Why blended learning is future of Indian education

Why blended learning is future of Indian education

The debate around the quality of higher education in India has been gaining momentum since the Union Budget 2017, which laid emphasis on skill development, employability and digitisation of the education process. The government announced a slew of measures, including ‘Swayam’, an online learning portal; revamp of the National Education Policy (NEP); the Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA) as a single higher education regulator; and the University Grants Commission (UGC) mandate to educational institutions to develop massive open online courses (MOOCs).

While India is making headway in digitising the learning process, world over, universities are disrupting and innovating teaching and learning. The country has a long tradition of face-to-face learning; the teacher or guru cannot be replaced overnight with an unseen, technological entity. However, it is pertinent to note that the gap between what students are taught in classrooms and what the industry is demanding of its prospective employees is growing every day. The rate of change in technology has, and will continue to, outpace the change in university curriculum, the fastest of which takes place once a year. It is not uncommon to see students spending more than 20 years in the education system and saddled with unattractive job prospects.

The solution lies in ‘blended learning’, a concept that is fast gaining pace in the Indian context. In simple terms, it is a hybrid form of teaching and learning which involves both classroom and online learning. The approach mixes concept building and enquiry-based learning which retains human interaction in education and allows students to combine traditional classroom methods with online-digital mediums. Blended learning strives to create a balance between prescriptive learning and learning at one’s own pace. It is important to note here that blended learning is not equivalent to technology-rich teaching; the core of blended learning is giving the student greater autonomy over his or her education growth path, using technology only as an enabler.

Simply put, it is a win-win situation for students and teachers. The emphasis is on development of the learner’s capacity and capability with the goal of preparing him or her for the complexities of today’s changing workplace. Since every individual assimilates information differently, online learning aims to bring greater and better choice of learning with specific interests. Teachers will not be burdened with the mundane task of imparting education through information overload; instead, they will be focusing on higher value-added instruction that synchronises technology with face-to-face learning. The automated and personalised system will allow teachers to turn into mentors, free from the pressures of formal education.

For students, a major advantage is the ability to dip into a knowledge pool that doesn’t end with classroom instruction. Blended learning incorporates information via online courses, developed by experts from different fields, and helping students access globally developed and industry relevant course material. Blended learning creates the possibility of practical, experiential learning, where students can learn at their own pace – both in terms of speed and complexity of information. It is only fair that the education process be flipped to become increasingly learner-driven than prescriptive in nature.

Data analytics from online learning platforms can help educators develop a targeted approach towards teaching a particular individual, harnessing data over time to help students learn better. This will provide teachers more accurate and specific insights into a particular student’s pain points, where he/she is doing well, areas they find most challenging etc. This can help teachers, and by extension colleges and universities, to understand student behaviour better and provide vastly effective learning interventions.

The natural affinity Millennials have to technology, their sense of entitlement to drive their own education, and the fast-paced and fast-changing work environments they are likely to be a part of, all point in one direction — online or computer-based education could well replace brick-and-mortar education in coming years.

Technology also enables students to access a global network of education and knowledge exchange. For instance Anant Agarwal, the CEO of Harvard and MIT’s online-learning platform edX, graduated with a degree from IIT Madras before pursuing a highly successful global career. Blended learning offers a window to a global world for students who might otherwise struggle to access traditional professional education programmes and supplements the wider work of universities, colleges and learning providers.

In short, blended learning aims to solve problems that plague policymakers, administrators and students. While many educators have adopted this unique form of learning, one hopes that in a decade’s time, blended learning becomes the norm rather than the exception. To its credit, the Government of India is formalising the online education space, ensuring regulatory recognition for online courses and encouraging universities to develop their own online curricula.

The blended classroom of the future can leverage the power of online courses and free up classroom time for interactive collaboration and discussion, testing and problem-solving, redefining how education is administered, while at the same retaining the ethos of India’s traditional classroom system.

[“Source-moneycontrol”]

U.S. Spends Less as Other Nations Invest More in Education

U.S. spending on education declined from 2010 to 2014. (Hero Images/Getty Images)

The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.

Bucking that trend is the United States.

U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.

Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.

