Is the student happy at school?

Is the student happy at school?

Is the student happy at school? Today’s K12 sector seems to be abuzz with words such as digital classrooms, remedial education, assessments, flipped classrooms and personalised education.

An education system that can integrate content, technology and data can prove to bring out the best in students

Today’s K12 sector seems to be abuzz with words such as digital classrooms, remedial education, assessments, flipped classrooms and personalised education. But, do these help answer the basic questions – is the student happy at the school? Is the student enabled to reach her potential?

It might be worthwhile to look at the school environment in three broad areas – content, technology and data, which are mostly bereft of such debates. A system that can integrate these three areas robustly might help find solutions to the questions posed earlier. Human capital is also critical, but this article steers clear of the same.

Let’s first look at each of these in isolation. Content forms the foundation of any education process, but has not received as much attention over the years as our societal evolution has demanded. For example, the Gurukul system (unstructured classrooms) that existed in Southern Asia and predominantly in India, gave the students a well-rounded education. It had its limitations that the Guru could only serve a few students and hence the education was not for the masses. On the other hand, a Bridge International, talks about processes ensuring education for millions across the developing countries.

Structured or unstructured, today’s content is not well-rounded and concentrates mainly on making the students workforce ready. Students are primarily expected to learn numeracy, reading comprehension; but are they equipped to be independent, work in teams or develop their innate curiosity?

The content needs to look at concepts more than curriculum while developing the ability of a student to look at a problem from different viewpoints. It should embrace activities such as sports, drama, and others as part of the overall schooling. Again, it might be reasoned that there are infrastructure and budget issues for the low cost schools to be able to provide these facilities. But, when such an action is mandated, economics can still find innovative solutions – as the organisation STIR is proving in a simple yet effective manner. Continuous and comprehensive evaluation introduced by the CBSE board in India is a step in the right direction.

Let’s now look at the second factor, data and how it can improve the system. Suppose, Class VII students in a particular school are performing lower in maths compared to other class students, it benefits the school to use data to look at the problem from several perspectives such as lesson planning, previous year scores, and teaching aids used. An important usage of data is to utilise it as a feedback mechanism on a regular basis based on requirements from the various stakeholders in the system; including parents, students, teachers, school leaders and policy makers.

The school has various touch points with the student such as assessments, attendance, interaction with parents, and other activities which can provide us with statistically useful data, since these data points are periodic and significant to draw inferences. This data can be used to observe patterns amongst student learning or teaching quality; which helps in suggesting effective means of remedial education and enabling customised assessments for students.

The third factor is technology. It has the power to spread literacy and awareness among millions. But, it’s easy to fall to its lure – it’s tangible, it’s cool and can be used as a marketing tool.

In its true essence, technology can be a great enabler. It can help achieve scale and quality while reducing cost. Inside the classroom, it takes the form of digital boards, tablets and virtual collaborations, among others. This can definitely help student’s ability to visualise and conceptualise better. Outside, it can help manage data effectively and create processes for tracking of content, teaching quality, attendance and so on. The lack of quality teachers can be addressed by the employment of technology as a teaching aid.

Further, technology remains the most potent answer if we need to move towards the idea of personalised education. It allows for adaptability to be introduced in learning and assessment techniques. It can pace itself to a student’s requirements, unlike a teacher, in most cases. But, it’s important that technology is used with a definite purpose – a clear understanding of its benefits and its implementation. It needs to be part of the education system and not an add-on.

Now, let us look at how the interplay of these factors can provide quality education through an example. A student can use technology-enabled devices to read about properties of magnets, use kits to enhance this understanding and finally work in teams to develop magnetic tools, which could be used at home. The teacher in turn, can enable the various steps and look at data from assessments to adjust the pace of these lessons and collect feedback about the utility of the technical devices. This exercise adds value to the learning and involves stakeholders in the apt manner. It thus becomes important that each of these factors works in tandem with the others to be able to make students happier at schools and help them realise their potential.

(The writer is the Director at Gray Matters India, a school rating company)

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