Building on the Disruption in Learning and Education

The last decades have been the decades of disruption. Books (including encyclopedia and newspapers), music, phones, and retails are among those who have already been metamorphosed, thanks to rapid advances in technology, and have to be creative just for survival. Now, people are talking about the transformation of one of the most basic human activities – learning –for some time. Clearly, learning and education are going to be transformed very soon, possibly as soon as by 2020. Recognition of Sugata Mitra’s ‘Hole in the Wall’ computers for learning and spread of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are just harbingers in learning and education.

Education and learning are suppose to go together and be synergistic. Ironically, however, education often comes in the way of learning. Education is a top down activity that reflects societal needs, while learning is the most primitive human desire to satisfy curiosity and grow. Unfortunately, the way education evolved in society, it started taming or even hindering human learning. Institutionalization of education resulted in stronger focus on grades and degrees rather than what they are supposed to reflect — the learning. As we have seen disinter-mediation transforming some other basic societal functions, in education and learning also we are soon likely to see such disinter-mediation.

The disruption in education and learning is significant. Like Gutenberg’s invention resulted in democratization of knowledge creation and dissemination, the impending transformation will address acquisition and transmission of knowledge. This is time for our society to seriously consider this issue for its own growth. It is important to consider societal need for educated people as a synergistic activity with basic human desire to learn and explore. In developing the next generation systems, technology can play a crucial role in such a development.

Developing countries, like India, are poised to be most affected by this imminent shift due to their current inadequate education system as well as their current demographic dividend. They are facing a cusp; take advantage of the demographic dividend or let it whither away and turn into a demographic curse. Fortunately, the changes brought by technology offer an opportunity for them to leapfrog and utilize its demographic advantage to become a leader.

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