“Overall (U.S.) education spending has been cut quite severely in the last few years,” said Andreas Schleicher, who heads the OECD directorate that issued the report. “That clearly puts constraints on the environment you have for learning.”

How lower spending constrains learning is subtle. Schleicher has pointed out for years that there isn’t a clear relationship between money spent and student outcomes. Some countries that spend far less than the United States on education consistently outshine this country on international tests.
And even with the decline in spending, the United States still spends more per student than most countries. The United States spent $11,319 per elementary school student in 2014, compared with the OECD average of $8,733, and $12,995 educating each high school student, compared with an average of $10,106 per student across the OECD.

The way that high-performing countries achieve more with less money is by spending it differently than the United States does. For example, larger class sizes are common in Asia, with more resources instead spent on improving teaching quality. During the period of U.S. budget cuts to education, there weren’t major changes to how the money was allocated.

“If you simply cut spending with your existing spending choices, you will end with less for less,” said Schleicher, citing school districts in Oklahoma that cut the number of school days to four from five each week.

One big way that the U.S. education system differs from others is in asking teachers to carry a heavy teaching load. U.S. teachers teach close to 1,000 hours a year, compared with 600 hours in Japan and 550 hours in Korea. In these countries, teachers might specialize in one course, such as Algebra I, and teach it only a few periods a day. The rest of their work week is spent on other activities, such as preparing lessons or giving feedback to students.

“In the U.S., teachers have less time for professional development, teacher collaboration, lesson preparation, working with students individually,” said Schleicher. “In other countries, teachers have a lot of time to watch each other’s lessons, design lessons and evaluate lessons.”

By contrast, the U.S. system spends a lot of resources on keeping class sizes relatively small, and hiring more teachers for them.

The OECD’s data echoes what the National Center for Education Statistics in Washington, D.C., has been tracking. It found that education spending for elementary and high school students had fallen for several years in a row from 2009 to 2013, due to a combination of federal, state and local budget cuts. Spending rose a smidgen during

the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, but, after adjusting for inflation, it is still well below the 2009 peak.

Last week’s U.S. Census report showed that middle class incomes are rising. One could argue that the economy is flourishing just fine with less spending on schools. But education is an 18-year, long-term investment, from pre-K through college. It could be that we won’t see our economic prospects smashed from this divestment for many years down the road.

This column was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

[“Source-usnews”]

Why California is investing over $200 million in vocational education

90603919

More Americans are going to college than ever before. The most recent census found that 33.4 percent of adults over the age of 24 have earned a bachelor’s degree or more. Kurt Bauman, Chief of the Education and Social Stratification Branch for the U.S. Census describes this as, “a significant milestone” for the country.

For many, however, higher education remains a privilege that is financially inaccessible. One way students can invest in their futures without investing in a bachelor’s degree is through vocational education. By enrolling in vocational education programs, students can earn degrees in high-demand fields like nursing, business and engineering which can lead to high-paying jobs. Still, many students believe that a bachelor’s degree is the only path to success.

In order to change this, the state of California is spending $200 million to encourage more students to earn a vocational certificate instead of a bachelor’s degree.

93258564

Hill Street Studios | Getty Images

The U.S. Government defines vocational education as, “organized educational programs offering a sequence of courses which are directly related to the preparation of individuals in paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree.”

These programs, offered by community colleges across the country, are by definition designed to help students find employment. Reports from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that people with vocational education have slightly higher rates of employment than those with academic credentials. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, there are over 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 a year and do not require a bachelor’s degree. The healthcare industry alone is creating millions of high-paying jobs that don’t require students to study for four years.

Despite the benefits of vocational education, it has yet to appeal to American students on a broad scale. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 8 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in a vocational certificate program. Derrick Roberson, 17, tells PBS, “All throughout high school, they made it sound like going to college was our only option.” Today, Roberson is training to be an electrician.

In many regions, vocational programs have even declined in popularity. For instance, in 2000, 31 percent of community college students in California took vocational courses. Today, only 28 percent of students take these courses.

Experts believe that students hesitate to enter vocational training programs in part because of fears that industries like manufacturing will replace workers with robots. Business consultant Sam Geil told PBS, “It doesn’t help when industry is moving out and laying people off.”

