriving in the future. And with better machine intelligence, most algorithmic and mildly heuristic tasks of the ‘ first strand’ would probably be done more efficiently by intelligent Internet appliances and robots.
In this process, we would have found a solution to the aspirations of all the transitional economies whose only hope is to leapfrog to development, leveraging a high quality education for all.
6: Technology is both the Challenge and the response:
The multiple challenges to our education system of access, universalization, quality , 21st century readiness and costs can all be adequately responded by the twin technologies of cloud computing and Tablets as knowledge access devices. It is easy enough to distribute millions of Tablets, but they have to be ready for learning. This can be done by having a store and exchange for Educational Apps, which has a recommendation engine based not only on popularity, but also on educational quality and usefulness ratings and checklists based on rubrics developed by experienced educators. Tablets can be used both in the classroom as well as for self-learning. The role of teachers moves from mere didactic delivery of content to interactive transaction of content to produce ‘ live learning’.
And this can be done rather well with the ‘ flipped classroom ‘ model which can be expected to improve achievement levels and reduce dropout rates.
7: Elements of the ICT based approach to quality inclusive education
As we are half way through the 3rd year of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, we see a world facing a range of challenges from climate change, to terrorism and political turmoil to economic crises. It is clear that solutions to these problems can only come from new approaches that lead to creative, innovative and maybe disruptive solutions that will be adopted by our youth, and will intrinsically engage the youth.
The entire world has huge expectations from Indian youth, in leading the planet in its future trajectories. But being young and intrinsically enthusiastic is not enough.
It is often said ” Youth is such a wonderful thing. What a pity it is wasted on the young.”
The attributes that the young have to inculcate in themselves are many, but I think that they can be condensed into a few. These are not the 10 Commandments of Moses, or the eightfold path of Buddhism, nor the Hexagon of Success that I have talked about elsewhere. Not quite the Holy trinity of Hinduism or Christianity either.
I am proposing a simple set of four:
* the ability to learn very fast, something new, substantially on your own with no guidance and mentoring by teachers and become thinkers,tinkerers and ‘ makers’.
* the ability to change your habits, according to new needs
* the ability to change your mindset from a closed conservative mindset to an open expanding one and evolve into a maker and innovator
* having an ethical disposition and standing up for the right values. If you have integrity, nothing else matters; if you don’t have integrity, again nothing else matters.
Disruptive innovative solutions are required to handle and respond to the above challenges. Five of these are:
* Big Classroom: Evolution of MOOC to create a model of simultaneously teaching on-site and off-site learners, using synchronous and a-synchronous teacher – learner interactions. This will enable cohorts of thousands of learners to achieve mastery learning for agreed learning outcomes.
* CCL: Collaborative and co-operative learning in a flipped classroom model
* ISL: inculcating self-learning : where/when there is no teacher , including gamification of learning
* Educational Measurements, Learning Metrics and Learner Analytics arising out of available Educational big data dealing with data volume, variety, velocity and complexity is forcing changes to many traditional approaches of educational measurements.This new field of Learner Analytics provides simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, to empower every learner to achieve mastery learning, to enable early identification of ‘at risk’ students and improve the efficiency of the entire education system.
* Personalisation of learning, including customised curriculum, individualised learning pathways, flexible learning schedules and allowance for individual learning style.
The suite of technological tools for teaching-learning that would be appropriate are:
* Search and Curation tools for appropriate learning resources with a suitable taxonomy
* Content creation , sharing and presentation tools including tools for capturing videos.
* Interaction and engagement tools to support group communication and the teaching-learning process
* Intelligent assessment tools for diagnostics, feedback and determining learning pathways
* Social Media, Social Bookmarking, Content Dashboards and educational wikis.
* Sites for self-publishing books:
* Sites from where any educator can launch and deliver online courses, without Institutional restrictions or constraints
Over the last decades, there have been several promises from Technology to transform education, but more often than not, no significant improvement was observed. But this is because the entire transformation process is across, and often only one dimension is addressed, and hat too often partially. Thus hardware without software or both without assured power supply or all these but without enough teacher capacity building or learner orientation.
For a serious implementation, one should consider the following 8 dimensions:
* The Teacher
* The Learner
* The Infrastructure
* The Teaching-Learning Tools
* The Teaching-Learning Models
* The Teaching-Learning Resources
* The Learning Analytics
* The Helpdesk for Teachers and Learners
Each of these dimensions can be described as level 1 to 10, and can be diagrammatically represented as an octagon. Any skewness in the shape of the octagon would indicate a unbalanced approach to ICT implementation.
