Hybrid learning: Start of a new education system

The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the infrastructure of the education system and massively increased the use of technology in the education sector. This change brought about a new learning mechanism called ‘hybrid learning’.

The conventional model of delivering education in classroom using textbooks, blackboard, lectures, etc. has dominated the teaching and learning space for centuries. Despite the fact that there are solid explanations behind the model to be predominant across the world, there are a few constraints too.

With the many changes in the world in last two decades and the rise of disruptive technology, new models of education delivery explored to meet the requirements of changed realities. This is leading to emergence of multiple models of imparting education. One such model that is rapidly evolving, particularly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, is the hybrid model. Hybrid education is an educational model wherein some parts of the teaching and learning time occurs face to face, while some occurs through education technology and done remotely.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF South Asia), organised an online seminar called ‘Hybrid Learning: The Future of Education?’ on 17 September 2021. This program discussed hybrid learning and how it is going to bring about a massive change to the education sector.

Panelists of the online seminar were Baela Raza Jamil (CEO of Idara, Taleem-O-Agahi in Pakistan), Parit Wacharasindhu (CEO of Stardee in Thailand) and Parth J Shah (Founder President of Centre for Civil Society in India). Roshan Gandhi (CEO of City Montessori School in India) moderated the seminar.

Moderator Roshan Gandhi started the seminar by asking Baela Raza Jamil about hybrid learning in general. “Will hybrid learning, in your opinion, lead to better learning outcomes?”

“It is really early to say until we have measured it properly,” answered Baela Raza Jamil. She also added that surveys conducted in 16 rural districts of Pakistan indicated there has been a tumble in the learning process and in the use of technology. The next survey will give them a much better idea but until then it is too early to make a proper estimation on this question.

“The difficulties that budget private schools faced during the pandemic, what role switching to a hybrid learning model might play for budget private schools emerge from this pandemic?” Roshan Gandhi asked Parth J Shah.

“This approach could be viable and very effective for certain types of schools, for certain types of parents depending on their ability to pay the fees,” Parth J Shah said, adding that the hybrid model is very effective for the learning process but it is hard for private schools to accept because of the low fees and the changing government policies.

The next question was for Parit Wacharasindhu. Roshan Gandhi wanted to know about the technologies required for hybrid learning and if these were affordable.

“Technology as we know changes over time. The technology that we know of right now could be very high in price but later in time it will be affordable to everyone,” replied Parit Wacharasindhu, also mentioning that the price of technology depends on the government and on the parents’ ability to afford it. Therefore, from his point of view, technology is definitely an important aspect for the hybrid learning and the government should subsidise the costs to make it affordable for everyone.

Diving deeper into the technology based issue, Roshan Gandhi asked Parth J Shah, “Do you feel the teachers are sufficiently skilled to deliver proper education through more hybrid models as of now?”

Parth J Shah replied, “Teachers are the heart of the education system. To cope up with the pandemic education system, the teachers had to find many news ways to deliver proper education to the students. Through this, they learnt on the job that the old way of teaching is not the only path; teaching can be done in many different innovative ways. So, they can adapt to the different methods of teaching.”

Relating school fees with technology, Roshan Gandhi wanted to know from Baela Raza Jamil, “Would actions of the schools be justified if they increase the fees by introducing the hybrid learning method?”

Baela Raza Jamil answered, “This is a very complex thing to say.” She also mentioned that the government policies have not been yet ‘supportive’. Since the government had to cut budgets because of the pandemic, the budget schools have no choice but to increase the fees. Because of this, she said that many students had to withdraw which caused a lot of learning loss. However, for the elite schools, parents think it is a good investment for their children, which is for them, is kind of worth it. Therefore, from her point of view, the answer to this question is a bit tricky.

Coming to the topic of technology and social responsibilities, Roshan Gandhi asked Parit Wacharasindhu, “As an Ed-Tech leader, do you believe that educational technology companies have social responsibilities beyond the bottom-line motive to facilitate better learning outcomes?”

“Yes of course! All Ed-Tech companies do have social responsibilities towards students for their development and providing better learning outcomes. In some countries where the government cannot offer proper education services, that’s where the Ed-Tech companies can step in and help the government to make the education sector running. So, a quick answer to your question would definitely be yes,” replied Parit Wacharasindhu.

The underlying conclusion of the seminar was that hybrid learning will take the education system to a next level and can provide students with more efficient results and better learning outcomes.