Paradigm Shift in the Discourse of Education

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Over the years, technology has changed by leaps and bounds. The technological advancement in each sector has revolutionized our society and economy to a great length. We cannot escape and ignore technology at any cost. The use of technology has changed how we work, access information, learn, teach, etc. ...

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi (India)
Member of the Board, Eminent Persons’ Group, World Islamic Forum, Istanbul (Turkey)

Over the years, technology has changed by leaps and bounds. The technological advancement in each sector has revolutionized our society and economy to a great length. We cannot escape and ignore technology at any cost. The use of technology has changed how we work, access information, learn, teach, etc. The abundance of access to technology and its tools in contemporary times is a testimony to prophecies made in reference to technological advances. Technology is predicted to take over every sector one could possibly imagine. From tracking health parameters to university assignment deadlines, technology is everywhere. Experts have predicted that in the coming years, we will be introduced to phenomena such as the “digitalizing brain,“ where one would download and upload emotions and express via emotions instead of words.

One sector where technology brought massive change is the education sector. The evolution of the process of learning and teaching is quite interesting. We started disseminating education in oral form, progressed to writing on leaves, caves, and now gradually advanced to Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR). We can say that the technological development aimed at making education more approachable, engaging, and practical by improving students’ critical, communication, and analytical skills, etc., is a success. It is also a way to keep the use of gadgets for productive and educational purposes for children.

The Digital revolution has taken over the education sector by sweep. From school to classes and examinations, everything now is online. The “classroom“ experience that the preceding generation witnessed has been digitized, which leaves a technological gap between them. It has changed the physical, face-to-face interaction to remote where there is no geographical boundary for learning. Anyone who has access to the tools of technology can get an education on their terms. The invention of video-streaming platforms like YouTube has millions of educational videos that are available to everyone. Also, the availability of facilities like audiobooks challenges the old notion of approaching a book and opens up many possibilities for people with vision disabilities, for instance.

The advancement in the field of education has made it more inclusive, as the practice of denying someone access to education on the basis of caste, class, gender, etc., is not unheard of even when the right to education is granted to everyone without any bias. The remote mode of learning has made people more accepting of others, especially those belonging to the lower strata of society. We cannot deny the ease that technology has brought in terms of accessibility to education sans any noticeable limitation. Moreover, more than a device, for many Gen-Z students, technology has become a part of their existence—an environment they inhabit; they haven’t seen the world without technology.

With the exceptional invention of technology in the education sector came multi-layered shortcomings of the same. For instance, the issue of misuse of technology is widely reported. With the ease in the access to technology and widespread digital literacy among students, it has been proved to be detrimental to many. The main focus here is to understand how students engage with technology. The use of technology in education is useful when we want to advance our learning and hone our skills. The ever-increasing problems of cyberbullying, addiction, the use of unfair means in examinations, dependence on AI for cognitive thinking, etc., can’t be overlooked. Also, the unguarded access to social media works as a distraction to studies for many. There is a very thin line to keep a balance between the use of technology and crossing the overuse mark. One has to be conscious of the use of technology, especially when used for educational purposes.

In recent times, there has been a lot of focus on introducing technology—software and hardware—in classrooms and schools. This got expedited when COVID-19 hit the world. Although many countries adapted swiftly to the change, others struggled due to the unwarranted alteration in the medium of teaching and learning process. Countries like India that are already dealing with issues like malnutrition, poverty, illiteracy, child labor, unemployment, the technological integration in schools, especially in rural areas, were a distant dream. The country saw the emergence of a new social concern—the digital divide. Many students belonging to marginalized sections and territories did not have access to e-learning platforms and modern information and communication technology. Non-availability of smartphones and a stable internet connection proved to be a hurdle in attaining education. This digital divide doubly marginalized the vulnerable sections of society. The digital divide penetrates through class, caste, region, gender, religion, etc. The denial of access to education not only challenges the constitutional right to education for all but also brings disparity in learning; millions of children are either trafficked or get involved in child labor, which affects their academic performance and economic prospects.

There is no denying that we are reaching new heights in digital innovations and technological advancement in the education sector, but there are still almost 60% of students who lack access to remote learning in India. We have to constantly work on making access to technology-based resources equitable—all the more for marginalized sections of society. It should also focus on physical and learning disabled students. Above all, we should remind ourselves that technology alone cannot solve all the existing issues in the education sector; it is just a tool to alleviate the resource of education.

Another disparity in the education sector is the lack of technological development in the Eastern countries (read Muslim countries) as compared to their Western counterpart. The collective hatred of the world towards Muslims is not new; the dynamics of power relations suffered a great deal after the 9/11 attacks and the war on terror by the US. What followed was an unprecedented era of chaos and uncertainty due to the political, economic, military, and ideological state of affairs shaped by these events. The disparagement of the Muslim world and its people relegated the standard of living and affected their cultural status. Also, the binary between the West as rational and modern and the East as traditional and backward had a major role to play in this. The West projected the Muslim world through the prism of Islamophobia. All of this collectively led to decelerated economic, educational, and technological progress in Muslim countries. Hence, the lack in the advancement of the educational division is also a result of the unfair scrutiny and public worldwide humiliation of Islamic countries. Now the focus of the Muslim world should be on improving its status by adopting effective measures to stand at par with the Western world and its innovation. Therefore, the discussion on investment in the education sector becomes crucial, especially for developing and underdeveloped countries, which are lagging from technologically-sound nations. Besides, we, the Ummah, have to stand together, keeping aside our differences for the greater good of the Muslim community. We have to come to a consensus to adopt an innovative approach in Muslim countries struggling with educational and technical advances. A positive and motivational attitude amalgamating with the socio-psycho aspect should be prioritized when we discuss the development in the field of education. Collectively, we have to find ways to connect education with technology in a way that one complements the other.

Our dependence on technology is here to stay; therefore, we have to compete with challenges that come at the way of the Ummah. By focusing on mastering every sector of expertise (here, technology), we can be the torch-bearers of the Ummah. Our willpower and determination to achieve success in any field we set our eyes to, would make us leaders and not just mere followers. A balance between technological growth and cognitive and intellectual thinking will take us to the zenith the Muslim world has been inspiring for. Additionally, the Holy Quran also preaches to maintain a balance in life—an equilibrium of technological, emotional, and intellectual outlook.
 

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