Sunday, 6 September 2015

Are classrooms irrelevant to learning?

Classroom learning is often termed as the teacher-student ‘relationship manager’. It not only provides an aura of learning and teaching but it also facilitates the development of a more intimate teacher-to-teacher, student-to-student and teacher-to-student relationship, thus maintaining the warmth of this sacred association.
Traditionally, parents were the sole force responsible for the education of their wards which was limited to art, hunting, fighting and survival techniques and other basic necessities of life. As the world progressed gradually, the need for diversification of education was felt to match up with the pace of development. Ultimately, it lead to the emergence of ‘Gurukuls’ where the wards were admitted to a teacher for not just education but for the overall development of the child through permanent residence at the Gurukul’s premises. As the world moved to medieval times, the Gurukul culture started diluting and specialized teachers were called in to teach the wards of the rich class, whereas the poor class adopted the system of school learning. Eventually, through the introduction of imperialist forces, the idea of dedicated schools of learning caught pace and ultimately transformed to the contemporary schools with good quality infrastructure, modern education and drop in oriental mode of learning, to which some skeptics regard as the replication of western mode of education.
The classroom learning is more than just a monetary business of education dissemination which involves the physical presence of the modes of learning and teaching whereby the teacher and students interact in an environment filled with knowledge sharing and intellectual development. It is a system of not just a two-way communication but rather a multi-way communication technique where the interaction is more intimate and not just categorized by the virtual presence of a teacher. Therefore, it is not just limited to syllabi learning but contributes towards the development of an overall personality where the pupil is prevented to become an emotionless robot. The method of multi-way communication allows the development of ethics, morality, right aptitude and most importantly the ‘ability to question’. It offers a wide array of learning techniques where the educational roots are not just confined between the teacher and the students, but they are disseminated to all the participants connected via a physical classroom. The extra-curricular activities, improved ways of communication, counseling techniques offered by specialized teachers as well as right and personalized guidance to the pupil prevents the escalation of solitary confinement of a student which contributes towards the balanced physical and mental growth of a child. The regular assessment via periodical tests and availability of teacher to parent feedback mechanism of the pupil circumscribes the possibility of development of irregularities in the behavior of the child.
Although there are innumerable benefits of classroom learning but in the new technological world, the trend of online learning is picking up pace, primarily due to affordable learning, wide choice of learning to pupil as well as ease of learning through the student’s computer screen. It reduces the idea of physical presence to minimum and rather brings the classroom at the computer screen of the learner. As this is economical as compared to the idea of classroom learning, therefore the modern, especially developed and developing countries are promoting it as an alternative source of learning. It increases the competition among the teachers to provide the best services or to go home; therefore the process of continuous learning among the teachers has touched down the teacher’s roof too. It theoretically provides uniformity in quality of education and 24 hours availability at the pupil’s doorstep. As it is giving boost to the idea of a globalized and interconnected world in the sector of education, therefore the neo-capitalist are excited about its prospects too (especially the giant corporations in the education business). Initially, it was a medium of one-way communication but with the rise in technological development, it has adopted the multi-way communication strategy too (exg – Google Hangouts and Conference Calls). It also proclaims to provide an emotional touch to the system of education through the availability of specialized analytics, guardians and counselors which help the student ‘virtually’ for personalized issues at a nominal cost. The idea of e-learning crosses all physical barriers to learning to promote development of the child. In case of India, it is more feasible because it is a cost-saving, quick and uniform education dissemination technique which complies with the ideas of ‘Digital India’ as well as to a larger extent to ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ too.
But for the strengthening of e-learning capabilities, India needs to –

  •         Ramp up its digital infrastructure presence even to the remotest area of the country with regular upgradation of technology.
  •         Provide education material online (like NCERT books are already provided) for those who cannot afford to avail the physical material.
  •    Sharing of quality learning via lectures of globally recognized institutions of India like IIT, IIM etc on a registered Government portal for the realization of the idea of ‘Skill India Initiative’.
  •    The promulgation of techniques of personalized assessments through periodical surveys of the pupil through his/her teachers, fellow students and the parents (an idea advanced by the Prime Minister himself).
  •     Gradual lifting up of caps on the entrance of foreign educational institutions and allowing them to offer online education and share technology and methods of e-learning.
A well educated mind is the driver of growth and the vision of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’. Therefore, it is unquestionable for India to tap its huge demographic dividend via quality education to prevent social ills from spreading its roots in our society. As we have seen above that on one hand, classroom learning is an intimate form of learning where the pupil is prevented from becoming an emotionless robot, and on the other hand the ideas of e-learning synchronizes with our need to disseminate quality education in a cost effective manner throughout the country. Therefore, if India wants to enhance its capability to provide good quality education, it is imperative for us to use a mixture of both in the sense of strengthening our already available centers of ‘classroom learning’ and make them competitive worldwide by technology upgradation, and to disseminate quality education to the remote areas of our country via e-learning where the physical methods of learning are not feasible.
The best approach is to prevent a radical change and to introduce a gradual change in the core sector of education continuously to which the society would find easy to absorb and would transform itself with a passage of time.

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