Every year millions of student across the country graduate from school with a dream to reach the most prestigious engineering institute in the country, the IIT.
It is the dream which makes millions dedicate months and years on preparation, investing lakhs and learning from the best. While students from the urban cities can avail the facilities that lay the foundation to their journey towards the IIT, their rural counterparts are devoid of even the basic infrastructure.
India is witnessing numerous critical issues and it would not be wrong to say, ‘learning crisis’ is one of the major among them. Education is one of the basic rights every citizen holds but unfortunately, not everyone has been able to have access to it. Especially rural India takes the hardest hit where the paucity of a teacher has been leading to appalling student-teacher ratio. To add to this, the availability of only rudimentary traditional classrooms with the teachers who possess poor teaching skill is unable to provide the right kind of support to learners is a dampener. To add to this is the sorry state of infrastructure.
So, how do we bridge the gap? Col. Rajendra Prasad Nadella, Co-Founder, Managing Director iScholar has answer. In an interview with Baishali Mukherjee Nadella answers some very important questions.
How can tech advancement help improve the learning standards of rural India?
Technology has been a blessing to the education sector with telelearning emerging as one of the solutions to this dearth of teachers across India. Even an internet connection with the lowest bandwidth of 256 kbps is good enough to access an interactive online coaching class. With technology reaching wider horizons, online courses do provide an even field for the rural students to stand their ground and compete with their urban counterparts.
The advancements in technology are rapid and far-reaching. One of the greatest benefits of using technology in rural education is the fact that tech can help break away from the traditional ‘one size fits all’ method of teaching. Education can now be designed specifically for the audience and is not dependent on teachers to be physically present. Therefore, a child studying in a village can have access to the same high quality of education as that of a child from the city.
Is the net connection sturdy enough in rural and remote India to implement online classes?
While there is obviously scope for improvement, connectivity in India is steadily improving. Rural India witnessed a growth of 14.11% over the last couple of years of internet penetration. With the highly competitive data plans on offer, more and more people are taking to the net, which in turn advocates for improved services. (The videos on our platform are geared to work seamlessly in low connectivity scenarios)
How tech-savvy is rural and remote India to make use of tech in education?
The Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2020, 50% of India’s internet users will be rural. There are various initiatives that are expediting this; “Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas for example, the government-run alternative schools primarily for children from rural parts of India — are on a mission to provide access to quality education through digital learning across its 500 schools.” Tech is also been seen as an alternate solution to lack of quality in traditional setups. Popular existing apps (FB, YouTube, WhatsApp, etc.) are doing the job of creating a tech-savvy generation that is then primed to embrace newer technology relatively easier.
How economically viable is it for rural and remote India which is known to be economically weak?
(assuming the question relates to how affordable online education is on the whole) Affordability is relative. Apart from being free, there will always be someone who cannot afford it. That being said, the perceived value of a product plays a big role in its adoption. If a serious aspirant is keen on attaining a service, s/he will do their homework and run comparisons. After taking into consideration points like quality, reputation, availability, etc., it invariably boils down to price. The more affordable, the better. If a potential student in rural India can understand the benefits of a quality education, s/he will find a way to make it work. The best way out of poverty is via education.
Will there not be a language barrier with online classes, as English is hardly spoken and barely comprehended?
We offer lectures in both Hindi and English and the student can even get their doubts clarified in either of the languages. There does indeed exist a language barrier when it comes to communication and education. However as times change and exposure increases, Hinglish is seen as an effective method to communicate to the masses. The trick is to have experienced faculty who have exposure to the nuances of effective communication and are able to drive home the point with relative ease.
Col. Nadella, has bachelors in science from Jawaharlal Nehru University and PG in Retail Management from Indian Retail School. Later, he has also served as the director of Indian Retail School. A dedicated educationist and die-hard proponent of “quality education for all” he has been, over the past decade, involved with a number of education initiatives. He founded GREAT, a leading B-School geared at offering global training in retail management from its branches in Hyderabad and Lavasa and also manages franchises of the Indian Retail School in Bangalore and Hyderabad. A decorated army officer, he served with distinction with the National Security Guard. Currently, with a social motive to provide education for all at a nominal price, he has co-founded iSchoar to impart IIT-JEE coaching at an affordable price.