From MD's desk

Today it is almost trite to say that students have suffered deeply through the course of the pandemic. But what’s ignored is the amplification of learning losses for those at the middle and bottom of the pyramid (MBoP), who are already going through a deep learning crisis. 90% of India’s 250 million students belong to government schools and affordable private schools. They have traditionally suffered from what the World Bank terms ‘learning poverty’. With sub-grade level performance and high dropout rates especially at the secondary level, these students are the core of the learning crisis. The EdTech boom that has taken the world by storm has further eclipsed MBoP sector in education, who therefore have been doubly marginalized. As the National Education Policy (2020) has highlighted, technology can be harnessed to effectively increase access to quality education at scale. But 70% of schools lack access to digital infrastructure like the internet and computers.

At Schoolnet, we are focusing our attention in building this capacity for such schools, students, and teachers, to extend access to quality education to all. Through a bundle of our flagship smart learning app Geneo, multipurpose teaching device K-Yan, and digitized content along with teacher training in digital pedagogy to facilitate effective adoption of ed-tech, we capacitate schools to transform teaching learning ecosystem. With access to the internet, often for the first time, students have the opportunity to access a wealth of interesting learning resources and multimedia content. The appropriate ed-tech solutions ensure deeper engagement, better conceptual clarity, ultimately leading to higher retention and improved learning outcomes in the classroom. Outside the classroom, we offer our personalized learning solution, Geneo, that is built on sound learning principles with the best AI technologies. Together, these two spheres of learning – in-school and after-school – create a holistic and integrated ecosystem that is fertile for nurturing curiosity and cognitive development.

We are aware that in responding to this unprecedented crisis no given template may be entirely effective. This is the time to listen to various experiences and concerns to develop specific stack of solutions. Keeping our ears to the ground, we have initiated a series of dialogue with school leaders of MBoP through our Webinar series called Big Questions. In this issue of Edvantage, we bring you stories from the ground about the hardships suffered by school leaders and students, as well as their innovations to ensure that learning does not stop. Teachers and principals talk about the lack of adequate digital infrastructure, low level of technical skills of teachers, and student fatigue in online learning. Recently, the government had released the Performance Grading Index for 2018-19, the pre-pandemic year, which underscored the woeful state of Computer Aided Learning and ICT at schools. With COVID accelerating the use of digital tools, this becomes an issue of central importance. It is in this context that we can see the entrepreneurial spirit of our vast school network and partners – whether using Geneo to maintain learning continuity or creating new audio-visual content in regional languages to connect with rural students in Assam through IVR technologies, for OIL India Limited. We also partnered with the Gujarat Government to release G-SHALA, a device-agnostic app built to fill the gap in learning during the pandemic. Further, we bring you stories from users of Geneo and how this app became a saving grace when schools were closed, as articulated by students and teachers alike. We also trained ~60,000 teachers across four states on using digital tools for education, in collaboration with Google for Education.

For more than twenty years now, we have endeavoured to democratize education by facilitating ed-tech adoption at scale and break barriers to learning. The last two years have been a jarring reminder of the scale of work that is to be done. These 200 million children are the future of the country, and a robust education will be their launchpad. With this mission in mind, we continue to strengthen each pillar of the ecosystem – access to devices, better digital infrastructure in schools, customized learning resources, teachers’ professional development, and analytics to track students’ learning progress. We are strongly aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 4 to promote inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning to all, especially at the middle and bottom of the human economic pyramid. We hope you see this reflected in the following pages.

RCM Reddy, MD & CEO