I had worked extensively in Major Irrigation projects, and also Minor irrigation projects, including restoring natural tanks, particularly in Arid Zones. The challenge was to optimize the water for Irrigation and micro-irrigation projects. It involved a lot of core engineering, management and also the use of software and automation.
Normally drip Irrigation is done to conserve water resources, minimize wastage of Water, and maximize the yield (the outcome of farming/agriculture). Every plant gets the right amount/dose of water, at the right time, for the right duration: Precision Irrigation. This is an integral part of crop science and does involve an algorithmic approach and mathematical models too. Truly! Hence, also the use of software and automation.
Over-use of water and flooding can lead to losing a crop, very low yields, and more importantly, the nutritional elements in the soil getting washed away, making the crop more vulnerable to diseases, lower yields, etc.
Obviously, to optimize the use of water, many drip Irrigation schemes were implemented and the project brought more areas into the cultivable belt.
This needs education going right up to the farmers and they should be convinced that with optimized inputs, yields can still be maximized. The system and experts from Agricultural scientists, resource providers, Area development authorities, and all other stakeholders align with this belief, and hence it works. Thousands of Hectares of dry and Arid Lands in the North Karnataka belt are now converted into cultivable areas. Improving the local area’s socio-economic profiles.
Given, the pandemic situation and until then our belief and our “not doing enough” to transform “old school” thoughts in Education and Rote learning, Heavy curriculum, Heavy books, intense homework, etc., has been showing us flaws in our traditional schooling, and in learning practices. Subsequently, during the Pandemic it was all about online learning, remote video classes, but the fundamentals of covering the curriculum needed long online sessions, and the effectiveness obviously gets diluted. Yes, there simply was no other choice.
I am trying to build an analogy here, with a briefcase study (about micro-irrigation) that I narrated in the above paragraphs. When we want the best outcomes from our education system, it is not about dumping knowledge resources, curriculum, books, and everything else that we associate with traditional education, as we know.
The reason I am writing this in the context of irrigation is that, the ultimate goal of efficient Irrigation is to ensure that depending on the soil-crop combination, and hence the cropping pattern and the cropping calendar that emerges, thus setting the right directions to the irrigation system in the following generic areas:
1. For each field How much water is required, and when, and also what type of fertilizer and other nutritional inputs- how much is required and when. This is where automation and technology support was useful.
2. “Optimisation” is the most important word here.
3. “Overdoing” of any of the inputs only kills the crops or diminishes the yield, the outcome, both in quantity and quality.
For a moment, let us step back and look at our traditional education system and our traditional narrative on how we learn. Try and compare this narrative to the narrative of traditional farming with traditional irrigation.
I encourage all to think if we can build a similar narrative in the area of Education & learning. For want of a better word, let me call it “Drip Education”. Again, the idea is age-appropriate education and learning, well-calibrated, just in time, just the right amount, emphasis on quality of learning resources. Most importantly “Nothing more, and Nothing less”. When I meant appropriate, it is about personalisation.
Just like how a universal formula will not work in farming, and hence the need for precision irrigation requires factoring the following factors for its design and implementation for the soil, crop, weather, availability of resources, water sources, and many other resources too.
Can this inspire us to think about a parallel in how we design our education systems, learning design, and delivery? Let us bring back the following words Precision, “right amounts and the right time”, “nothing more, nothing less”, Adaptive and sensitive to the Eco-system, Environment, Socioeconomic profile of the area, the learners, the Instructors, learning material, clarity of outcomes. These, and many more factors have to be considered in designing an education system, and the learning methodology, putting “the learner at the center”. The design and how it will be blended, and orchestrated is important for accomplishing the desired outcomes.
The yield in the Education context is not just the quantity, it is the right mix of imparting knowledge, experience about the real world, a better-fit into the micro-local community that we live in. It all has to be calibrated and re-calibrated with time, and the needs change.
One size fits all does not work.
The final objective is to make learners socially responsible individuals, help them develop a passion for themselves, by providing the right enablers. Communities are as diverse as our diverse geographical, linguistic, history, cultural, and socio-economic profiles. Hence education systems and models cannot be simply copied, nor can we take a “Cookie-cutter” approach or a regimented approach. It has to be “Designed”, truly using the “design thinking” approach.
Hence I will leave you with:
The right doses, in the right quantities, at the right time. “Never too less, nor too more. Design and precision is important in designing and executing such projects. Pure replication rarely works!