A three-day International Conference on Universal Quality School Education (UQSE) was organised in New Delhi by Educational Technology and management Academy, in association with Unicef, Unesco, and Media Lab Asia.
The conference was participated by a number of academicians, educationists and experts from across various sectors that included Schools, corporates, non-government and government. The conference took off with a welcome address by prof. Marmar Mukhopadhyay, Chairman UQSE and Director Educational Technology and Management Academy (ETMA), followed by the inaugural address by Dr. Karan Singh, Member of Parliament. Speaking on the occasion Dr. Singh stressed on quality education for all and that equity and quality should go together. Dr. Singh also highlighted the need for a strategic planning for cultural diversities and disparities in the country. The MP also shared his concern over the incorporation of value education in school curricula.
Prof. Mark Bray, Director International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) delivering a key note address pointed out that 77 million children are still out of school, with half of them in the sub-Saharan countries. Prof. Bray observed that the efforts for improved access to primary education puts pressure on the secondary education and therefore neither of them can be ignored. He also said that policies striving to ensure quantity of education negatively impacts secondary education and serves only as remedial primary education making up for the deficit in the quality of primary education. This arrangement leads inequalities to remain in society in a disguised form. Throwing light on shadow education system, Prof. Bray said this system exists along with and because of the mainstream education system, and is proportionally related to the mainstream education system.
An address on Quality Education and Development of Minorities was delivered by Arvind Singh, the Minister of Education govt. of Delhi. The Minister pronounced the need to modernise the Madarassa system of education and emphasised on its significance to make primary and secondary education accessible to minorities. Day one of the conference covered interesting themes like ICT in School education; Education for Sustainable Development. This was followed by concurrent sessions on quality issues, teaching learning process and economics of quality school education.
The second day of the conference covered themes relating to Science of Education, ICT in Education-The Futures and show cased Quality Primary Education. Following which concurrent sessions on leadership for 21st Century Schools; Teaching learning process and economics of Quality School Education have been organised.
Speaking on the occasion Prof. Ved Prakash, Vice-Chancellor, National University of Educational Planning and Administration, focused his speech on the stratification of societies in South Asian countries that hampers their development-social, cultural, political and economic, and said empowerment through education is the solution of the problem. The Vice-Chancellor drew attention towards the fact that the 11th five-year plan does not emphasise on the universalisation of Secondary education, rather it says universal access to Quality Secondary education. He also said that assessment in principle should be used to identify inadequacies rather than judging students’ performance so that education can be accessed by every child and that they can learn. The other important speakers of the day were L. Samphe from UNICEF, Satish Kaushal from IBM, Hari Iyer from CORE.
The last day of the conference was dominated by themes related to beliefs and values in quality school education; leadership for 21st century schools and economics of quality school education.
Towards a Policy on ICT in Education, the session of the conference was organised by the key speakers like Anshul Sonak, from Intel, Radha Ganeshan of Quest Alliance, Ajay Kapur from Oracle, and Douglas Bell from Education Development Centre (EDC). The session was chaired by Osama Manzar from Digital Empowerment Foundation.
This session elaborated on the role of technology in leveraging school education and emphasised on the need to have a guiding policy at state/district level to solve the complexities of implementing ICT in school education. It was highlighted that technology is one of the ways to solve the problems in the education sector but it can not solve all problems in the area. The guiding principles pointed out during the conference were having the importance of paying attention to the curriculum demand and content supply, leadership development in the people associated with education sector and good practices that should include a dialogue among the implementors and policy makers, taking care of cost and competitiveness, and adequately address the need to incorporate skills for success like collaborative and problem solving attitude, systematic planning and content knowledge application, learner centric approach. It was also echoed during the conference that any practice in educational sector should fuel the policy and said that a good public private partnership makes an important ingredient to sustain any formula. A larger dialogue among all stakeholders is necessary for developing an appropriate mechanism.
Speaking on the occasion Douglas Bell from Education Development Centre (EDC) thrust upon the role of ICT to support teacher in imparting effective teaching. More efforts in advocacy are needed to bring greater awareness regarding ICT in education and at the same time efforts should be made to bring more access of ICT to teachers. The learned speaker put a stress on public private partnership model of education for sustained progress quality incorporation in education. The obstacles in the path of education as enumerated were the lack of financial assistance and absence of quality standards as the principal factors in efficiencies in the educational field.
The session discussions stressed on the learner-centric policy and focused on the parameters of requirements of ICT in school education. The speakers mentioned to target professional development of teachers, revision of the curriculum of institutes of teacher training and suggested that infrastructure component should be guided by a comprehensive policy, that should be adequately fortified with security checks. The conference was put to an end with a high note with suggestions and recommendation from the audience and the speakers. Almost 80-90 percent of the audience responded in affirmation when asked whether the country needs an ICT in education policy. It was also suggested from among the audience that a top down approach is the need whereby policy-maker should be trained and made aware of the role of ICT in education followed by implementors, teachers and students. Value based preservation through ICT was the dominant opinion among the audience as was the suggestion that children should be involved in the creation of content, local knowledge access and dissemination. Its was also suggested that technology should build project-based content to be used in diverse culture through a right teaching and learning environment. Lack of respect for the teaching profession is a great concern that needs to be taken into consideration by policy makers. and hard to reach areas of each country.