By Fayaz Ganie
Many things distinguish humans from the rest of the Creation. One of these is knowledge, the capability to acquire it and the power to pass on accumulated knowledge of the ages to the succeeding generations and fellow humans. Knowledge is acquired and dispersed through diverse means and methods but the most important is the mode of formal education developed in all the countries, regions and sub-regions of the world.
About formal education, it has been a privilege in the past of the class of human population belonging to the higher economic strata and not all people were able to pursue it. With changing times, it was felt to universalize education and provide all people the opportunity to acquire knowledge and education. Most governments took steps in this regard and achieved appreciable success.
Having said so, some people have not been able to take advantage of the governmental interventions and schemes intended to achieve education for all. In some instances, they are being deliberately prevented to achieve any benefits and gaining knowledge for them remained, and continues to remain, a distant dream. At the same time, there is a section of population which although is able to provide their children education but they are unable to do it the way it should ideally be done.
They can afford to send their wards to schools but cannot afford to provide them the facilities which are important to impart quality education that the economically well off people provide to their children. Staying relevant and competitive in the changing scenarios for such children is almost impossible. Despite many governmental schemes such students could not study the way others are doing. And, majority of students in the developing and the underdeveloped world, belong to this group.
So, today the overall status of education is that there are people who admit their children in the highest developed institutions of formal education, there are those who are totally unable to provide any education to their children and there are others who even though provide their children education but feel helpless to give them quality education. The latter section of people lacks the wherewithal to provide their children all the facilities and logistics to pursue education in sync with the needs of the modern times.
Modern technology could be of aid to such people and, in fact, all people to acquire knowledge in an ideal manner. Especially, the one modern invention and the development of that invention could be of immense help in this regard. This is the invention of mobile phones and development of the same into smart phones with round the clock high speed internet connectivity. These phones are treasures of knowledge and education but, unfortunately, we mostly use them for the purposes detrimental for the development of human society. They could be of help in the development of a level playing field where from each child and student could be able to have equal opportunities to compete.
To make it easy to understand how smart phones aid in education some anecdotes of my life could be of help. Due to financial constraints of my family , I had to give up the formal mode of pursuing education in the midway after 12th class. My friend, who has moved ahead as a successful professional in his career, qualified for MBBS. Seeing his big and fat books , my desire to read those, and other books, grew manifold.
One thing I know about this friend is that he afforded those books with great difficulty as their costs were beyond the financial scope of his family. In many cases, he had to remain content with photocopies. The mention of one book in particular is important, that is, “Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine”. Like other books he bought this book with difficulty but the level of difficulty in this case was much higher and once he bought it the students of higher income families had already move ahead in reading the book.
Out of curiosity, I searched this book on Youtube a few years ago and instantly the audio version of this book was displayed on the screen of the smart phone. I was amazed to see the book , which gave nightmare to the students belonging to the lower economic strata of the population, was available on the Youtube free of cost. That is not all; it is an audio book which means that you need not to actually read it. Little bit of concentration and the book is read for you. Even with little bit more of searching you might find the e-vision of this book free or on negligible charges and yes on your smart phone screen.
I continued my studies through the informal mode and passed my examinations even without purchasing a book as that was unaffordable. Afterwards, I got interested towards political science and while pursuing my masters in political science, I heard the names of many classic books of Greeks and other races that have lived in the past but the story remained the same: I could not afford those books. And, when I bought any it was not the one that I intended to buy. Whichever book the bookseller would hand over to me I would take that home.
Now when I have a smart phone with 4 g connectivity I can read any of the classic books whenever I like and in whatever form I want. Whether it is Plato’s Republic, Homer’s poetry, Aristotle’s Politics, Hobbs’s Leviathan, James Allen’s As A Man Thinketh or any other book of any subject I can read these without paying even a penny and, in a format , where the means of difficult words pop up whenever I like them to pop up.
The third anecdote is about my desire to own an encyclopedia. First preference in this regard was Encyclopedia Britannica which was simply out of my reach financially. Then, I collected some money and went to purchase an affordable one. When I enquired about the cost of the encyclopedia available with bookseller, it was around thirty thousand.
Today, the electronic versions of all encyclopedias are in our pockets and free of charge. You type or speak a word about any branch of study and everything related to the word is presented to you. Hence, these facilities which the smart phones are crammed with could plug the gap between the rich and the poor at least in respect of education. So many quality books and materials are available to the students of this age that if used properly no other source is needed to pursue ones education. But, the sad thing is that these facilities remain mostly untapped and only few people get any benefits out of them.
Reading books, listening books, news, views, lectures, debates, discussions, dictionaries, encyclopedias, counseling, guidance, notes, journals, diaries and preparation for all the examinations could be done on smart phones. In nutshell, one who has a smart phone has every source of knowledge available to him but the problem is these phones are used for purposes which are diametrically opposite to the stated ones. They are made as the devices detrimental to development than the devices for development.
If used properly, smart phones can make gaining of knowledge and pursuing studies, including in the formal mode, one of cheapest activities. But , we are uninterested and apathetical. There is so vast the number of applications and websites which make studying so easy and so interesting and like fun. You enjoy reading on these applications and if on the move audio versions of the books can be listened like music. Any problem can be solved and fact or information can be uncovered by using these phones within no time.
While stating all this it is observed that the reading habits of people are plummeting fast with the passage of time and they seem uninterested in doing this activity. Time is to make readjustments and start reading valuable treasures which could be of help in making human species sustainable. Smart phones can go a long way in this endeavor and their services need to be used for this purpose. Smart phones can make people smart not only by having these phones but by using them for the purpose for which they can be of great help and greater could be their help in pursuing education and acquiring knowledge and effacing the difference between rich and poor in the field of education.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]