93119556

Hill Street Studios | Getty Images

Despite these fears, California is investing over $200 million in vocational education. Today, California Community Colleges is the largest provider of workforce training in the country. The state hopes to use the money to improve the reputation of vocational education and deliver it more effectively.

The New York Times points out that this kind of investment from the government helps corporations cut costs: “They want schools and, by extension, the government to take on more of the costs of training workers that used to be covered by companies as part of on-the-job employee development.” In other countries like Germany, companies are heavily involved in training workers.

Still, Andrew Hanson, a senior research analyst with Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce told Matt Krupnick, “Efforts like California’s to broaden the appeal are exactly what we need.”

Don’t miss:
The 20 most in-demand jobs that pay over $100,000
5 technical skills that will lead to a high-paying in-demand job
The 10 least stressful college majors can lead to some of the highest-paying jobs

The highest paying jobs that don't require a master's degree
[“Source-cnbc”]

Despite recent setbacks, India needs more private education

Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. Photo: HT

Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. Photo: HT

In the wake of the tragic murder of a seven-year-old boy at Ryan International School in Gurugram, followed just a few days later by the ghastly molestation of a little girl at a school in the capital, the lens is once again on private schools. In any case, the business of private education has been under fierce scrutiny for a long time now with the Delhi government currently engaged in a battle of wills with private schools over fee hike which it deemed exorbitant. Government schools, by contrast, are seen as catering to the poor and the marginalized.

The manner in which the debate has been framed seems to suggest a different set of expectations from private and government schools. That relates not just to outcomes but also to conduct and staff behaviour besides, of course, physical infrastructure. Given the kind of money they pay, parents of children who attend private schools, expect high standards of safety and security.

Evidence now suggests that’s not been happening. Indeed, private schools, which abound in India and have a long history in the country, haven’t quite delivered the goods.

India’s best colleges in engineering, management, medical and legal education have carved out a name for themselves in global ratings of higher education institution even if their rankings in various lists tend to be low because of a few factors. The same, however, cannot be said of even the elite private schools in the country, none of which have any global standing. That may be because they are forced to adhere to a curriculum and structure that lacks both imagination as well as excellence. But that doesn’t absolve them of their continued mediocrity.

All this suggests that private education isn’t the way to go for India in terms of quality as well as quantity. In developed Western countries with much higher GDP, the bulk of school education is in the public domain with only a few private schools catering to the rich. In the US, for instance, only about 10% of schools are in the private domain.

Yet, in India, even though government schools outnumber private institutions, they have been grossly inadequate in meeting the aspirations of the people. With a few exceptions, Delhi being one of them, most Indian states seem completely incapable of providing a half decent education infrastructure for young Indians.

According to research by Geeta Kingdon Gandhi, professor of education and international development at the Institute of Education, London, and president of City Montessori School, a private institution in Lucknow, as quoted by IndiaSpend, between 2010-11 and 2015-16, the number of private schools in India grew 35% from 220,000 in 2010-11 to 300,000 in 2015-16. By contrast, the number of government schools in the same period grew just 1%, from 1.03 million to 1.04 million. This, despite the fact that the 2009 Right to Education Act as per which all children between the ages of six and fourteen should be provided free and compulsory education, effectively makes it mandatory for state governments to set up more schools.

If the growth in numbers is beyond the capacity of the states, any improvement in quality isn’t even a priority. Indian students fare abysmally in global tests related to early school education.

Admittedly, in a few of the states like Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, government schools have been seen to outperform private schools in reading skills in local languages, once household and parental characteristics were controlled for, according to a state-wise analysis in Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014.

Part of the reason why private schools have failed to deliver is also because they have little transparency in their working and consequently, no accountability. Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. It isn’t a model that can appeal to a company. Those that do have to use a complicated method whereby the school trust hands over its management and operations to a private company against a steep charge.

Instead of the current debate about private versus public schools, the focus should be on enabling the private sector to set up more schools but under direct and close scrutiny of regulatory authorities. Given the limited resources of the states, there is no point heading off private intuitive in education. Instead, it should be encouraged but made much more accountable for quality and conduct.

Sundeep Khanna is a consulting editor at Mint and oversees the newsroom’s corporate coverage. The Corporate Outsider will look at current issues and trends in the corporate sector every week.

[“Source-livemint”]