8: Assessing Learning: Testing the Tests:
We assess the acquisition of learning through tests. And we have a large number of tests at various levels taken by millions of students. An important question that arises is how accurate and reliable are these tests? What are the attributes of a good test? Should there be an element of accountability of test administrators. As things stand, protecting the secrecy of the test papers and confidentiality of the evaluation system is considered most important and various provisions of the Indian Penal Code are invoked occasionally, but the exam and test providers are not required to live up to any standard of relevance, quality and external review. The entire principles of external verification and working to specified quality standards stand totally abdicated. This is true almost all over the world for most of the tests.
The canonical principle adopted is that if a number of candidates are asked exactly the same questions and required to answer them without any help in the same prescribed time, under proctored conditions, then those who can answer the most to the satisfaction and expectations of the examiners are the best. However the fundamental question of whether the attributes and qualities being sought to be tested have value, and more importantly what is the degree of accuracy and reliability of the scores assigned to Individual test takers.
Almost 4 decades ago in a book on evaluation by Edwin Harper, he summarised the results of some interesting research in how examiners evaluate the scripts assigned to them. He reported that there is a wide variation in the marks given by different examiners of the same script, that led to the conclusion that ‘examiners do not agree with each other’. Even more interesting was the outcome of another experiment where the same answer script was sent to the same examiner again after several months. It was found that there was a significant variation in the scores. This leads to the inference that ‘ examiners do not agree with themselves’.
We have made much progress in moving towards consumer protection, right to information and rights of children to a safe learning environment. We have a great awareness of the negative effects of junk food and serious punishments for adulteration and fake goods.
Shouldn’t fake tests meet the same fate.
The Fairtest organisation in the US has made a scathing observation that the quality of pet food in the US is better regulated than the tests being administered to the children.
There is a whole body of knowledge and good practices for assessment, including item analysis on the basis of facility, reliability and discrimination index, and quality examinations do declare relevant parameters to organisations who use their tests.
But in India we distinguish between students on one mark difference when the error of measurement itself would be much more.
Some attributes of tests to be considered as reliable in future would be as follows:
* It attempts to find out the abilities of the candidates
* Will emphasise abilities of learners to learn more than what they have learnt
* Will often be ‘ Open Book’; perhaps with access to Internet as well
* Will declare in advance their error margins inherent in the processes
Maybe there should be a Statutory Warning to be carried on non-conforming tests:
” This test cannot guarantee what it measures, with what accuracy it measures it, the reliability of the results of measurement, so the marks obtained by the candidate have no correlation with his or her real ability, and this test may not be relied upon for any serious evaluation of the abilities of the candidate”
9: Exploring MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses
The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an emerging new method of education, especially in an era when mobile Internet is proliferating and Tablets are becoming more accessible to learners.
Because of its relative novelty and the fact that some of its theoretical assumptions are still evolving its applicability across a broad range of fields is untested – its applicability may be highly debatable in some contexts.
Some may be inclined to believe that MOOCs ought to be considered as passing fads, or, at best, on the fringe. It is possible, however, that MOOCs will have a disruptive transformational influence on all sectors of education in the coming years.
Before pursuing or implementing a MOOC, it is crucial to understand the concept and how the MOOC differs from a traditional face-to-face course and even a “traditional” online course. The term was first coined as a result of a large online course run by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2008.
The “massive” refers primarily to the number of students. For example, a MOOC with 200 students might not be considered “massive.” MOOCs can easily have several thousand students simultaneously engaged in the course. In the future, even this figure may be considered relatively small.
The “open” draws on the fact that registration is open to anyone, the curriculum is open (or loosely structured and open to change as the course evolves), the sources of information are open, the assessment processes (if they exist) are open and the learners are open to a range of different learning environments.
As a matter of fact, Indian Open Universities and Correspondence Institutes have remotely taught a large number of students even several decades ago. Sir John Daniel had categorised some of these Institutes as ‘ Mega Universities’. Even in the previous century, IGNOU had distributed course materials with bundled Internet time to 70,000 students. But MOOCs became respectable ( this is reminiscent of the ‘Pizza effect’, a name given to a phenomenon in which something gains respect in its country of origin, after it has been appreciated in a foreign country. This happened for India for Yoga, IT and I do hope will happen for learning with technology in future ) when Stanford University launched its Computer and artificial intelligence courses to a few hundred thousand students from all over the world. And during the last year or so the MOOCs movement has been accelerating in its adoption.
