If you think about it, the driving forces of our future aren’t just sitting in boardrooms or strategy meets but also happen to be sitting in classrooms right now. With over 260 million students, India has the largest school-going population in the world. This young and ambitious lot will soon be on the road to India’s economic and social development. This makes people who impart the learning, their teachers, absolutely “essential and critical”. While the world had its lens focussed on the pandemic, the past year posed a multitude of challenges for the education sector. According to UNESCO, the learning journeys of over a billion learners were disrupted due to pandemic closures. With the virus spreading at unprecedented rates, the future of learning stood at a crossroads. However, human ingenuity came quickly to the rescue; and we collectively realised that to prevent the negative long-term effects of this disruption in education, we had to implement technology.
Almost overnight teachers across the globe successfully transitioned to online, tech-enabled classrooms. What might have otherwise been a herculean task was executed to perfection by dedicated and driven teachers. Positively impacting the lives of students through education is remarkable and more so, with the help of tech-enabled teaching, teachers today are equipped to reach a much larger set of students.
With the impact of teaching finally getting its due, India is poised to make teachers for the world. This what I believe will be the dawn of a new era in teaching, 'the Golden Age of Teaching' is all set to come back. As a country with a large, aspirational youth, now is the time we can create high quality and high paying jobs in a profession that has remained under appreciated for far too long. With online learning becoming more mainstream, multiple opportunities have opened up today for aspiring teachers. Anyone who wants to teach can simply utilise the digital medium and start teaching.
More interestingly, this gave rise to a clear opportunity for India to create a huge talent pool of teachers for the world. Today, online teachers from India are teaching students in most English speaking countries such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada,and the UK. Tapping into this “underutilised” and “high quality” talent pool will help positively impact the future of our teaching and student communities. The emergence of these new job roles isn't’ just expanding the reach of our teachers but is also creating a whole new segment in the education system - one that might form the basis of the online schools of tomorrow.
The changing faces of teaching in the COVID era
Learning to teach using technology is not a simple task. Doing it overnight is even more commendable. Traditionally teachers have always been comfortable with direct classroom interaction. However, to be able to teach comprehensively without the student in front of you is a whole new ball game. Teachers have picked this up beautifully with little to no formal training and are doing some incredible work out there. Despite facing adversities of their own, they are relentlessly helping students everywhere to learn to the best of their capabilities.
Over the last few months teachers have also adapted to their changing role as mentors and communicators as they help their students navigate this pandemic through a virtual medium. With rapid up-skilling, teachers have proven once again that their grit and dedication for work is unparalleled.
Technology as an enabler for teachers
A teacher will always be crucial to the effective learning process of any student, whether it is in a physical classroom or an online learning environment. In fact, in an online set-up, while the essence of teaching remains intact, the teacher is empowered to create more engaging, and interactive learning experiences for students. I strongly believe that using visuals, animated videos and game-based quizzes, has made me a better teacher. By giving students a front-row seat to their learning in the online format, teachers can fulfil their roles of mentors and guides much more effectively.
However, upskilling teachers to harness technology to its best potential is a primary and immediate need. Online learning rides on the troika of world-class content, engagement, and personalisation. To stay in sync, teachers will need the necessary training to leverage technology to its full potential. I believe strong leadership in school systems that can help identify and fast-track this upskilling will play a crucial role too. Teachers have already proved that nothing can stop them from imparting knowledge, let’s give them the right tools through technology and help them do their jobs even better!
The future of teaching
Over the past few months, there has been a significant mindset shift with parents and students whole-heartedly embracing online learning. According to our own research, 75% of parents want their children to continue learning online even after the school reopens. However, post the pandemic it is most likely that a blended learning approach, with both offline and online methods, will emerge as the winner. To meet the demands of this evolving format, the role of the teacher will go much beyond textbook “teaching”.
Teachers build the citizens of tomorrow in the classrooms of today. To help them equip their students for a digital world we need to first equip our teachers with the right technology. With the right support, a spirit to experiment and an open mind, I believe we can help teachers take their best foot forward towards the Golden Age of Teaching.
Divya Gokulnath, Teacher & Co-Founder, BYJU’S