Just two weeks back in a Townhall meeting held up Facebook HQ, Mark Zuckerburg shared an anecdote from one of his recent travels to a school in US. He went into a classroom and saw students working on their PCs and each working on a different app or a subject of his or her choice. When Mark delved deeper, he was surprised to see how a few lines of a software code had transformed the experience the child was having while learning. He requested to meet the software team, which had developed these apps and softwares for the school and he was in for a big surprise when he met the single man team.
Mark came back to his office and that very day set up a 17-member team to write software codes only for the education space. And eventually, Facebook plans to distribute these softwares all across the world to the schools.
Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai in a recent video while welcoming Mr. Narendra Modi to US, stressed on how their low cost Chromebook (a mini laptop) will be used to fulfill hardware requirements for lakhs of village schools across India. And in response to our Prime Minister’s call for a Digital India, Satya Nadella, the Indian born CEO of Microsoft has pledged to use low cost broadband technology to provide Internet to over 5 lakh villages in India.
Now, imagine a child in rural India sitting in front of his Chromebook studying mathematics on an app designed by Facebook and connected to the world through low cost Internet provided by Microsoft. The intellectual transformation that we are talking about here is going to be huge. All these technologies will empower the child to learn anything they want and whenever they want to. Besides, the child will also have the flexibility to learn either by listening, reading, watching or playing.
Our experiments at GudSkool Foundation in rural schools have helped us to understand the merits in personalized form of education. Our English Language lab set up in a rural school in Maharashtra has completely transformed the way English has ever been taught in the school. The teachers claim that their jobs have been made easier and they can now in fact focus on making much more value added contribution towards their children. Young kids on the other hand are completely thrilled at the idea of using a computer, a mouse and seeing engaging animations on the screen. Interesting games keeps them busy and they now have been observed to spend more time in learning the same subject than earlier. Although from the usability point of view, the experiments have been successful, however the key thing to understand is whether the idea of personalized education has also led to an improvement in understanding of the language and the command over spoken English. These are still the early stages but early results are indeed positive. We are beginning to see an improvement in how the students now understand and speak the language.
Another interesting thing is that the same experiments and results are also applicable for the students studying in the urban schools. For them, in fact using such technologies makes even more sense as they are being exposed to so much of content at home that their interest span is even lesser. Engaging multi-media content available on their personalized computer or tablets is bound to keep them more interested towards what they are doing at school.
If world business leaders, people who see the future like no one else are talking about personalized education now, we believe it is the right time for the schools in India to also adopt the concept today itself rather than wait for 30 years for it to become successful in the western world and then naturally percolating to our country. Because in 30 years time, it will anyways happen. We have an amazing opportunity to match pace with the whole world today, let’s not let it go.