Educating Oneself for an unknown and uncertain world:

“Educating oneself for an unknown and uncertain world”

One of my favorite stories that I have been sharing these days is about Albert Einstein and his teaching assistant when he was teaching at Princeton University. He had just wrapped up administering a test to a group of second year physics students when his teaching assistant approached him and asked, “Dr. Einstein, wasn’t that the same exam you gave to this sameclass of students last year?”

Einstein paused for a moment then replied, “Yes, it was the same exam.”

Perplexed by that answer, his teaching assistant then asked, “ How could you give the same exam to the same class two years in a row?”

“You’re right, these are the same questions as last year”  Einstein replied– “but the answers have changed.”

The point Einstein was trying to make, was that due to the number of insights and discoveries in the field of physics, the correct answers at that moment were very different from what they were even a year ago. He had himself during the year published 4 pathbreaking papers, on Brownian movement, Special Theory of relativity, General theory of relativity and the photoelectric effect. And people like Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Neils  Bohr, Max Planck, Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli and others were laying the foundations of Quantum Mechanics as the theory to describe the world. 

I love this story because it’s so reflective of how education has fundamentally transformed over just a year. Our Bharata Ratna Prof CNR Rao had said in a meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in 2015 that 90% of our University Curricula were out of date ( Heads of 114 institutions where the President is the visitor were participating in the three-day Conference. But no one took note. 

Now a virus about 100 nm in diameter ( has shaken up the entire education system during the last year. 

The Questions regarding teaching are the same but the answers have changed, and many of you will agree, over the past one year. 

The same questions :

  • Who teaches?
  • Where do we teach? 
  • How do the learners access learning? 
  • How do we support learners ( pastoring)?
  • How do we assess learners? 
  • What learning resources do we deploy? 
  • How do we manage their credentials?

 What has changed? 

  • The mobile learning infrastructure : Reliance-Google collaboration with Android Go… the new Operating System. This was scheduled to be announced at the Reliance AGM on 24th June 2021, but there may be some hiccups according to reports. This phone is expected to reach 900 million users ( learners). 
  • From being banned in educational Institutions, the mobile device will become the key learning device. 
  • The 4th Industrial revolution : Klaus Schwab in WEF 2016. 
  • In January 2021 WEF estimated that a billion people have to be re-skilled by the year 2030. 
  • The 4th Education Revolution : Anthony Seldon 
  • The AI recommendation and personalisation engines 
  • Learning Software like AlphaGo Zero and self-driving cars
  • The Pandemic………imposed restrictions in movement and proximity….

What will be the new educational ecosystem?

10 Elements of the new educational eco-system: 

1: Educators who are AI empowered self-learning facilitators

2: Lifelong self-learning communities ( as opposed to age and stage based learning) and co-learning spaces. 

3: AI supported HelpDesks

4: A personal learning chatbot for every learner

5: AI powered learning Apps.( Duolingo, iMath etc.) 

6: An AI powered personalised assessment, monitoring and feedback system 

7: Learning Prescriptions, Learning Capsules and Learning Pills

8: Mobile Learning ( not desktop). 

9: Wearables for self-learning ( AR and VR) 

10: Blockchains and badges for credentials 

Like the development of Quantum Physics, each of these elements are being developed and explored by many entrepreneurs and innovators. From Sugata Mitra’s explorations in SOLE ( Self-organised learning environments: Child Driven Education  )to Teacherless software professional development as in Ecole42 (  and Elon Musk’s recent Synthesis initiative ( ) are all progressive steps that give glimpses of the future of education. In due course, they will merge into a new  Science of learning that will be able to function together, and address its  key challenges: the challenge of numbers, the challenge of quality, the challenge of access, the challenge of relevance and the challenge of costs.

The matter is urgent, because various reports have suggested the mismatch between what is expected of educated persons and what we have, to the extent that Yuval Noah Harari has warned of an emerging “useless class” (

As was said by William Gibson, almost 20 years back in an article in the The Economist, December 4, 2003…..” The future is already here  – it’s just not evenly distributed”


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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