Even if you are a person who rarely follows the educational news, in the past few years you would have come across terms like personalised learning plans, smart education, digital education etc. These terms are the ones that are dominating and defining the educational industry today. But what would these terms mean to a street kid who is desperately trying to meet ends with a meagre earning that his family could afford? Will he know that the educational field has come so far away, from being a mere school-based system, when he couldn’t even afford to attend the said school-based system? Will he know that anyone can learn anything today, just through a series of clicks? Can he imagine a learning plan where he can visually experience the lessons that have been taught to him/her through a single blackboard? He can’t. And the reason is simple which is, Digital education in India has not penetrated the major portion of our society i.e people below the poverty line and lower middle class.
Education has always been a major concern for us. Since the moment we got Independence, our Government has taken numerous steps towards educational equality and filling the wide literacy gap that existed between rich and poor. While ten years before the term “educational gap” simply meant the difference between being educated and uneducated, today, this term brings a whole new meaning to it. It stands for everything about a person’s life, starting from basic survival skills to hoping for a better future. Like Confucius once said, “Education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope and hope breeds peace”. It all starts with education, which, in the current scenario not only revolves around knowledge but also targets one’s skills and enhances it. Hence coming up with strategies that simply explores the literacy rate of poor people won’t be enough anymore.
We are compelled to explore possibilities that extend beyond the scope of bringing down the literacy gap and focus on steps that promise better and smart education for everyone. To come up with a solution that could work, we first have to analyse the path we have taken so far and learn from past mistakes.
The struggle for educational inclusion so far.
When it comes to education, our ancient culture and system ruled the world. Indian subcontinent held such high standards for skill training and education equality during the pre-colonial days, that we motivated other barbaric civilisations the need for a better education system. Certain prehistoric literature reveals that our gurukul system was appreciated, studied, researched upon and enforced across foreign lands (even as far away as Greece)
But when the British left our country, our education sector was a far cry from the way it used to be, before East India Company found us. Back then, our Government was grappling to answer the struggles that existed in providing quality education to the common people.
At one side, the population was so huge that coming up with reforms that reached the far corners of our country became difficult. And on the other side, the funds that we had, when the Britishers left us was so low that investing in a workable solution for education became downright impossible. Pretty soon the Government realised that having private players in the education industry will aid in its efforts to bring quality education to the entire population. And just like that, the present situation of the educational gap came into existence, when it meant that only those who had the means to afford education can have quality education. This situation led to the reality where street kids and children from the poor background were expelled from attaining better education.
Government’s fight against literacy inequality
Our Government for its part has been doing all it can in wiping out the literacy gap and bringing in street kids to a schooling system that not only offers knowledge but also a better future for these kids. Schemes like Prime Minister’s scholarship schemes, Scholarship schemes from State and Central Government, free lunch scheme, Stipends, Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme for RPF/RPSF, National Fellowship and Scholarship for Higher Education of ST Students and much more are being inducted into our nation’s schooling system to attract and retain street kids for a sound upbringing. However, lack of infrastructures, skilled teachers, availability of proper facilities and many other factors are hindering the Government’s good intentions and progress. Right now we need an education system that promises skilled upbringing but also requires less initial expenditure from the Government’s side.
Digital education and its role in upskilling the street kids of India.
When it comes to educating street kids and transforming them into capable and thinking individuals, we need to consider two major things- enabling access to education and empowering children with skills. Both of the above-mentioned goals can be achieved with the help of digital education.
Enabling access to education.
When digital education first entered our Indian society, its initial investments were so high that only rich people were able to enjoy the latest technology in learning. However, things have changed, especially in the past year. The pandemic in the past year made the digital sphere more accessible to various industries and people from different walks of lives. Due to this, the technology that’s needed to realise digital education became cheap and available even to the poor people of our country. Hence we can now enable easy reach to education for street kids through digital media that not only needs less initial cost but can also achieve a wider reach (irrespective of the geographical location of a student). All we need to achieve our goal are- a smart, learning management system and an internet connection.
Empowering children with skills.
The goal behind education has completely changed over the past decade. Education is no longer a tool that simply shares and spreads knowledge. In this digital age, quality education is the one that
- explores, analyses and enhances an individual’s skills
- and enables them to achieve their goals.
In this regard, we are a step ahead, from a street kid’s perspective. Street kids in general, are compelled to analyse and explore their skills right from their childhood. While it takes a series of experiments to ascertain a normal child’s skill sets, street kids are compelled to use their intelligence right from the age they learn to walk and talk, giving them an edge over the normal kids. Hence, by using digital education we simply have to polish the raw potential that already exists amongst the street kids in our country.
Are street kids and digital education a good combination? The best one out there.
UN executive director and CEO of World Learning, Carol Bellamy’s words for a better future, best emulates the titular question of this piece
“Creating a world that is truly fit for children does not imply simply the absence of war. It means having the confidence that our children would not die of measles or malaria. It means having access to clean water and proper sanitation. It means having primary schools nearby that educate children, free of charge. It means changing the world with children, ensuring their right to participate, and that their views are heard and considered. It means building a world fit for children, where every child can grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.”
Street kids can already adapt to any situations and rise over the challenges that have been thrown at them. If you equip them with the necessary education, then you don’t have to look for the next Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma and Bill Gates in foreign lands. They are roaming our streets disguised in torn clothes and sharp minds. We need to ensure that street kids are also an active participant in the making of our country’s future. And if digital education is the answer to it, which it is, we need to ensure that proper and diligent strategies are taken, so that street kids will have a better future when compared to their past.