The relevance of education in today’s world is possibly far greater compared to most aspects of human development. Arguably, this was insufficiently understood for several decades in post-independence India, until the correlation between education and socio-economic upliftment became apparent. This is perhaps why for the first time, the World Development Report 2018 of the World Bank is solely focused on education. Comments Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, in his foreword to the report: “For individuals, education promotes employment, earnings, and health. It raises pride and opens new horizons. For societies, it drives long-term economic growth, reduces poverty, spurs innovation, strengthens institutions, and fosters social cohesion.”
For professionals such as this writer who have been associated with education, the World Bank report which examines systemic issues that impact education and areas of future focus, is a pleasant surprise. Although, over the past seven decades, adult literacy in India has improved from 15 percent in 1947 to 75 percent, by international standards of education attainment, India has to do a lot more to improve the standard of its primary-secondary education. 2019 is likely to be an important year for Indian education. Several initiatives of the previous years are likely to accelerate India’s march towards transforming into a knowledge economy. Here are four trends to watch out for in 2019.
Growth of integrated learning solutions. While on the one hand, schools and education institutions in urban India are rapidly integrating technology into education, the great majority of the country’s 1.2 million rural schools have not been able to experience its benefits owing to connectivity and infrastructure issues. They continue to rely upon the traditional chalk-n-talk model of education. K-12 education in India urgently needs integrated learning solutions that seamlessly combine print books with digital learning aids. And although the demand for education technologies will surge significantly in the coming years, it is impractical for schools to wait for 100 percent digital connectivity.
Therefore, solutions with textbooks as the base with digital support are a more practical idea. For instance, we have developed Oxford Advantage, a solution that integrates print with digital content and also includes assessments and teacher training through structured interventions. This year, we’ve launched our Oxford Advantage Pre-Primary solution based on feedback from schools and teachers.
Adoption of formative assessment solutions. With the gross enrolment ratio in primary education having crossed 95 percent, the attention of educators is now focused on improved learning outcomes, which in turn requires reliable assessment methodologies. Routine assessment solutions adopt a cookie cutter approach and merely test memory and recall. On the other hand, formative assessment solutions analyse social skills and personal competencies and test learners’ progress alongside curriculum delivery, and are more suited to ensuring impactful and customised learning.
Learning through regional languages. Ours is a nation of numerous languages, and hence dispensing education in one or few languages is ineffective in terms of reach. Earlier this year, Internet megacorp Google announced its support to seven Indian languages through Google Translate which automatically translates English textbooks into indigenous languages. More recently, the company launched its new Project Navlekha, an initiative to upload India’s 135,000 Indic language publications online in a hassle-free manner. Navlekha will allow local language publishers who don’t have websites to make their offline content fit for online publishing.
Regional language publishing is on the rise given the demand from vernacular learners, and this trend is likely to accelerate learning through regional language content and bilingual content will create a wider learners base.
Increased demand for teacher professional development services. The teacher is the pivot in the learning ecosystem.
Therefore, it is important to familiarise teachers with 21st century competencies and skills, new pedagogies and to augment their lateral thinking capabilities through professional development programmes. In 2014-15, the Union government launched the Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission for Teachers with all-India ambit and more such programmes are likely to be launched in the public and private sectors to help educators become more proficient. In an interesting development in mid-January, the Rajya Sabha passed the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill. The amendment Bill prescribes norms and standards for the teacher education system.
2019 promises to be an interesting year for education. These positive developments are certain to improve learning outcomes in K-12 education, and augur well for the holistic development of education in India.
(Sivaramakrishnan V. is the Delhi-based managing director of Oxford University Press, India)