Education has always been considered a catalyst for improving the quality of life. However, not everyone can gain access to the knowledge needed to pursue specialised careers and propel themselves out of financial uncertainty.
There has been much discussion surrounding educational institutions, entry fees and requirements. Although universities have begun to address some challenges, there is more to be done that requires troubleshooting immediately.
Currently, one in five people aged between 5-17 are out of school globally. That’s over 262 million young people unable to attend school due to a variety of reasons, from limited local educational facilities to inadequate training and resources.
There has been some progress improving conditions in developing countries, but this has proven unsustainable, with many children leaving primary school unable to read or write. This has left millions of people worldwide experiencing further limitations in gaining access to higher education.
In recent years many industries have reaped the benefits of leveraging technology, with education slowly joining the bandwagon. Many initiatives have been implemented to optimise learning for all walks of life, resulting in some of the common barriers being removed by harnessing the power of technology.
The future of the classroom
In the United Kingdom, over 13 million people have some form of disability and are therefore three times more likely than their peers to have no formal qualifications. That means over a fifth of the British population are at a societal disadvantage due to the lack of support in the educational context.
However, since the emergence of educational technology, improving accessibility and support for students with particular requirements has been high on the agenda.
Many students are unable to learn efficiently in a traditional classroom, but integrated technology can help improve learning conditions, equalise competitive environments and alleviate the pressure from teachers:
Artificial intelligence (AI)
More than a much-loved buzzword, artificial intelligence has transformed the academic world in to a more personalised environment.
AI can customise in-class assignments to final exams to ensure students are receiving optimal support and educational materials to unlock their true potential.
AI can also benefit educators in the simplification of time-consuming administrative tasks such as marking papers and homework.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
Immersive technology such as VR, AR and mixed reality has made strides over the years and is often used in real-world applications, particularly in the education sector.
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Immersive technology has enhanced pupils’ learning to become more visual, providing a hands-on and interactive experience. Students can now explore different corners of the globe without having to leave their classroom, for example, and receive a personalised digital environment for optimal learning.
The digital classroom
The inability to attend school is no longer a detriment thanks to the introduction of the digital classroom. Now students are able to keep up with their studies from their own homes with a computer, smart device and stable internet connection.
Furthermore, physical assets such as textbooks may be difficult for students to acquire due to lack of expenses or distinct learning disabilities. Now, digital textbooks can be purchased at a fraction of the cost and are available to students remotely through a digital device.
Digital assets can also be personalised to suit each students’ needs, especially if they have difficulty reading.
Programmable robots can be leveraged to fill the void for those that are unable to attend school, that need special requirements and/or rely solely on the digital classroom. Robots can act as an aid, as well as an extension to educators who teach students remotely. Robotics can also be leveraged to teach particular STEM skills that require a practical approach.
As institutions implement these changes, more students with learning disabilities have been able to enter mainstream education, with a plethora of options to help support their needs.
Overcoming the language barrier
There are over 6,000 languages globally but unfortunately this does not translate well in terms of educational materials. Many books are published in the most popular languages, which can mean many young people around the world are at a disadvantage as they struggle to decipher educational materials not written in their mother tongue. This can have detrimental effects on the students’ learning experience and overall psyche.
This is a major challenge for publishers, who cannot cater to every person via language, as it is a costly venture with little return. With education technology, there are more options for those struggling to pick up the necessary skills due to a language barrier. With the help of AI and digital textbooks, many titles can be re-written in the reader’s native tongue efficiently and inexpensively, enabling distribution in developing countries.
Why EdTech should be at the forefront of innovation
It has only been in recent years that the UK has turned to EdTech as the answer to driving innovation and improving quality of life, despite the many benefits it provides for its inhabitants. Much more needs to be accomplished before EdTech can reach its true potential.
Unlike other fast-growth areas in the technology space such as fintech – which has garnered support from the government to drive growth and innovation – EdTech has not been given the same assistance. This is in no small part due to the inconsistency in government leadership and the general lack of awareness.
EdTech needs to be given the same attention fintech receives in order for society to thrive in today’s economic climate. Whilst EdTech businesses rely heavily on funding, the sector is still being considered a low priority. Considering this, many schemes such as SEIS [Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme] need to be altered to allow the sector to flourish for Britain to retain the title as the world leader in education.
Considering the societal advantages many countries have received from leveraging technology, there are still many obstacles that must be tackled to ensure education is easily accessible globally.
While EdTech has steadily improved the sector’s infrastructure, more financial support is needed to propel the sector and provide high-quality education to disadvantaged students.