Edtech Game Changers Leapfrogging Indian Education’ featured in Education World Magazine

The cover story titled “Edtech Game Changers – Leapfrogging Indian Education” authored by Mr. Dilip Thakore  has been featured in the Education World Magazine, spread across 9 pages (Pages 46-59). It features Shailendar Sharma’s (Vice President, Education and Skills Development, IPE Global) quote prominently and the corporate profile of IPE Global.

A silent revolution is underway in India’s classrooms. Although the Central and state governments pay lip service to the infusion of real learning and knowledge creation in school and higher education, reports of reputable, whistle-blowing organisations such as the Mumbai-based Pratham, Delhi-based Aspiring Minds and even the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry’s National Achievement Survey (see EW June 2016), testify that learning outcomes are plunging in K-12 and tertiary education. But the silver lining is that a substantial number of India’s private schools and colleges, which host over 50 percent of the 260 million children and youth in education institutions countrywide, are embracing new digital and Internet-enabled technologies which are reviving children’s joy of learning and making measurable impact on learning outcomes.

While the country’s 1.34 million anganwadis — nutrition centres for newly-born children and lactating mothers established nationwide under the Central government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme promoted in 1975 — are also mandated to provide early childhood education to 164 million children under five years age, they accommodate only 84 million, because the pathetic annual budget of the ICDS programme (Rs.14,863 crore in 2016-17) barely covers the low salaries paid to staff. On the other hand, a large and growing number of the country’s estimated 300,000 pre-primaries which host 10 million youngest children of middle and upper class households, are rapidly transforming them into digital natives through smartboards, videos, tablets and gamification of early childhood care and education.

Likewise, the majority of the nation’s 320,000 private and aided primary-secondary schools are leveraging modern digital technologies and pedagogies, prompting an overdue break away from conventional rote learning and encouraging children to become self-motivated and joyfully develop conceptual learning, analytical and problem-solving skills. And in India’s colleges and universities suffering excessive government interference and chronic funds and faculty shortages, a small minority of serious students and faculty is increasingly using new ICT (information communication technologies) and Moocs (massive open online courses) offered by the world’s most respected universities including Harvard, MIT and Stanford among others, to learn from globally respected professors.

Unfortunately, politicians at the Centre and in the states continue to believe that it can remain education as usual in the country’s 1.20 million government schools, 37,000 colleges and 800 universities. Although from time to time they pay lip service to new technologies and announce alphabet soup acronyms for wiring up government schools and colleges, they exhibit scant interest in modernising the infrastructure and funding teacher training programmes which are prerequisites of effective use of the revolutionary digital technologies which can leapfrog India’s 19th century education system into the new millennium.

In the 21st century, technology is becoming crucial in school and higher education. But for it to effectively improve learning outcomes, enabling learning environments are critical. Over the past decade, a large number of private sector companies have dumped hardware and content into education institutions without adequately training teachers to use them and/or properly assessing the supportive infrastructure requirements such as electricity, Internet connectivity and equipment maintenance support. Creation of supportive environments for new digital technologies necessitates larger Central and state government education budgets. The HRD ministry’s National Repository for Education Resources has made a lot of high-quality content developed by NCERT available free of charge to government schools. But because of insufficiently trained teachers and inadequate supportive infrastructure, online education is a non-starter in the great majority of government schools. These are the broken links of public education which need to be mended,” says Shailender Sharma, a computer science postgrad of IGNOU and former chief consultant of the education management infosystem of the Union HRD ministry.

Currently Sharma is Vice President, Education and Skills Develoment, IPE Global Limited (estb. 1998), a Delhi-based international development consultancy providing expert technical assistance to developing countries for equitable development and sustainable growth in partnership with multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, governments, corporates and not-for-profit entities.


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