A couple of years back I attended my first tech conference in India.
It was very well organized, was attended by 2000 participants from all over India and the world. The format of the conference was interesting. There were four strands focused on technology initiatives in the area of Governance, Health, Agriculture, and Education.
Of course the strand that was of interest to me was Education.
The educators from Indian schools who attended this conference were not from elite schools in India. They represented a range of local district school models – village schools, Kendriya Vidyalayas (a huge network of government supported schools all over India), NGO schools, and municipal schools (city-funded schools).
We were all eager to discuss and find answers to the dilemmas we face in our collective altruistic endeavor to prepare the future citizens of our world.There were several takeaways from the conference for me. (These could read as takeaways from any education conference anywhere in the world today.)
Educators are facing a problem with engaging the current generation of students in their own learning.
Local schools in India are dealing with funding issues, lack of innovation, lack of relevant professional development, and most importantly, lack of leadership and vision – problems similar to what public schools (and some independent schools) in the US and other parts of the world are facing.
There is great deal of energy and hunger for change in practices. There is a lack of vision of what the change should look like.
Educators are naïve about software and hardware vendors’ commercial motivations. This make educators (and schools) with limited funding vulnerable to adopting irrelevant technologies as a panacea.
I left the conference with a question —
As a school in Mumbai that is a leader in innovative practices in the use of technology, how can we meaningfully collaborate, partner, and/or contribute towards a resolution of these problems in our host country’s local schools?
I am not looking for answers in the form of fund-raisers. We’re very good at that. Bake-sales, clothes/toys/books drives — all very important but small and token measures. I am not looking for answers in the form of teacher training – teachers from elite progressive schools that believe in transformative pedagogy and practices, training teachers from schools where the norm is lecture-style teaching and rote learning. While the trainings will be mind-shifting, they would lack the ‘stickiness’ necessary for the trainings to translate into real change in the classroom. That ‘stickiness’ comes from administrative support in the form of leadership and vision.