If you are critical of digitizing public education institutions, chances are high that you may be accused of furthering an agenda that denies modern facilities to poor students. The accusations become pretty harsh if you have a relative who goes to an educational institution that offers digital facilities. The argument centers on the individual, not on what he has to say.
To think that digitization is the panacea for everything that ails our education sector is to further complicate the right to education of a section of students.
Digital technology presupposes certain infrastructure. Do our schools, be it public or private, have that kind of infrastructure? Limitations in digital infrastructure are creating problems for the education sector even in developed countries. These are not mere physical infrastructure.
Schools may have to abandon the digital push if the bugs, errors and hardware maintenance put too much pressure on them. Computer hardware may soon turn heaps of rubbish in a government system which could block procurement and maintenance with tangles of red tape.
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Digital technology in education may soon be of little interests to the children once the novelty factor wears down. The initial excitement will soon be diverted to other avenues such as video games, social media, cinema or YouTube. Studies will suffer.
The future generations may lose out to themselves when they start thinking that education is child’s play and everything they might ever need is available on the internet. The advocates of digitization do not have clear explanations for these concerns.
The curriculum associated with digitization is not very communicative to the students’ response levels. Knowledge is constructed, not acquired, according to modern pedagogical theories. ICT studies never claim that digital tools can help in constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it.
We cannot trivialize the argument by dropping the names of certain software. We have to face the question as to how far do those software address the social and cultural diversity in our student community. Who is in a position to decide the software’s ability to construct knowledge?
No child’s play
We have no other option but to be critical about the systems that claim to make education more entertaining. These questions are as important as the doubts raised in a classroom.
It’s a no-brainer that entertainment is sought when a young mind tires out from work. The argument in favor of making education entertaining throughout is the result of half-cooked ideas about the learning process.
The upgrade of curriculum, skill development among teachers and the reforms in examinations take a back seat in the cacophony about a digital revolution. The bolstering of these basic pillars through research and training is essential for any ditigization drive to help our education system.
(The writer is an associate professor in the department of education in the Central University of Kerala in Kasaragod)