How Cloud Computing Is Boosting Education in Developing Countries
With more than 227 million students enrolled in over 1.4 million schools, India has one of the largest education systems in the world, according to India Brand Equity Foundation. The logistics of serving this enormous student population presents significant challenges, one of which is outdated educational technology. A research paper published in the International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science and Software Engineering reports that 80 percent of teaching in India is still done using traditional methods; however, educational software has grown increasingly popular over the past few decades and the online education market in India is expected to explode.
As Indian education moves online, educational software will become increasingly cloud-based. Here are some ways the cloud is already making it easier to serve the educational needs of developing countries such as India.
One challenge facing Indian education is lack of textbook availability and access. An Education Department study found that the Ernakulam district was short 177,000 textbooks due to unsystematic distribution methods. Most teachers are dependent on conventional tools such as chalkboards, don’t have access to supporting materials such as textbook supplements and lessons plans, and possess no way of sharing materials, according to research summarized in an IBM report on improving Indian’s education system through IT. When textbooks are available, they often contain errors and are outdated.
Because of the absence of textbooks, Indian teachers have been turning to online resources such as the Khan Academy. As of 2012, at least 10 schools in India were using Khan Academy videos, and the nonprofit Azim Premji Foundation was organizing a project to dub Khan videos into Hindi, Tamil and Kannada. Teachers have found Khan’s online video format helpful for reducing student absenteeism, reinforcing math and science fundamentals, and boosting test scores.
In a survey of Indian digital education, eLearning Industry claims that providing content is one of the areas where digital tools can most help Indian education. Cloud-based learning platforms such as the Khan Academy serve as education-on-demand services that empower educators by providing teachers and students with access to high-quality, up-to-date teaching materials.
Another educational need IBM’s study highlights is teacher training. Just over half of India’s teachers have not studied beyond higher secondary education and only 44 percent have received in-service training. Consequently, there are large numbers of under-qualified teachers in India’s educational system as well as many who need on-the-job training.
To address this problem, IBM recommends creating a cloud-based Education Collaboration Network that enables successful teachers to create teaching materials and share them with others in the network. For example, a Bangalore university physics teacher who has a successful method for teaching Newton’s Laws could share this with a widespread network, enabling teachers in Delhi or rural Kerala to download material for use with their own students. Along similar lines, in the IJARCSSE study, Amrapali Institute assistant professor Matma Joshi proposes a cloud-based national web portal for all the universities of India.
A third area where cloud technology tools can be leveraged to help Indian education is classroom learning. Classroom absenteeism is a major problem in India, with IBM reporting that teacher absenteeism rates range from 15 to 42 percent depending on the state. India ranks among the top five nations for children of primary school age who do not attend class and the high school completion rate is only 42 percent, claims an article published by Brookings.
Cloud-based digital classrooms represent a potential solution to this problem. Mobile devices make it easier for teachers and students to attend class and adjust scheduling. Remote teachers and recorded content enable educators to deliver coursework to a larger number of students at the same time. NGOs such as the Azim Premji Foundation and Digital Study Hall and corporations such as Educom, ILFS and Media Lab Asia are among the organizations taking leadership in developing cloud-based digital classroom capability for Indian education.