Ensuring access for teachers and students, aptitude for artificial intelligence and data security and privatisation of education are some key concerns raised by experts as the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) teams up with Facebook to launch modules on augmented reality and digital safety.
CBSE opened applications for the two courses on Monday, which will conducted in tandem with Facebook on SV.CO Digital Learning Platform Private Limited, the training partner for the courses. The initiative will train 10,000 teachers for three weeks in two batches, the first batch consisting of 1,600 teachers and the second of 8,400 teachers, CBSE officials told Hindustan Times. There are nearly 10 lakh teachers employed in CBSE across India and according to the Board’s data, nearly all posses a mobile phone.
Although anyone is allowed to apply, the CBSE has also devised clear criteria in case the number of applications exceeds 10,000.
“We will evaluate the teachers on the basis of their experience, their potential to understand the subject and their involvement in other activities,” a CBSE official told Hindustan Times on the condition of anonymity.
The trained educators will further impart their learning to nearly 30,000 students across the country. As of 2019, according to data provided by Facebook, there are 328 million users in India.
“We have to adjust the new teaching style to suit the pandemic,” the above-mentioned official added. “Although nothing can replace the physical classroom, technology like augmented reality can help make the teaching process more interactive.”
According to the official, augmented reality can help the teachers demonstrate practical experiments in a more ‘life-like’ fashion. “Augmented reality can do wonders. If you’re walking across India gate, without downloading an app, you can choose to access the history of how it was built.”
A Facebook official told Hindustan Times that the course will enable teachers and students to understand various aspects of digital safety as well. “At a time when the conversation has shifted entirely to digital platforms, it is important to make everyone aware of the information they are sharing, how to protect themselves and be digitally responsible.”
Co-Founder of HasGeek Kiran Jonalagadda told Hindustan Times that the greater challenge will be generating content in different languages if the initiative has to take off.
“Right now, an AR equipped phone may cost at least Rs 20,000,” Jonalagadda said. “However, the technology will get cheaper in time. The greater challenge is creating content in multiple languages and deciding who will create this content.”
Jonalgadda also added that augmented reality, while useful when occupying a space physically, counts for little in terms of online classes.
“Only after the courses are completed, will we be to analyse the results and see how we can maximise the reach of the modules, in terms of generating content and including languages,” the official said. “CBSE will also put up modules on its website to generate awareness about augmented reality.”
Vidhushi Marda, a legal researcher with a focus on emerging technologies, added that the partnership represents the privatisation of the education sector.
“The idea of Facebook partnering with the CBSE board ‘to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being’ essentially means that Facebook will be providing education infrastructure and collecting data about educators and students alike,” Marda said. “This is not as innocuous at it seems at first glance – it represents privatisation of public sector functions which come with a host of problems.”
Even at the pilot stage, according to Marda, the vast of data collected raises a crucial concern. “What happens to the vast amount of intimate data collected? Beyond data protection – How do Facebook and its proprietary products influence the curriculum? As Linnet Taylor mentioned on Twitter, would we allow Shell to teach students about climate change? Such a move locks educators and students into a particular platform and ecosystem,” she added.