A paradigm shift in education:

“A paradigm shift in education”

The phrase ‘paradigm shift’ gained prominence from the well known book (1962)  by Thomas Kuhn “ The structure of Scientific Revolutions” which challenged the earlier view that Science progressed almost linearly as “development-by-accumulation” of accepted facts and theories. Kuhn argued for an episodic model in which periods of conceptual continuity, which Kuhn referred to as periods of ” normal science”, were interrupted by periods of revolutionary science. 

Kuhn’s view was  that a ‘paradigm shift’ was not a logically determinate procedure. He took the example of the Copernican revolution to make his point. The Darwinian theory of evolution of species and Alfred Wegener’s theory of tectonic plates are similar paradigm shifts as are Quantum principles. 

Clayton Christensen went beyond the focus on Scientific Research and referred to similar trends in innovation as ‘incremental’ and ‘disruptive’. 

In the field of education and learning we are witnessing two major revolutions, the 4th Industrial Revolution which was heralded by Prof Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum in January 2016 and the 4th education revolution, which is the title of a 2018 book by Sir Anthony Seldon. I strongly urge all educators to read this book. Fundamental paradigm shifts in the education and learning domain are therefore inevitable. And like the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back, we had this unexpected pandemic. 

There are several manifestations of this paradigm shift, but in this post, I will confine myself to a few important elements. 

Students and teachers are the primary stakeholders in any educational system. The parents of young learners also have an important role, and they are learners too as lifelong learners. This is in the spirit of Occam’s razor. Everything else is overheads. 

The first paradigm shift is the transformation of the disinterested and passive learner ( who has to be compulsorily educated to acquire minimum levels of learning) to an active self- motivated and self-directed learner with an immense curiosity and a virtually insatiable appetite for learning that lasts a lifetime. For such a learner, learning has changed from a spectator sport to a participative one. Such a learner has many more opportunities for learning, going beyond the confines of the classroom.

This transition will not be an instantaneous binary on/off type, but somewhat graded and gradual over time during which the learner progresses over several levels. 

In 1997 David Nunan had proposed a scheme of five levels for encouraging learner autonomy in relationship to use of learning materials. He labelled these 5 levels as : awareness, involvement, intervention, creation and transcendence. 

In the year 2020, I have created another framework for 5 levels of autonomous learners, and also listed the set of 10 skills expected at each level. I am sharing that set of skills towards the end of this post.

I have included in this list of skills, the abilities to deploy artificial Intelligence tools and Apps  to engage in self-directed learning. I am proposing the following levels of an autonomous learner. This structure is analogous to the levels of self-driving cars approved by the Society of Automobile Engineers ( SAE). 

Level 0: No self-learning disposition or ability

Level 1: Some inclination towards self-learning and core abilities of self-learning

Level 2: An autonomous learning system that supports the learner but can be superseded by the human educator ( an AI fluent SmartEducator) 

Level 3: The Autonomous learning enabling system requests to be superseded by the human educator ( an AI fluent SmartEducator)

Level 4: A fully autonomous learner that can function well in limited domains ( cognitive geo-fencing) 

Level 5: Fully autonomous learner with the right dispositions and skills

The second element is the educator.

The most important quality desirable in  a modern educator is one of being a lifelong learner. Educators are learners that develop other learners. An appreciation that transferring  the knowledge of subjects is less important than fostering a desire to learn and the ability of learning to learn, and building of learning power. 

Sir Anthony Seldon called on educators everywhere to open their eyes to the fast approaching revolution in Artificial Intelligence, and asked if we are ready to embrace this revolution and shape AI to the best advantage of education and humanity as a whole. The impact of AI is acknowledged in the NEP2020. “23.8. This policy has been formulated at a time when an unquestionably disruptive technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged. As the cost of AI-based prediction falls, AI will be able to match or outperform – and therefore be a valuable aid to – even skilled professionals such as doctors in certain predictive tasks. “

But adopting  the Ostrich policy, it ignores readying it’s educators to use it in educational applications. However like the Giraffe, we wish to stick out our neck to see what’s coming, and prepare ourselves for that. Inspired by Newton who said that “ If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”, we are building on the foundations already laid down by others. 

Anthony Seldon in his book referred above has said that Artificial Intelligence will significantly transform education, and that educators should take a lead in the deployment of AI in education. In analogy to the 5 levels of the learner, I have proposed 5 levels of the future ready educators. 

These are : 

Level 1: Progressive Educators

Level 2: SmartEducators

Level 3: AI-familiar SmartEducators

Level 4: AI-fluent SmartEducators

Level 5: AInEd Evangelist 

Descriptors have been created for each of these 5 levels, and training programs have been developed for three of these levels. 

To be at Level 1, the educator seeks knowledge and information on Educational innovation including pedagogies, good practices and uses digital resources to keep up with the changing paradigms of education. 

