Filed under: Exemplary practice, Flexible delivery, Online learning, Social networking | Tagged: 21st century skills, digital literacy, ICTs, India, iPad, learner centric, m-learning, online education, participatory pedagogy, personalised curriculum, social media, student engagement, technology, twitter, universities, web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »
Thanks to Francois Therin for the reference to Flat World Knowledge. I certainly expect other online startups to follow their lead given the demographics of the target market. The majority of these individuals would probably prefer access the text electronically anyway but — at $0 — the incentive is even stronger. The business model also makes sense. Even if a tiny percentage take up the printed version option, given the large numbers, there is still money to be made. In India alone, there are probably a few hundred million individuals who would likely jump at the chance of access to a free text and there will be plenty of educators who will be willing to prescribe them.
Image source: sidedish.dmagazine.com
There was an interesting piece in the The Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month entitled India’s Company Classrooms Challenge ‘Chalk and Talk’ Colleges. The reason it is interesting, is that I’m not entirely sure the corporate universities are challenging the didactic pedagogy so commonplace in Indian institutions of higher education. In the Infosys case cited, the key difference, it would seem, is that PowerPoint is preferred to the chalkboard. The fact the wifi is turned off during class time would seem to indicate that Web 2.0 approaches to learning are yet to be readily accepted.
The Indian corporate sector has been complaining loudly about the inability of the higher education system to produce ‘job ready’ graduates for some time, some estimating that only one in four graduates possess the requisites skills. As a consequence, a new market player has emerged that is rather quaintly referred to as ‘finishing school’. This is not somewhere in Switzerland where the British aristocracy send their daughters to learn deportment, it’s a modest looking facility in the outskirts of an India metro where recent graduates learn the soft skills to enable them to participate as fully fledged members of the global workforce.
There is every chance that this segment of the Indian education industry will continue to expand for some time yet because success in education and success in the business world is chalk and cheese [pun intended]. Indian students will continue to ‘mug up for exams’ — a phrase in common parlance in the UK in the 1950s — because very little has changed within the Indian university sector since the 1950s. The focus is on teaching not learning, and testing memories not problem-solving skills. Industry, meanwhile, requires life-long learners and problem solvers.
Apologists for the system will no doubt point out that at every top university and leading corporate in the world you will find well-educated Indians. This, of course, is a product of the law of large numbers. These people have succeeded in spite of the system. Imagine what could be achieved if there were widespread acceptance of a learner-centric, technology-enhanced, participatory pedagogy with authentic assessment. To date, there has been very little incentive for institutions of higher education to change. With the opening up of the Indian education system to foreign competition, domestic institutions may be forced to reflect on their outdated practices.
Filed under: Authentic assessment, Creativity, Practical advice | Tagged: constructivism, India, new literacy, participatory pedagogy, standardised testing, student engagement, teaching, technology, universities, web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »
In a recent paper, Steven Barnett makes reference to a substantial body of research that establishes early childhood education (ECE) can improve the learning and development of young children; the effects varying in size and persistence by type of programme. ‘Well-designed’ preschool education programs, he says, produce long-term improvements in school success, including higher achievement test scores, lower rates of grade repetition and special education, and higher educational attainment. Some preschool programs are also associated with reduced delinquency and crime in childhood and adulthood. Significantly, the strongest evidence suggests that economically disadvantaged children reap long-term benefits from preschool.
The ramifications of this for economic development are enormous, which is why the Millennium Development Goal #2 aims at ‘Education for All’ by 2015. The problem is that an estimated 18 million extra teachers will be required to meet this goal, and to achieve that kind of scale within this time frame requires a paradigm shift in thinking as far as the process of educating prospective teachers is concerned.
In India alone, an extra two million teachers will need to be recruited. Given existing public policy settings, the chances of this happening are slim. There is also the problem of getting existing teachers to turn up. It is estimated that in any given day, teacher absenteeism is of the order of 25%.
Radical solutions are called for, and public-private partnerships may be one option. A model based on that used by Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Sustainable Social Development Institute is worth contemplating, which brings together private and public organisations to serve low-income communities, through its Virtual University and 1400+ Community Learning Centres.
Is it possible, for example, that a young Indian woman, having matriculated from junior high school, could pursue a foundation degree in ECE teacher education and learn while she is on the job? This is far from the ideal, but it is infinitely preferable to the alternative. With a satellite dish, a solar panel and an interactive whiteboard, it is technically possible to ‘beam in’ an international standard ECE curriculum (appropriately modified to be culturally inclusive), for the ‘apprentice teacher’ to deliver to children in an isolated rural community. The same technology would enable her to network with others in her situation, studying online to work towards a formal teacher qualification.
Filed under: Academic literature, Online learning, Theoretical rationale | Tagged: Education For All, India, James Heckman, Millennium Development Goals, Piaget, Steven Barnett, teacher shortages, Tec de Monterrey | 2 Comments »