In the year 1961 on the month of April, Richard Buckminster Fuller, who was one of the great personalities in Renaissance of the 20th Century, talked in front of a gathering of educators in small university town in the US Midwest. He was delivering speech on the topic ‘Education Automation: Freeing the scholar to return to his studies’. This lecture still remains to be one of the influential descriptions on the future of education. Even though, he delivered a lot of thoughts, one paragraph of his speech was particularly farsighted and here is the same given:
Nevertheless, real education will be something to which people will discipline themselves impulsively under the spur of their own ticker tapes. The reason he stated for the same is that each individual has his/her own chromosomal patterns. This is similar to that of the fact that no people have the same level and type of appetite at the same time. Also, he further added that there is no reason as to why they should have. He also stated that there is no reason why every individual should be interested in the geography of Venezuela on the same day and hour unless there is some news or interesting event has taken place or going to take place in Venezuela. However, most of us might be interested in the geography of Venezuela at some time, but this does not happen at the same time for all of us. He further added the concurrent curricula are outdated. He stated that we should make all the data readily present over the two way television ready for the different individual human chromosomal ticker-tapes to call for it.
Most of us know Richard Buckminster Fuller as the individual behind the geodesic dome for which he is celebrated in the fullerence carbon molecule. However, many of us are not aware of the fact that he was also one of the most insightful and forward thinkers on education ever. Now, many decades have passed after his lecture and we are now only at the point of realizing the dream of this personality about chromosomal personalized education for the millions of students in India.
Setting the context:
With 250 million children attending school, India is the country with largest number of student enrolments in the world. Even though, China has a higher population as compared to India, China has less than 200 million enrolments alone. Even the private sector plays a more striking role, which operates 25 percent of the 1.5 million schools in the country, but reports for more than 40 percent of the total school enrollments. In addition, the share will only increase with the fondness shown by public towards private sector. This adds to the fact that government shows interest towards turning out to be a payer for services as against to be a provider through legislations like Right To Education Act. However, everything is not good.
The present state of education in country, regardless of whether it in private sector or government schools, can be ideally denoted as an ecosystem of disconnected learning gears. Here are some facts in this regard:
- Textbook publishing is something that is far removed from the realities of the classroom and they are not tailored to make content more relevant and timely.
- Initiative towards improvement of teachers and education are neither customized to the teaching capacity of teachers nor to the reading ability of students.
- Most smart-class technologies have turned out to be more as a marketing tool for admitting students, rather than improving the learning results.
- After school leads and tutoring, which were once considered supplementary education, have now almost turned out to be parallel school system as most schools are not in a position to tailor instructions for making sure that very few students are left behind.
All these aspects brought together offers a frustrating atmosphere and poor learning results for the students. Apart from this, there is economic wastage because of after-school tutoring and also due to investment on technologies that does not actually bring results. Besides all these things, lack of understanding on how each kid learns. Is it possible to find a solution for this? Let us find out:
Bringing things together:
When it comes to exams conducted in schools, assessments have always been the central for formal education, but there has been negligible innovation in using them to objectively understand the learning gap of students and the capabilities of teachers. So, it is important to check whether it is possible to make school exams as the tools for creating the foundational data-set for customized learning.
With this vision, in the year 2016, Varun Kumar and Naveen Mandava started a company called Xamcheck. They judged that while a tech platform can help in achievement of exponential scale in an all-digital learning environment, the real deal is in developing a feasible and fast-developing model that works well both in the pen, paper and textbook system and in the digital world. In India, the reality is that going offline is presently the only way of reaching meaningful scale in the world’s largest school ecosystem given that the vast majority of schools will without any doubt not be able to go completely digital for at least the next decade.
After three years and Xamcheck’s platform called as IMAX has delivered customized content curated through school assessment data to more than a lakh of students. Crucially, the program has been able to prove that it works at scale in schools that have monthly school fee of less than $20 and in remote towns with populations of less than 50,000.
What is IMAX Platform?
IMAX begins off by taking control of all the internal assessments of private schools from Kindergarten to class 12 levels right from designing, delivering and evaluating all the pen-paper tests with a view to develop personalized report cards that will help students and their parents to get coarse feedback on their learning gaps. It then makes use of this proprietary student data for providing students with tailor-made work and text books and digital learning tools that help them in navigation via specific learning gaps in methods that are most suited to their unique interests and aptitudes.
Central to such systems that provide personalized content is the requirement of proprietary assessment engines that tie the knot with educational architectures like Bloom’s Taxonomy and the data science techniques for conversion of routine school examinations into a veritable vault of data on the capabilities and interests of students, which can otherwise be called as ‘learning genome’. It is believed that the true power of such a learning genome is not just in enabling customization, but in also helping to bring together the disconnected gears of learning in a school.
Nevertheless, the learning genome in itself does not have the means of effecting this conjunction, a full stack approach does. This pertains to holistic control of all the elements of the value chain that explain the learning experience of a student. This is believed to be the only method to make sure a threshold quality of education delivery to bring down the inequity in learning outcomes that presently exist due to the wide differences in financial standing and educational capabilities in schools. Creating an impact that can actually be seen is, therefore not just about intelligent report cards, but to be deeply invested in ensuring that the information in the learning genome is used for delivery of meaningful teacher improvement tools and also power after-school learning experiences.
Nonetheless, how does one achieve rapid scale with the seemingly contradictory notion of deep engagement?
Two principles to help in this respect:
- Humans in general are opposing to dramatic behavioral changes. So, if you want to get to a lot of schools, besides considerably pushing the bar on innovation, it is important to find a method to create efficiencies in the present school system without overthrowing it. So, it is crucial that teams will have to spend time in understanding the mind set of owners of schools and the fear of teachers towards educational changes with a view to design programs that will help with effective management of these concerns and turn educationists into champions of the platform rather than as friction elements.
- Automate cycle is yet another tool for bringing down operations complexity in a considerable manner. These might be moves like moving to a distributor led scales model right from direct sales force or in moving ahead from in-house content development to curated content creating market.
Letting the scholars to return to their studies:
While we are not still at a point in time, where we can realize the idea of fuller in making spontaneous curricula as outdated, analytical customized learning will surely be a reality for almost every school going kid in the nation for the next decade. Let us now thank the rapid development in data science and reducing cost of personal digital devices.
Can you imaging, 250 million children each in a classroom of one, learning all the time, everywhere and also in the methods customized to their unique learning genome? Now, that would bring excellent results.