Due to adverse weather conditions I reached the conference venue late. However to my surprise there was a sizeable number of audience already sitting & listening to the deliberations. Lakshayraj Singh Mewar from the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation had the audience spell bound with his gripping talk. Very eloquently he explained the role of Gyan Chand, Rai Chand & Dhyan Chand analogies in what we do. Next was a power packed panel of Dr. Sugata Mitra, Mr. Mathew Ragett and Dr. Vipul Redey, suggesting how the idea of knowing had become obsolete. We have to live with the internet & our smart phones, which catapults us to the fact that we know everything. So would we call the smart phone & internet an addiction? Is it something akin to wearing of shoes asked Dr. Mitra? When our early ancestors walked barefooted, who would have guessed that shoes would become an addiction or necessity! So with the advent of internet & smartphones, may be 20 years later this discussion would seem completely obsolete and out of place.
Currently no one has the answer to the unknown, but with all our Industry 4.0 technologies, one can attempt to get an answer. Here the role of teachers is critical, as they would help students find answers to the big questions. Rote learning should have been long passé, had the curriculum & teachers fired students’ imagination to ask questions on the hidden meanings in a language, workings of science, decisions that people took in history, formation of various geographies etc. The panel quipped on an issue where a teacher said that, ‘if you put technology in class, why would students want to listen to me!’. That’s exactly the point, if a teacher is so uninteresting why should the students listen to him / her. So, that very teacher took upon herself to make her more interesting than the technology. This brings me to an apt comparison where it’s no longer man vs. the machine but man with the machine combination that will drive our education, learning, knowledge dissemination etc.
The next speaker Rashenah Walker, stressed on the importance of gamification in learning. When learning becomes fun it’s easier for students to recall what they’ve learnt and use it in their life. Gamification in learning could spark critical thinking, problem solving, experiential learning, language skills etc. So using technology (3D printing, VR, AR) or simple physical games (hopskotch, scrabble, twister) one could have the desired impact. Language skills are learnt more effectively when the learning experience is more interactive, rather than theoretical. So using 3D printing for example, primary class students in our 3D printing training sessions are creating alphabets through stencils, which when lifted become 3 dimensional, moreover are fun to play / put together.
Mithun Kamath & Kavita Sanghavi in separate sessions, very eloquently put the case for STEM education for students in the wake of the 4th Industrial Revolution, changing market place & work place scenarios. The effect these are having on the skills needed for students is huge. Unfortunately the system is still focusing on the 3rd industrial revolution skills and training students in computer & electronics! Anupam Kaushik a leading educationist of TFRS fame, has mentioned that, entry level jobs in the field of say IT, law & medicine will disappear and be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI).
So continued focus of our education providers on Industry 3.0, makes me recall the words of Sam Pitroda from an earlier seminar, ‘we have 21st century technologies, but 20th century processes & systems, but sadly 19th century mind sets!’ In essence we need higher order thinking skills (HOTS), which was logically explained through a 3 tiered pyramid by Mithun Kamath. On the top was thinking, then building – managing and at the bottom was doing (labour). This brings me to the point that I often tell my students in 3D printing training sessions (Thinker to Maker), that we do the labour work here in India. But the most highly paid & clean work is of thinking or designing which the west does. That’s also one of the reasons, why the west has lower pollution levels than us! So get to learning design and gradually move to becoming a creator from a mere consumer.
Seema Bansal of BCG stressed on the importance of vocational training linked to schooling. In Delhi there are few schools who stress on this linkage. But personally I had a great experience in Meerut where in the school I was visiting for my 3D printing demo had a huge focus on vocational training. It was quite evident there that for example; the home science students were quite good at their culinary & hospitality skills. Not all schools can boast of such offerings but a school needs to pilot a particular vocation and build on it. Eventually the selected vocation will have a positive bearing on the labour market and will lead to upskilling of the overall labour force.
This can well be correlated to what Dr. Harish Chaudhary on Day 1 mentioned, ‘education’s purpose is to sharpen the intelligence / mind & help the student earn a living. On the other hand Mathew Raggett Headmaster Doon School in his session, suggested that students should watch – listen – think. It’s important to create a culture and capacity for students to formulate questions. Students just mirror our behavior and one should focus on things that cause learning. Earlier in the conference, on internationalization in & of schools, Mathew’s students were quite uninspired by their western counterparts whom they visited in one of their field trips. The smart phone & internet actually came in the way of their physical interactions. It is felt, that learning is & will always be important, technology does have its right place but should be a positive bonding factor too.
Finally in the end we got to hear Mr. Sonam Wangchuk, who inspired Amir Khan to make the 3 Idiots movie. I had seen Sonam’s video on SECMOL many a times on WhatsApp, how the 95% failure rate changed to the success / pass rate. Sonam attributed the failure to the blind following of the west. Why should always S for Ship or T for train be, because at 12,000 ft. students can’t relate to these things! So the emphasis began on using local things as a reference for teaching. The current education, a majority believes is because of the industrial revolution wherein the capitalists needed a homogenous work force with same or similar skill set to work in their factories or offices. Here I wish to digress a little, the children of these very capitalists seldom went to schools and were mostly home schooled by the best of teachers. Workers children went to school as the workers both husband & wife had little time to educate their children.
Sonam also stressed on the need to conquering 1 desire rather than a 1000 desires. Earlier in his video, Sonam had showed how students & teachers did introspection while learning in school. The 3Rs’ (wRiting, Reading & aRithmetic) were equally important with the 3Hs’ (head, heart & hand). One quote / statement of Sonam that will stay with me for long is, ‘if there is no idea of where we are going, it’s best to go slow than go faster’. Unfortunately for me and rest of us the conference ended, there was a huge learning of sorts for all. The exhibition area was quite active & dynamic in its various cutting edge offerings to the people. It was an amazing weekend of pure learning from the masters of the education domain. The above paragraphs might seem to appear disjointed from one another. But once again I’ve tried to capture & pen down the thoughts of various speakers, panelists and share my own experiences & learning with you.