Creating a data-driven global education system

April 12, 2018 | Vikram Shetty

How much of an impact does big data have in our lives?

Big data plays a major part in all sectors of our daily life, it is a clear indication that data driven economy is the future. Data helps us make connections that lead to insights and improvements. Over time, data collection and mining have improved considerably, while mechanisms for data dissemination have been strengthened. Adoption of open data practices in storage and presentation has bolstered communication platforms in all public and private sectors. In recent times, troubling news has surfaced regarding collection of data and how it has been used and sometimes abused by governments, and also private companies. In some cases it has been used negatively to win elections, sway public opinion, and spread misinformation while on the other side, it has been used to improve public healthcare systems and also achieve breakthroughs in research. Whether we like it or not, big data is here to stay. A breakthrough move towards human progress would be finding new ways to utilise big data to make a positive social impact.

We can use big data in many ways that could be the catalyst for progress. In many cases, developing economies are handicapped with strict budgets, limited platforms, and bureaucracy among others that hamper any progressive initiatives that are vital for the overall development of a country. There can be many benefits using big data in these cases, some of the examples of this are:

  • Enable governments to prioritise projects that people need the most
  • Reduction in tax and social security fraud due to better data collection and inspection
  • Improve transparency and decision-making while reducing costs
  • To keep a country safe and healthy with better information sharing and research
  • Understand public trends better and act accordingly in an efficient way

These are just a few examples of how big data can be used by the public sector for good governance and in the interest of the public. If it can be used in other sectors, could it be used in the education system? According to statistics released by UNESCO, the Indian student population is 215 million. If we could harness the potential of big data in the Indian education system, it can be used to create great strides in educational models and knowledge application.

Could big data be the saviour that our education system needs?    

Education system has changed drastically in the last 50 to 100 years, and it will continue to evolve to keep pace with globalisation. Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher said, “The only thing that is constant is change” and this has held true for the past two thousand years. In this age of digital renaissance, data has emerged as the key component; pioneers around the world are shaping data to get us one step closer to a utopian society. Data is one of the most powerful tools to inform and engage young minds. We need to start looking at data as a living entity that grows and adapts to the environment around it, just like us. With the help of this new entity, we can make connections that lead to insights and improvements in the education system.

Most of the developed counties have realised this potential. Here are some benefits of using big data in K-12 education:

  • It can assist teachers through adaptive learning
  • Performance reports can get parents more engaged
  • Information sharing to benefit teachers and students
  • A chance for different advancement pathways for gifted students
  • Data-driven organisation to ease school management

Areas where big data can be used in education are practically limitless, and this presents a real opportunity to transform the mechanisms of the current education model. We need to be the pioneers of this revolution, we need to start now.

A practical approach to this would beg two simple questions, how do we go about this? Where do we start? The answer to both of them is student feedback. It can be used to acquire information from individuals who are crucial to this process, the students. We can use the feedback we get from students and parents to make positive changes in real time. It has the potential to completely transform the education sphere around the globe.

Student feedback is a realistic approach to big data in education

Time and again, educators around the world have maintained the premise that they have all the answers when it comes to education and knowledge application. Over time this premise has changed considerably. More and more institutions are realising the need to keep pace with the rapidly changing education domain. Most educators are trying to find the source for immediate feedback in areas of improvement and they are working towards creating a roadmap to make real time changes. As for the source of getting this information, it’s better to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Acquiring feedback from students has a long list of advantages for education institutions. Here are ways in which institutions can go about taking positive steps to transform and elevate the status quo:

  • Acquiring feedback from students and parents
  • Create an analysed report based on data outlined in areas of improvement
  • Use information acquired to make real time changes and adapt new mechanisms
  • Maintain a net promoter’s score to preserve high standards
  • Work towards creating innovative education models using the data acquired

The change towards using big data in education is inevitable and decisions lay in the hands of educational intuitions on whether they want to ride the big data wave or crash under it.  Big data is the new reality; all major corporates have got the memo. It is time for educators to follow suit and use this new platform to revolutionise the current system. If the choice is to be pioneers in the new age, student feedback system would be a good place to start. There are many think tanks and educational consultancies who have already ventured into this endeavour. An educational institute will have optimal chances of success if they collaborate with these experts to create an ideal system that focuses on progressive developments by undertaking a nuanced approach. Big data in education, particularly student feedback, is one of the best ways to start the process that could pave the way to a promising future for the next generation of talented young students.

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