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Transforming the education system by 5G technology

Education is a basic human right and a core element of sustainable development. The United Nation’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Education is the only sector that shoulders the biggest responsibility of shaping the future of the nation. Education enables individuals to build more prosperous and successful lives, and societies to achieve economic prosperity and social welfare. For a country to play a rightful role in world affairs, it is imperative that the education sector continues to get major attention from the governments.

Covid-19 has brought a lot of negative effects on society; however, it has brought one good thing about India that it has accelerated the digitization process in the country. What we could have achieved in a decade has been achieved in just two years’ time frame. In the education sector, the pandemic has forced the relevant stakeholders to look beyond purely classroom-based learning to a more holistic way of learning by means of technology in imparting education.

Digital India envisions India to be a digitally enabled society and knowledge economy with the goal of digitally empowering every citizen of the country. In the new education Policy 2020 (NEP-2020) also, a major focus has been given to the extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers, increasing access, and education planning and management. Emphasis has been given to applied learning, multiple learning pathways, and resource sharing. Further, the NEP-2020 has envisaged the setting up of a dedicated e-education unit and a National Education Technology Forum (NETF) to boost digital content, infrastructure, and capacity building.

In the recent past, investment in digital infrastructure and connectivity, development of online teaching platforms, creation of virtual laboratories, high-quality content creation, developing and implementation of tests, etc., have played a major role in imparting education during the Covid-19 period. In the future, new technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR), cloud infrastructure, and the use of AI/ML and other latest technologies have the potential to transform the entire education sector in the country. Even NETF emphasizes the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, computing devices, and other educational software and hardware to improve classroom learning, monitor students’ learning, support teachers’ development, and streamline the administration and management of educational institutes. In the coming time, textbook learning will be completely superseded by digital-content learning.

Traditionally, India had been an adopter of technology that is developed outside the country. With the introduction of indigenously developed 5G technology, India is now at par with the other developed nations and is ahead compared to the other developing nations in the development and use of the latest technologies like 5G. With the successful auction of the recent spectrum, which will be used for proliferation of 5G technology in India, a major beneficiary of 5G technology would be the education sector. The integration of 5G networks into education delivery has the potential to revolutionize education by way of seamless, high-speed, low-latency, and more reliable connectivity. 5G technology will streamline classroom logistics while improving the quality of the entire learning experience by way of improving the quality of video conferencing, strengthening immersive learning experiences using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), and allowing the personalization of education. This technology will also help in better interaction between students and teachers even when they are distant apart from each other.

During the introduction of 5G technology in India on October 1, 2022, by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, a hologram image of a girl from Varanasi appeared on the stage, and the girl was able to interact with the Prime Minister as if she was present on the stage! One can envision that when 5G is prevalent in every nook and corner of the country, this application will solve many problems in the education sector. By bringing the hologram image of the teacher into the classroom, a major problem of shortage of teachers and good-quality teaching can be addressed. As 5G will allow more data to be transferred, communication between peers for group projects will happen faster across the geographies. Students will be able to download learning materials, videos of lectures, etc. Due to the integration of AR, VR, and MR into immersive classrooms, 5G technology will help learners to explore complex concepts through pinching, zooming, and even touching. This will help in understanding the concepts by the students in a better manner and will help develop their critical thinking and solution-oriented approach. As a result, education will be outcome-based learning, which will help in preparing students either to be effective employees or become entrepreneurs.

Today, education is broadly imparted on the one-size-fits-all approach, which will be a thing of the past because 5G will allow focusing on the personalized learning experience at the pace of the learner. Gamification of learning, particularly for school children, will help in making learning interesting and effective.

The future of education is hybrid learning with modern classrooms and connected campuses. It is imperative that infrastructure be built that is agile, scalable, and resilient, capable of providing end-to-end learning experiences from lesson dissemination to proctored examinations and digitized evaluation. Therefore, the key to reaching and teaching a vast population spread across a large and diverse country is by digital technology and effective and high-speed connectivity.

Though there are challenges in implementing technology in education like connectivity, end devices supporting high-speed and low-latency applications, the attitude of teachers and students to adopt new technologies, etc., however, like Unified Payment Interface (UPI)-based payment system adaptability by the people, they will adopt 5G technology quickly once they are able to see and realize its use and importance. Once that happens, it will have transformative effects on the entire society, and this will quicken the process of India becoming a developed nation as has been envisioned in the Amrit-Kaal of the country.

The views expressed are personal.

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