GenY is the most education-minded generation and providing quality education to this generation will be crucial to the country. India, which is predicted to emerge as one of the important economic powers of the world by 2030, needs to provide the right ambience for learning.

GenY’s desire to seek quality education and as a result, they value education and attribute their success to their educational opportunities. They are also very comfortable using technology and are committed to making a difference and contributing to positive social change.  

But all this is only possible if we provide the equal access to quality education to the young with aspirations and hopes so that it doesn’t lead to frustration and anger.  

One of our biggest problems is availability of high-quality teachers. We had traditionally kept pay scales for teachers unreasonably low. But that was compensated by the enormous respect that teachers enjoyed and the almost god-like stature they enjoyed. As the pool of teachers increased, there was a dilution in teaching abilities and standards and the respect that teachers enjoyed started diminishing. And as a result, teaching itself ceased to become an aspirational career for capable individuals.

National resource

We have to treat good teachers not as a local resource, but as a national resource. We have to help good teachers to teach not just a class full of students but we have to give them the technology so that their lectures could be attended by any student across the country (or indeed the world), who is interested in the subject. 

While we do need more schools, colleges, universities and research institutions, that alone is not going to fix the problems affecting our education system. Given the size and scale of the country, we just won’t be able to build enough education institutions nor produce as many high-quality teachers as required. Not for this generation, certainly.

While we continue to build more education institutions and create more high-quality teachers, we also need to leverage technology to optimize the existing resources we have and amplify the impact. 

Using online platforms as a way of democratizing access to high-quality education and teachers is not just an opportunity, but a necessary step that India has to do to ensure that the aspirations and hopes of the younger generation are addressed, and help them channelize their energies in the right direction. 

While Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs are seen as a welcome option in developed nations with reasonably well-distributed access to quality education, in India we have to see this as a critical strategy to steer the nation in the right direction. 
One obvious aspect is that India’s gen y is online, at least majority of them, and the rest are quickly getting access to the internet – either private or shared. But access to the internet will soon be universal in India.

Internet  access

As access to the internet empowers people with information, the fundamental role of education shifts from ‘providing information’ to ‘converting information into knowledge’. It means that education will have to be more engaging, stimulating and experiential for gen y to be interested. 

Gen Y seeks a format of education that allows them to explore, enquire, engage, interact, experience, learn, unlearn and relearn. And they are result oriented. They know they have to achieve more in a short time. They are determined to cross socio-economic strata from the strata that they are currently in. 

Online institutions, for a new way of learning (which is what will make gen y become better equipped to leverage new career opportunities), is already being built at a rapid pace. A few companies across the world including some from India are building the technology infrastructure to cater to this need. This technology infrastructure will help build new institutions that leverage existing resource pools (teachers, trainers, experts, labs, etc.) and make it accessible to a vast number of people. 

GenY wants not only information but perspectives, insights and experiences. Hence, rather than just a ‘teacher’ facilitating the flow of information, what new institutions needs to build are capabilities to integrate industry professionals into the teacher-learner relationship. 

This industry-academia connect which was possible only in a very limited way can also be democratized by enabling industry practitioners connect with students across any part of India. Imagine a student in Zabrina in Orissa or a small village in Assam getting access to CTO of a large telecom company. 

New technology

Education should not be restricted to a curriculum as IT limits the learning process. New age technology tools like digital classrooms, virtual classrooms, flipped classrooms,  Gamification can be used to make learning more interesting. 

Technology enabled education platforms make it possible for a student to create his/her curriculum based on what they are interested in, irrespective of where that content is delivered from. A student from Jabalpur now has the opportunity to take a course of designing bio-medical devices that is conducted by a faculty from St John’s college in Bangalore, and attend a lecture on new materials by a technologist at a Reliance plant in Patalganga on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Maybe seek guidance and get questions answered from the head of production at a Philips Mumbai office!

Technology not only allows the cost of high-end resources and talent to be made available at market prices, but also makes it possible to amortize that cost over such a large number of people that the price to the end-user could be far lower than what it would cost to access these resources, if at all they were available in the manner described in the point above. 

Technology is speedily growing with no sign of stopping and Gen Y is the 
first to grow up with the Internet, providing a number of resources from downloading music to online chatting to blogging. 

In conclusion, it is not about whether online platform for learning like the examples above are possible. They are already being done. The question is how to make this new process of learning mainstream. It may take time, but it may be as seamless as you not realizing when television became your main source of news instead of your newspaper, which you continue to flip through just because it’s a habit

Aditya Malik.

Courtesy: Deccan Herald, Feb 13, 2013

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