The Yin-and-Yang of Ed Tech: Will schools even survive the next 10 years?

A few things happened in the last couple of months.

A childhood friend staying in UK, messaged me on whatsapp that she was finding it so difficult to find a school that had empathy for a 4 year old child. She was miffed with the way school staff, during interaction with the child, could not make him comfortable enough to even express himself.

Another friend had recently changed the school of her 7 year old, in the hope of finding ‘better teachers’ — not so much academically, but more in terms of those who understood that each child is unique.

A college batchmate of mine expressed during a conversation on alternate schools, that he was already feeling sick about having to put his 2-year old into the archaic schooling system, and wouldn’t mind an alternative school which did not need children to waste 17–18 years of their life studying things that did not count.

A colleague shared how he was seriously considering homeschooling his child, given his dissatisfaction with all of the schools in his area, except for the fact that he was apprehensive if between him and his wife they could devote that kind of time.

And the question hit me — will schools survive the next 10 years?

We have all been philosophically saying this for a long time.

But maybe at the back of our minds we think, schools will be around for a long time, so let us shrug-and-bear.
But what if the assumptions don’t hold good anymore?

Consider all that has been happening in the world of Ed Tech just in the last 5 years.

And they represent an interesting continuum.

There are the Yang solutions. They are there, they can’t be ignored.

They reach learners directly, and disrupt the status quo right away.

Who said you can’t understand complex mathematical concepts without a school or tuition teachers? Ask a Khan Academy user student.

Who said students need to be coaxed and supervised to take tests? Ask a Mindspark user student.

Students not only become independent players of their learning, but also more accountable.

And then there are the Yin solutions. Their strength is to seamlessly integrate with the current systems.

They maintain status quo, but help existing school systems evolve.

There are a whole host of school solutions by leading education companies which work to support the teachers with technology within classrooms.

So what do the Yin and Yang of EdTech mean for the survival of schools, as they exist today?

It is clear that children don’t need schools to learn concepts. (Neither need, nor perhaps want; what % of children actually enjoy learning in schools?). The technology available within and outside schools, along with peer learning, are good enough for children to learn concepts.

So what do we need schools for then?

J Krishnamurti said in an address to children.. “In teaching, what is most important is not the subject, but the relationship between you and the teacher..”

I cannot say it any better.

Teachers, if they can’t become better human beings themselves, and foster that relationship with their students — students don’t want them anymore. Atleast not the kinds who consider their core job to rattle off archaic information to students they don’t care about.

Ask any student.

So here’s what EdTech is doing.

EdTech is TAKING AWAY the long-held EXCUSE schools had FOR NOT CHANGING — the excuse that their core job is to teach concepts and conduct exams.

The Yin solutions are taking away that excuse within schools. And if schools avoid technology inside, there are the Yang solutions waiting outside to do the same.

..this coupled with few changes slowly catching up..

#1 Large organizations are waiving off “degree requirement” for jobs, as degrees don’t seem to correlate with presence of skill.

#2 Increase in preference for homeschooling

The dots are beginning to connect.

However, I know what we are thinking.

That, despite everything we find wrong with schools, changing this behemoth is like boiling the ocean.

There is a beautiful metaphor that Al Gore uses in his phenomenal documentary, The Inconvenient Truth.

The metaphor of the boiling frog.

If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out instantly. But if you put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly heat the pot, the frog ignores it, and finally when the water is boiling, it is too weak to save itself. The boiling frog dies.

This powerful metaphor was used in context of climate change and the unwilling of people to react to gradually arising threats.

But in case of schools, it is not even gradual anymore.

The ocean has been boiling for quite sometime now. The Tsunami is around the corner.

If schools fail to see it coming, 10 years later, they might still exist…

..But at best as baby-sitting centers for young and grown-up children, while their parents are away at work.