Home Interview Tackling teaching crisis by supportive technology and skilling can diffuse Learning crisis to a large extent

Tackling teaching crisis by supportive technology and skilling can diffuse Learning crisis to a large extent

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SchoolNet India is one of the longest serving edtech companies in India, having been incubated as IL&FS Education way back in late 1990s when computer education and training was setting the trend of transformative power of computers in all walks of life. It’s K-Yan (Knowledge-Yan), or Vehicle of Knowledge, designed and developed by IIT-Bombay in 2004 to facilitate group and community learning especially in rural India and now in its 14th generation has since impacted millions of learners in 40k schools (mostly government). The company, which divested from IL &FS in 2018 to become an independent group in education and skilling, was naturally equipped to help its schools during pandemic closure. At the same time, it had to respond to competition from a host of ed tech startups and others and launched a learning app based on NCERT textbooks by the name of Geneo. Arindam Ghosh, Sr Vice President and Head of Strategy at SchoolNet India in conversation with Autar Nehru of Curriculum Magazine says post-covid the reception to technology use and its role has increased widely.

If we start by asking you, what led you to enter into the competition of online tutoring despite having an established presence in thousands of schools in the county as  a reliable digital technology and content collaborator?

First of all, I think online medium offers a great opportunity of democratizing quality education and bring it within reach of every student and a silver lining in school closures due to Covid pandemic as acknowledged by all is that online education became more acceptable as people realized technology is an enabler.  We as an education and technology company for the past 25 years have been demonstrating the power of digital and communication technology ad making quality education affordable, so in a sense, we’re already there much ahead of others. Partly as part of our growth and expansion and I agree partly due to switch over to online education and competition, we also launched our app Geneo. Though we are in competition with everyone but we’re not part of the crowd and most of our competitors serve the peak layers of the pyramid, we are into mass middle of this with feet on ground across the country.

Talking about your app, briefly, tell us how is this different from others?

We wanted to make it easier for all stakeholders to adapt and therefore, most of the content is the same what students learn in classrooms. We have mapped NCERT books page by page with simulating digitized multimedia content and therefore easy to follow. The app, which has all sleek features including a live chat and mentor help, has also deployed AI for Maths and Science subjects so that student or a parent can know the current level of understanding by the student and accordingly suggest additional resources and concepts he or she needs to master. With a million users already, our app is developing into a friendly tool for learners.

This app at the moment offers learning support from class 5-10 and doesn’t include languages if we are correct, what are some of the targets in foreseeable future for you?

We have an in house team of content producers and collaborations with several reputed brands in the edtech and allied fields, so, we’ll be constantly improving our offering and also cover all classes from 1-12. Additionally, we have also started physical centres and as a hybrid offering our tutoring services will go into hybrid mode as well in more and more tier 2 & tier 3 cities.

Coming to your partnerships with governments, how do you see these partnerships doing with all this tech talk and schools being transformed?

We have assisted several governments in deploying infrastructure related to computer-aided education to their satisfaction and we have constantly moving with the time and making all necessary upgrades. It is a matter of satisfaction that after G-Shala in Gujarat, we also had the opportunity of partnering Delhi government in setting up its virtual school this year with google education. With a large number of government schools still without computer infra and internet, our working with governments is a work in progress and hopefully, we would be servicing more schools in coming years.

Your company is claiming to have trained about two lakh teachers since 2019. Why do you think teacher training is critical for you as well as the rest of the ecosystem?

I am of the firm belief that our learning crisis is nothing but teaching crisis. The way the system is, teachers don’t have much options for professional development more use when the use of technology has increased and got integrated to teaching and learning processes. we have and are actually training, teachers, principals, headmasters, and officials of Education departments in the  area of integration of digital technologies in training, Google for Education tools, Geneo product training, usage of K-Yan for enhancing classroom teaching, as well as providing continuous handholding support and learning resources. This is very empowering for teachers by pedagogical skills in blended learning, training them to avail technology and improve interactivity and engagement, as well as training in soft skills like communication and critical thinking skills in teachers. This in turn is translating into a happy situation for both the teachers as well as students. We believe teachers have passion, inherent strengths and intuition and urge to make their students learn. Upskilling and learning about tools only makes them confident and improve performances.

Any closing comment?

Providing education is much more than just completing the syllabus or preparing students for an examination. It is about ensuring that children become well-rounded and tenacious citizens who develop hard and soft skills, and help them navigate the various stages of their lives. Towards this aim, digital technologies will become an essential component of the schooling ecosystem, with inimitable potential to create a level playing field.

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