The world of today is defined by global changes and a borderless society. In such a situation, we are faced with newer challenges that have never been confronted by society at large. Of course, this would’ve been true of the 21st Century galloping away to newer heights, however, the way 2020 has turned out, even this statement, as the millennials would call it, is ‘far-out’. Transformation of the world economy from the old to the new, and new dimensions in every practice - be it business, cultural, even education practices - are likely to be the big delta in the world. Teachers’ role will surely evolve.
Often, I’m asked about more details on what exactly do I foresee changing. It’s a cliché to talk about technology, and about schools moving from brick and mortar to online, and students opting for a bouquet of courses and so on. Often, I’m reminded as to how automation will replace teachers, how cyborgs are all set to invade the classrooms, and how it’s the end of an era for teaching (and teachers) as we know it. And often, I hear the converse too: there's no substitute for traditional teaching methods. The wisdom that has come upon us through centuries of teaching-learning, as well as recent data-backed research studies, indicate that the answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two extreme thoughts; how well a learner is engaged with relevant, real-world content and pedagogy is the cornerstone of the teaching-learning process. I’ve always felt that it’s not technology that has or will replace a teacher, it’s actually a teacher who can use and make technology relevant for engaging the learner who will replace a teacher who refuses to move ahead with changing times.
Kids today are tech-driven from a very tender age. The education system too is transforming with the help of technology. Thus, it is important for teachers to embrace technology wholeheartedly and be a part of this global academic transformation. The delta, therefore, is not the tech. If gamification, artificial intelligence, remote classrooms, et al have become the norm, what is the shift that is being sought? The paradox remains in the fore mentioned problem, where teacher preparation programs focus on using tech tools, OR, on the theory around established norms of classroom management and pedagogy. So, let me paint a picture for you as to how the teachers of the future would need to be like.
It’s the year 2040. The NEP'20 has been around for two decades, and we’d see the impact on the workforce as well, let alone learning levels of students. Beyond job titles, students are exploring careers to be dreamers, doers, achievers, explorers, creator, innovators, and leaders. Their teachers are shaping classrooms accordingly as well.
The teaching at schools has further refined, and the only level to traditionally teach would be the primary level (Nursery to Grade 2) where focus would be on developing languages, mathematics, motor skills and mind-body coordination. The focus would also be on inculcating values. Moving on, from 3 to 5, there would be learning through demonstration. Teachers use tools such as presentations, visits, exhibitions, drama, recitation, etc. As a next step, there would be an introduction of a variety of curricular and non-curricular subjects, integrated with the opportunity to chisel students with skills. Special course of study on subjects such as – what is learning and what are the methods and tools for learning are introduced. Learning completely through exploration, experimentation, project work and research. Introduction to specialized streams in science and social studies. For grades 9 & 10, there is support for children’s individual development needs through assimilation. Teachers help mentor and develop growth map of every child. And finally, facilitate higher-level subjects and learning through the specialization of subjects based on choice, aptitude and attitude only.
Teachers of the 2040 school are no longer scribbling on white/black/green boards with backs to the students, but engaging in meaningful conversation. Flipped classes, case learning, peer-projects have all become hygiene factors. The world is fully immersed with tech, and teaching is a profession of choice amongst quality candidates. It pays handsomely too, at par with the generally sought after jobs of 20 years’ ago - your investment bankers and management consultants of the world. Collaboration, engagement, conflict, creativity, design and decision making are top of the charts for both the teacher and the learner. Every era sees a flourishing trend: the ’80s saw the automobile and heavy industries on an up-swing; the ’90s saw the rise of the Internet; the 2000s saw the emergence of technologies affecting everyday lives, including mobile phones and social networking. Similarly, the next-generation is predicted to revolve around nano-technologies and artificial intelligence-based technologies. The common theme running through each era, however, is innovation. The innovation in each era has an effect on education, management and the society on the whole. In this new age of education, it would be akin to committing a “hara-kiri” if one doesn’t innovate or follow the same style of learning or learn the same skills as their predecessors did while undergoing conventional education. Being born in Generation Y, the challenges and aspirations of our youth must be very different from those of Generation X and the Baby-boomers.
This is where the role of an academician is very important. There’s a popular saying that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.' However, every teacher must provide that platform to the student so that they may become ready! The teacher has to be the facilitator to help the student surpass the master.
What a mammoth yet beautiful task ahead! If all or even most of the above is to be achieved, the focus has to be on creating acceptable structures and infrastructure (even on the cloud) for this shift to happen in the society. With a constructivist approach, our teachers have to be trained for asking questions, learning by doing, and projects that will provide experiential learning for life. This will further help in facilitating the curiosities of the 21st-century learner. Workshops, seminars, games, activities, reading, collaborative projects, films, seminars, and expeditions would be regularly conducted to ensure that learning is not restricted to the physical classroom itself. Our curriculum and teaching then would stand on a broad base of understanding a child’s psychological, emotional, intellectual and social needs. Robots and artificial intelligence shall become a norm for your and my life, however, the one thing that will go missing without able guidance of a teacher is perhaps the nurturing of the souls. A relaxed soul seeks excellence habitually, versus the disturbed one who is constantly bewildered by the weightage of expectation. Social and soul development has been and forever shall be a way of life. The pandemic ensured that technology being a hygiene factor leapfrogged, and teachers became tech-savvy with incredible gusto and speed. PS: take a moment to acknowledge this, and appreciate the teachers worldwide for this incredible fast-track.
About the author: Kanak Gupta, Director, Seth M R Jaipuria Schools
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