MOOCs may be considered to be the fourth generation in the evolution of online education. Like all metaphors with stages, some models of online learning implementation may have made quantum jumps of stages, or may be considered to be in more than one stage at a time. The stages of online learning development can be broadly described as follows:
First generation online learning: The faculty place notes and presentations into an online repository or file server with a shared drive. The online environment was often a Local Area Network (LAN). This was common during early 1990s.
Second Generation online learning: Institutions bought a well known LMS like Blackboard or an Open Source one based on Moodle. Within the LMS, the concentration of activity is still on the lecturers’ notes and presentations, but other tools such as chat rooms, discussion forums and wikis are available. Some learner-learner and learner-instructor online interaction does occur through these tools, but is frequently of little consequence to the course. The quiz and grade book tool show potential.
The lecturer is still the “sage on the stage,” but other voices are heard.
This approach is typical of the mid 1990s.
Third Generation online learning: The LMS remains the centralised teaching and learning environment, but important changes occur in the relative importance of the various tools within the LMS. Most notably, the content area is reduced in importance and the other tools, especially the discussion forums and chat rooms, are now prominent. Learner-learner and learner-instructor online interaction is common and important to the course. The quiz and grade book tool become important management tools. Some courses venture into the use of online (even portable) ePortfolios. Other tools, such as wikis and blogs are also of some importance, but the learning model still emphasises a process of content acquisition, learning and testing. The creators of the LMS adapt the LMS to contain more “Web 2.0” tools, but these tools are, by definition, “contained” within the LMS.
Fourth Generation online learning: The MOOC with access to mobile Internet on Tablets. Many options are available at both the operating system on the Tablets as well as the platform where the contents of the MOOC are aggregated.
One of the major challenges that the developed world faced with deployment of MOOCs was assessment and identity establishment and giving credit for such courses. In India, however, we are used to holding examinations for millions of students in many different areas. The various School Examination Boards ( almost 30), the National Institute of Open Schooling, the various Universities including Open Universities, the Union and State Public Service Commissions all conducted authenticated examinations on a large scale. In fact the common IIT-JEE for all CFTI (Centrally Funded Technical Institutes) had about 1.4 million candidates taking the examination.
Clearly all traditional Institutions can move on to adapt and adopt the fourth generation online learning with MOOCs and greatly benefit from them.
We therefore need a massive orientation to suitably skill both the teachers and students to adopt a suitable version of the MOOCs. And probably we are now ready to respond to the twin challenges of scale and quality. The success of some notable MOOCs such as Coursera, edX, Udemy , Khan Academy and Udacity in which many Indian students and faculty have participated can be a good starting point to create our own innovative model of an integrated technology empowered unified model of education. This is the main purpose of this event and we hope that we will over the next year design, develop and deliver a model of quality world class education which several other regions may also choose to adopt. The obvious areas in which this will have a huge impact are women empowerment, skill development and life- long learning.
10: Summing Up
I would like to suggest that ‘ Education for All’ should not be interpreted as limited to compulsory schooling for everyone in the 6 to 14 age group. It must have a larger scope. In my view
Education for all means ‘ all learners becoming better learners’; ‘ all teachers becoming more effective teachers’ and ‘ all parents becoming enlightened parents’.
The missions to pursue within the broad direction of Education for all are therefore : Transforming all learners into smarter learners, empowering all teachers to become RockStar teachers and enabling all parents to be inspiring learning facilitators.
The key twin goals for education in this decade are ‘ universal primary education’ and a significant increase in the GER in higher education, both being a fundamental requirement for a non-traumatic transition to the knowledge economy and the information society. To achieve these, and therefore a reasonably inclusive education between these levels, a transformational maybe disruptive approach to current educational practices is required.
The best of Indian education, both at the School level and at the tertiary level is known to be world class, but is small and inaccessible. Modern technology allows this to scale to reach out to millions, and the technology and resources at the learner end can act as prosthetic devices, allowing even naturally inadequately equipped learners to become better learners.
Hiuen Tsang , a Chinese pilgrim came to India in early Seventh Century A.D. to visit the places associated with Buddha. About 150 years ago Max Mueller said “If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India.’’
In the coming decade of this century the knowledge and wisdom from the teachers of India will be available to the seekers of the world on their palms, through blogs, tweets and podcasts.
This is all eminently doable and we must roll up our sleeves and get ready to do so. And remember the statement of Cassius in Julius Caeser ‘ The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings’..