Education, healthcare need to bow to technology disruption

CHENNAI: Education and healthcare in India, two of the most vital sectors for any nation, need to shrug away their abhorrence to technological disruption, according to N Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons.

Delivering the keynote address at ThinkEdu Conclave on Friday, Chandrasekaran said both have long escaped from technological disruptions. “They have continued doing what they have always done,” he pointed out in response to a question from Dr S Vaidyasubramaniam, Dean, Planning and Development of Sastra University.

What these two sectors will need to do, said Chandrasekaran, was to adopt a ‘Phygital’ system. “It can dramatically change the system in India. It will solve the big problems. It will bring in affordability and it will create jobs,” he asserted.

Chandrasekaran’s keynote on Pushing the frontiers of Indian education dwelled a lot on the benefits of going ‘Phygital’ – leveraging existing physical assets by enhancing them with digital muscle. One of the biggest advantages of doing so is that it would allow the existing educational system, outdated as it is, to address the urgent need in imparting a modern education, he said.

It would also address chronic shortages facing India. “There is an estimated shortage of 5,00,000 doctors. We need three times the number of judges; we need one million teachers,” he pointed out, adding that we cannot just create a programme to address these shortage.

Apart from going Phygital, Chandrasekaran also gave other solutions that would have to be implemented in parallel to address the problem of access to education and keeping the quality of the content and teaching up-to-date.

He also stated that students would need personalisation of content. “Different students have different aptitudes and learning ability. They need a level playing field,” he said, pointing out that data analytics can play a big role in personalising education for children, according to their aptitudes.

“We have data infrastructure. Through Aadhaar, for example, a program can be created for each student, determining the jobs they possess the aptitude for. We can provide career consultation at a very young age and impart the skills they need,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, highly specialised professions will need to be demystified and broken down to find out which parts of the value chain can be filled by non-specialists.

A combination of going Phygital and demystifying specialist professions, in tandem with expanding digital access will provide an integrated solution that can hasten changes, he said.

Chandrasekaran also pointed out that corporate alone cannot try to step up and do this. “The government has a big role to play. Anyone who comes from Tamil Nadu will know the contributions that K Kamaraj made to education in the state. Both corporate and the government have a role to play here,” said Chandrasekaran.

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