India's Education Sector: Moving Toward a Digital Future
The typical Indian classroom was once characterized by students sitting through hour-long teacher monologues. Now, technology is making life easier for both students and educators. Schools are increasingly adopting digital teaching solutions to engage with a generation of pupils well-versed with the likes of PlayStations and iPads, and trying to make the classroom environment more inclusive and participatory. Take Smartclass from Educomp Solutions, one of the first Indian companies in this space. Smartclass is essentially a digital content library of curriculum-mapped, multimedia-rich, 3D content. It also enables teachers to quickly assess how much of a particular lesson students have been able to assimilate during the class. Once a topic is covered, the teacher gives the class a set of questions on a large screen. Each student then answers via a personal answering device or the smart assessment system. The teacher gets the scores right away and based on that, she repeats parts of the lesson that the students don't appear to have grasped. "Technology makes the teaching-learning process very easy and interesting," says Harish Arora, a chemistry teacher at the Bal Bharti Public School in New Delhi who has been using Smartclass since 2004. "For instance, [earlier] it would easily take me one full lecture to just draw an electromagnetic cell on the blackboard. Though I could explain the cell structure, there was no way I could have managed to show them how it really functions. This is where technology comes to our aid -- now I can show the students a 3D model of the cell and how it functions. Instead of wasting precious time drawing the diagram on the blackboard, I can invest it in building the conceptual clarity of my students." According to Abhinav Dhar, director for K-12 at Educomp Solutions, more than 12,000 schools across 560 districts in India have adopted Smartclass. More importantly, the number is growing at almost 20 schools a day. On average, in each of these schools eight classrooms are using Smartclass. "When we launched Smartclass in 2004 as the first-ever digital classroom program, it was an uphill task convincing schools to adopt it," Dhar notes. "These schools had not witnessed any change in a century.... It is a completely different scenario now. Private schools across India today see [technology] as an imperative. A digital classroom is set to become the bare-minimum teaching accessory in schools, just like a blackboard is today." Dhar recalls that one major roadblock for Educomp's proposition in the early days was on the price front. At US$4,000 (at the exchange rate of Rs. 50 to a U.S. dollar) per classroom, schools found the product very expensive. To get over this hurdle, Educomp quickly decided to make the initial investment and gave the schools an option to pay over a period of three to five years. The strategy worked. Enthused by the market response, in January Educomp launched an upgraded version -- the Smartclass Class Transformation System -- with more features, including simulations, mind maps, worksheets, web links, a diagram maker, graphic organizers and assessment tools. Huge Potential
According to the "Indian Education Sector Outlook -- Insights on Schooling Segment," a report released by New Delhi--based research and consultancy firm Technopak Advisors in May, the total number of schools in India stands at 1.3 million. Of these, private schools account for 20%. Educomp's Dhar points out that only around 10% of the private schools have tapped the potential of multimedia classroom teaching whereas in government schools, it has barely made any inroads. "The current market size for digitized school products in private schools is around US$500 million," says Enayet Kabir, associate director for education at Technopak. "This is expected to grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 20% to reach the over US$2 billion mark by 2020....
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