DigiQuity – AIF’s Annual Education Knowledge event deliberates access, quality, and the future of learning in the post-COVID era

Dr. Mylswammy Annadurai, Director, Moon Land Technologies, Former Director of ISRO_ Mr. Thavaseelan, IAS, Principal Director, School Education, Government of Nagaland_ Ms. Smita Negi, Vice President, Head of Operations Management India, Bayer

New Delhi  (India), March 4: The American India Foundation, catalyzing social and economic change in India for the past 22 years, organized the annual education knowledge event ‘DigiQuity’ at Silver Oak, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, today. Discussing access and quality, DigiQuity, showcased the power of collaboration to bring scale and innovation to education and discussed the new world order after COVID-19, and the role of STEM education and careers, in the future of learning.

Helmed by AIF’s award-winning flagship education Program – Digital Equalizer, ‘DigiQuity’ brought together 120 sectoral experts, policymakers, academicians, and corporates to cogitate on building back a better world for children, using technology as pedagogy and preparing them for 21st-century skills.

The eminent panel consisted of leading policymakers, researchers, academics, and education practitioners such as Mr. Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog; Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai, Director, Moon Land Technologies, Former Director of ISRO; Dr. Biswajit Saha, Director, Skill Education, CBSE; Dr. Nisha Mendiratta, Head, WISE-KIRAN Division, Department of Science & Technology; Mr. Thavaseelan, IAS, Principal Director, School Education, Government of Nagaland; Ms. Smita Negi, Vice President, Head of Operations Management India, Bayer; Ms. Mabel Abraham, Joint General Manager, CSR – Larsen & Toubro Limited; Mr. Sanjay Gupta, CEO, EnglishHelper Inc.; Lt. Sanyukta Chaturvedi, Director, Digital Equalizer, American India Foundation (AIF); Ms. Aarti Gautam Shukla, Project Manager, SkillsBuild, CSR, IBM and Mr. Joshy Jose, Program Director, Learning and Migration Program (LAMP), AIF. 

With an overarching theme of ‘Bringing together sectoral thought leaders to discuss the changing landscape of Education in India, ’ DigiQuity kick-started with the keynote address by Mr. Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog said, “1 in 3 schools need tech labs. That translates to 70,000 schools in the country. AIF has served 24500 such schools, and Atal Innovation Mission is working with 10,000 of them. That’s where we can work together. India may be the champion of engaging with the community, but we haven’t really articulated the program for the world to follow. That is the next logical step”

Following the keynote, the inaugural panel, ‘Technology as Pedagogy in School Education in the Post-COVID era’, explored the philosophical/pedagogical foundations of education in the country, deliberating the shift to technology as a pedagogy in response to the steep learning regression in students due to school closures during COVID-19. The Panel discussed how technology could be a driver in engendering competence and critical thinking among students. 

The second panel, ‘Ahead of the Curve: Innovation in 21st-century skills and STEM Education and Careers focusing on girls, ’ questioned the gender and the rural-urban divide through the lens of access to quality education and technology. Panellists also reflected on the need for innovation in this space and how government, both at the national and state level, along with NGOs and CSR partners, can come together to institute systemic change. It also threw light on how to prepare children for future careers and explored efforts to redefine conventional schooling practices both within the framework of established learning sites and outside of it. 

Drawing from a rich tapestry of educational practices in India, the third session was a conversation with practitioners in the space to examine the success, challenges, and scope of experiments to address some of the key challenges in the education sector in India today. Discussing ‘The Future of Learning and Making it Happen’ the final and culminating panel heard perspectives of education and technology experts and explored new innovative ways to implement NEP 2020. Discussing student-centric engagement, digital learning, and their evolving need over the next decade, the session closed with a deep examination of how to institute models that will create and shape opinions that govern the thriving model of education in the country. Mr. Thavaseelan, IAS, Principal Director, School Education, Government of Nagaland, opined, “Today we need powerful tools to facilitate learning in a meaningful way. Taking Charge of education in the age of AI is critical. Digital and project-based learning are the drivers to advance personalized adaptive learning. This is the norm, and it will keep on getting deeply rooted as we go along.”

Bringing together intellectuals, industry experts, educationists, and research scholars, the conference had Padma Shri Dr. Mylswammy Annadurai, Director, Moon Land Technologies, Former Director of ISRO, sharing his experiential insights and leaving our panelists and participants with enough ideas for some fruitful introspection of how to map the journey from a school classroom to the moon. He heartily ended his address by saying, “none of this is rocket science for Indian students anymore”.

“AIF is honored to partner with key ecosystem stakeholders to further the mission of advancing STEM learning and empowering the youth to explore STEM careers. These partnerships not only further AIF’s mission of improving lives, with a special focus on children and youth, but also aim to leverage the expertise and innovation of its flagship education program Digital Equalizer to improve access to quality education and aspiration learning opportunities. In this era of intense transformation in education, global trade, economy, technology, and society, STEM learning and careers are the future and I congratulate the youth who are participating and leap-frogging ahead of their peers to become inspirations in their community. They make us immensely proud, said Mathew Joseph, Country Director, AIF.


About American India Foundation:

The American India Foundation (AIF) is dedicated to catalyzing social and economic change in India and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India. AIF is committed to improving the lives of India’s underprivileged, with a special focus on women, children, and youth. AIF does this through high-impact interventions in education, health, and livelihoods, because poverty is multidimensional. AIF’s unique value proposition is its broad engagement between communities, civil society, and expertise, thereby building a lasting bridge between the United States and India. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with non-government organizations (NGOs) to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001, AIF has so far impacted the lives of 12.9 million of India’s poor across 35 states and union territories. Learn more at www.AIF.org

About Digital Equalizer:

Digital Equalizer (DE) envisions a world where all children from under-served communities, especially girls, are prepared for a career and life. The program is bridging India’s digital divide by providing and integrating technology into underperforming, under-resourced public schools, training teachers in techno-pedagogy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) methodology, and transforming classrooms into collaborative and interactive places for students to learn while preparing them for success in the 21st-century global economy. Since its inception in 2004, the Program has empowered 5.4 million children with interactive STEM experiences, trained 182,025 teachers in STEM pedagogy, and transformed 24,471 schools across 35 states and union territories of the country.