The opportunities in technologically driven mass education in India:
On Thursday 26th May, at the Indian Education Congress 2016, I have 5 minutes in a panel to respond to the above theme. So I wrote up this blog to share a few thoughts on the demise of Indian Higher Education and the emergence of life-long mobile based learning as its re-incarnation. This country has already learnt how to use the mobile phone without the involvement of the Givernment.
Now the country is ready to use the mobile for learning and personal fulfilment and professional development. The London School of Marketing has just offered a Smartphone based MBA. We are still vacillating on the national policy for distance learning. Reminds you of the Nawabs in Prem Chand’s famous story ‘ Shatranj Ke Khikadi’
In newspapers dated 5th November 2015, it was
reported that Prof CNR Rao, distinguished Scientist and Bharata Ratna awardee said at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, apparently before the President, who is the visitor of perhaps all the Central Universities that ” 90% of the Universities in our country have outdated curriculum.”
There has been no adequate response to this criticism and no tangible steps have been taken to mitigate the situation, even though 7 months have elapsed since that observation.
In January 2016, at the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab founder of the WEF led the announcement of the arrival of the 4th Industrial Revolution which will be driven by ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing,Intelligent robots,Self-driving cars, Neuro-technological brain enhancements and Genetic editing. The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed.
The Indian higher education system is like the ‘dodo’ on its way to extinction.
If we depend solely upon the regulators such as the UGC, AICTE, NAAC, NCTE etc. irreparable damage would have been done before we know what hit us.
We can follow Schwab’s call for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”
India now has about one million children turning 18 every month, and we have to design a vehicle for mass education that moves very swiftly and responds rapidly to the external changes.
Education therefore has to become a mass movement with its goal as life-long learning and liberated from the shackles of regulators with a narrow myopic perspective.
How did such a large population of this country learn to use the mobile phone without Government intervention? The same model of community driven social learning will teach the youth of this country the new knowledge and skills required to prosper, flourish and thrive in the coming 4th Industrial revolution, while UGC and AICTE can continue to produce astounding number of I’ll-fitting graduates in colourful convocation ceremonies in which the President delivers homilies about the poor state of education, that he himself is presiding upon.
So what would be the elements of the disruptive transformation of future education ?
The first to be affected would be ‘taught masters’ courses. Any graduate worth his salt would be able to learn anything that is taught at Masters level by pursuing MOOCs and learning from other Open Education Resources.
In the African animal world, there are 2 well recognized paradigms of responding to impending danger. The well known Ostrich policy is to bury one’s head in the sand ( actually lie very close to the ground and hope that the danger will bypass you). The other is the approach of the Giraffe, that stretches out its neck further to get a better look at the approaching danger, and then take a decision to fight or take flight.
The key challenges that we have before us in the education domain are:
1. Outdated curriculum
2. Poor unreliable assessment systems
3. Inadequate behavioural transformation
4. Ignorant, arrogant and irresponsible regulators that are not data or evidence driven but authority driven
5. An overall inefficient and underperforming system, still living and operating in the quota, permit and license raj, ready to be disrupted with innovative business processes and advanced technology.
Responding to the specific points:
A: Business models:
The big disruption will be the diminishing value of the role of the intermediary called the education institute ( University, College or School) and the enhanced value of the educator. Most educators will work as independent professionals and not as salaried employees either within Government or private owners of educational institutes. The most agile and flexible business models that provide a high quality experience to learners at reasonable costs will win the competition and neither pedigree or regulators rating will be an inoculation against destruction by market forces. Educators who are good will become ‘rockstar teachers’ having a celebrity status and cult following.
B: Education sectors ? The focus will shift from quick and painless education for good immediately available jobs to an intense and more durable learning that will help negotiate changes to the workplace over a longer time span.
A new emerging and very valuable sector in future education will be that of diagnostic instruments that can help a learner observe progress in the levels of learning and accomplishment. The diagnostic instruments are needed for the 10 skills listed below, and many other allied skills. This will also result in the development of a new breed of ‘ educational diagnostician’ who will help in interpreting the raw results of a diagnostic into a ‘ learning action’ plan.
Machine Intelligence driven evaluation of answer books to improve errors in evaluation by reluctant human assessors ( who are prone to go on strike) and hold to random the future of millions of young learners.
Facial recognition technologies combined with emotional computing for personalisation of learning.
C: Alone or partners?
It may be possible for some to go it alone, but for most, effective collaboration with others will be desirable. However the models of these relationships will vary, like the varieties of chemical bonding.
D: Building an educational brand:
The focus of brand building will change from the Institution to the educator and the ‘USP’ of the educator. Most successful educators will transcend a pre-determined categorisation and will be what are called ‘sui generis’ meaning ‘in a class of its own’ and not like any other existing. To build such a brand, either by design or otherwise, the principles of building ‘conversational capital’ will have to be applied.
E: From investor’s perspective, I see the following stages:
1: Pre-school: supporting parents
2: The early years ~ grades 1 to 5 : supporting teachers, parents & learners
3: The middle school ~ grades 6 to 8 : supporting teachers, parents & learners
4: The Secondary stage ~ grades 9 & 10 : supporting teachers, parents & learners
5: The Senior Secondary stage ~ grades 11 & 12: supporting learners
6: Life-long learning from ages ~ 18 to 81 : supporting learners
What skills are needed for future success?
The 10 most important skills for future success:
1: Complex Problem Solving Skills
2: Critical Thinking
4: People Management
5: Coordinating with others
6: Emotional Intelligence
7: Judgement & Decision Making
8: Service Orientation
10: Cognitive Flexibility
Top 10 emerging Industries of the Future:
1: Alternative energy
2: Big Data Analytics
3: Cloud Computing
4: Connected Living
5: Cyber Security
6: Mobile Robotics
7: Online B2B
8: Urban Logistics
9: Waste to Energy
10: 3D Printing