Digital in K-12 education: A viewpoint

Subrahmanian Seshadri, Managing Partner & CEO, Overleaf Books LLP and Director and General Manager, Lonely Planet India shares his views on digital publishing in K-12 education space.

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The Indian school education space at this point of time, is waiting to hear on several issues as well as some policy announcements. The draft National Education Policy (NEP) is out. Other issues worth mentioning are NCERT releasing the NCF (last updated in 2005), Policy implementation based on the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights asking States to ensure that no child should be asked to carry books other than those by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and its State counterparts in schools across India; and number of circulars floating around from the various regional offices of CBSE; and the outcome of court orders (in plural) about private publishers’ books.

All this provide a new opportunity for publishers to follow the Digital India initiative and begin delivering content to students and schools using the many available digital platforms. 5G, laying of optic fibres across India and improved electricity supply makes this possible. May be there will be no complaints on hunch packs and heavy school bags. Those who like to complain may start talking about digital detox as the next one.

Government’s Digital India initiative…

The Government is surely working with a clear plan to ensure that education is made affordable and become inclusive. Digital provides a wider opportunity to make it inclusive. Take the example of mobile phones, the entire population (may be!), is engaged now and with such low cost. This is a good thing.

We should be happy that all our school going children will also benefit from this. The MHRD website has a clear message “Balancing the socio-economic fabric.” I can see two major initiatives: UDISE+ — an entire system which will be online and DIKSHA – National Digital platform for teachers.

AR/VR in publishing…

Persons who have experienced the BETT Show in London, which is the World’s biggest education technology event, will know how fast EdTech is growing, evolving and meaningful. It is not just about AR & VR. How many of us would have experienced mixed reality collaborative coding and robotics; Animals 4D, bringing animals to life; VR can be a powerful tool. VR should become an everyday, healthy experience which should make an impression on the child.

On Learning Management System (LMS)…

One of the things that content creators must understand is that LMS provides an opportunity beyond the traditional classrooms, viz., school, colleges and universities. The manufacturing sector, corporate houses and many such non-traditional markets are utilizing different forms of LMS. Some are developed internally or acquired from external suppliers. While we are talking about unifying the curriculum, I am not sure whether we should unify the platform. Variance and choice in content is as important as having different options for LMS.

Trends in digital publishing…

Most persons in the industry know that digital delivery is already ahead in the higher education space, fiction, professional journals, reference and a few others. When it comes to content for examination in the school space and to a large extend reading for pleasure remains in print. I would like to reiterate that print books and eBooks will remain complimentary and not competing.

When it comes to technology, new is old. It is always emerging and innovating. The one thing that has not happened in the education space is “disruptive innovation.” The positive thing is that the print entities and the technology companies have some sense of synergy.

Challenges in digital publishing…

The advantage is education will become inclusive and can reach any corner of the world but fingers crossed that the prices should be competitive and not exorbitant. Look at what we have done to the print side of things. We put up prices in such a manner that Government has stepped in and challenging what is perceived as a US$ 4 billion+ market. Publishing industry must learn a few ideas/tricks from the Pharmaceutical business. Medicine prices were brought down in response to the Government onslaught.

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