To reach Level 2, of SmartEducator I have created a suite of 4 one weeklong programs that can be comfortably pursued using WhatsApp with mobile phones in  one month. These are : 

WLL09: Becoming an Independent Educator

WLL10: WhatsApp for Educators

WLLL11: Artificial Intelligence based Teaching-Learning 

WLL12: Educational Leadership in the age of Artificial Intelligence 

At this stage, most educators, especially those who do not have an irrational fear of computers would want to learn about AI in some depth and try their hands working with AI applications in education, and even developing some new AI based educational solutions themselves. 

To be at Level 3, there is a 3 month program with the following monthlong courses: 

AIFSE01: The Landscape of AI and education 

AIFSE02: From Data to Learning algorithms

AIFSE03: Deep Learning for educators 

At the end of the first term, having done these 3 courses and some hands on activities, they are ready to become “AI-familiar SmartEducator”. 

Those who are now motivated and excited to learn more and at depth, will pursue the following three courses during the term :

AIFSE04: Mathematics for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AIFSE05: Learning to learn AI/ML

AIFSE06: Flourishing and thriving as an educator in the Gig economy 

Having done all the 6 courses as well as a project of AI application in education, they will qualify for “ AI-fluent SmartEducator”. 

The 5th level of AInEd Evangelist is achieved by being a Practioner in the field for a few years, and having written books, delivered training programs, workshops etc. to help spread AI awareness amongst educators. Both educators who have become adept in AI technologies and AI professionals who are interested in education and have applied themselves towards learning interventions will comprise membership of this category. 

Having described in detail, the levels of the educator, it is now time to share the full list of dispositions and skills at each level of learner autonomy. Here is a framework that is ” Made in India, but made for the world”. 

Level 5: (10 skills) Fully autonomous learner with the right dispositions and skills

  • Developing foresight
  • Identify Self-learning needs 
  • Set self learning goals
  • Effective Decision making
  • Research competence 
  • Ability to teach others 
  • Developing dispositions for success
  • Avoiding stupidity
  • Ideas: their creation and dissemination 
  • Computational Thinking

Level 4: (10 skills) A fully autonomous learner that can function well in limited domains ( cognitive geo-fencing) 

  • Identify your own learning needs
  • Set learning goals to address those needs
  • Identify experts and mavens in your domain to follow and get inspiration from
  • Curate appropriate resources to achieve your learning goal. 
  • Process the knowledge resources to achieve your learning goal
  • Apply appropriate learning strategies
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Finding your Ikigai
  • Evaluate the outcomes of your learning

Level 3: (10 skills) The Autonomous learning enabling system requests to be superseded by the human educator ( an AI fluent SmartEducator)

  • Cognitive Flexibility
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Complex problem solving
  • First principles
  • Social Learning/ Peer Learning 
  • Multitasking
  • Information Management
  • Team orientation 
  • Attention to detail
  • Digital presence and communication 

Level 2: ( 10 skills) An autonomous learning system that supports the learner but can be superseded by the human educator ( an AI fluent SmartEducator) 

  • Using mind maps
  • Learning agility: learning, unlearning and re-learning
  • Ultralearning
  • Google search skills
  • Using AI apps for better learning: text to speech, speech to text, machine translation
  • Learning from YouTube
  • Using an app to get the text of an audio or video narration
  • Grit : determination to overcome one’s barriers to learning 
  • Open mindedness
  • Knowing your element

Level 1: (10 skills) Some inclination towards self-learning and core abilities of self-learning 

  • Creative thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Fact checking
  • Effective learning techniques
  • Time Management 
  • Avoiding/ overcoming procrastination 
  • Learning from WhatsApp 
  • Learning from other mobile Apps
  • Learning from MOOCs
  • Enhancing the span of attention (focus) 

Level 0: No self-learning disposition or ability

Finally the third important element of this paradigm shift is the role of parents. 

This is acknowledged in the initial part of the NEP2020 document. 

“1.1. Over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6, indicating the critical importance of appropriate care and stimulation of the brain in a child’s early years for healthy brain development and growth.”

That is why I have often said that the home is the first school, the mother’s lap the first classroom and the mother is the most important and effective teacher. 

An educated mother is therefore the best assurance of a child’s holistic development in the foundational years. As universal secondary education  is achieved, almost all parents ( with appropriate  online remote training modules) will be able to fulfil the learning needs of their own children at the school stage. And when the GER of 50% is achieved, all parents will be able to build self-learning capabilities and life-long learning dispositions in their children. A desire to learn, and the mindset and capabilities to learn very well. 

The paradigm of the Kothari education commission (1964) that ‘ the destiny of India is now being shaped in her classrooms’ would have changed to the new paradigm of ‘ the destiny of India is in the hands of its children, their teachers and parents’.

India would be ready for its rightful place in the comity of “knowledge economies”. 


About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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