The corona virus pandemic has made human life come to a standstill. India has been under lockdown from last week of March to the present in its fourth phase with certain relaxations allowed for economic activities and transportation. The cloud of uncertainty has taken over innumerous human activities. The education sector is one of the important and vital sectors gravely hit by the pandemic. The call given for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, by Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi in his speech on 12th May 2020 signifies self-reliant India. The idea of self – reliance is not new to India and it is an echo from past. Carrying forward the spirit, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on final Day (5th Tranche) announced relief packages and put forward the idea of education reform with equity in the form of PM eVidya scheme. As a part of it, 100 top universities will be given freedom to have their own online courses by May 30. This announcement has its seed in the budget speech given by the Minister referring to Aspirational India theme, where degree level full-fledged online education program will be provided by top-100 institutions in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).
India is home to around 993 Universities, 29931 colleges and 10725 standalone institutions. Many students are pursuing certificate, diploma, under-graduate, post-graduate diploma, M.Phil. and Ph.D. broadly through two modes:-
1. Regular Mode i.e. Formal system of Higher Education- Education provided in the system of Colleges, Universities and other formal educational institutions where the students receive education in a classroom in direct contact with the teachers and also make use of other infrastructure facilities like laboratories, library etc. to enhance their learning capacity.
2. Distance/Correspondence /Online Mode i.e. Non-Formal system of Higher Education- The system of imparting education through broadcasting, telecasting, internet, correspondence courses, seminars, contact program or the combination of any two or more such means of communication.
With a Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of 26.3% in Higher Education, India lags behind many countries. But, the ambitious target of GER of 35% by 2025 will be achievable only through accelerating online courses degree program through Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
The new E-Vidya scheme will be the tipping point for India's growth story in education as it will not only provide certification as Swayam does but the legitimate degree in various streams at different levels (Graduate,Post- Graduate, Research) .Issues related to its implementation are :
· Recent Stream wise trend- The recent trends have shown dip in number of students enrolled at the graduation level in engineering and rise in other streams.
Session Engineering Medical Law Others
2016-17 894437 67973 67973 5307144
2017-18 873406 72486 72486 5269932
2018-19 831504 81153 81153 5335824
Source: (AISHE Report 2017,2018,2019) *The traditional stream and discipline in Engineering will be replaced by 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence, cyber security, robotics, block chain technology etc. which may be covered under E-Vidya.
· The Technical Education: The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) website states 'the technical education system in the country at present offers education through conventional face to face mode of education'. This stand of AICTE has to be changed with coming of Virtual Labs project which is an initiative of MHRD. However, it doesn’t cover field experiments and industry internship.
· The Law Degree/Medical Degree: The Bar Council of India (BCI) does not permit LL.B degree for practice in courts through open distance learning (ODL) presently .But with changing trends of Practicing Law through e-court, online hearing of cases etc. we may see flexibility for pursuing the degree. Some innovations may also be needed in curriculum of medical science stream.
· Internet Accessibility & Internet Speed :
India has the 2nd largest internet users in the world (1st being China), which is estimated to get doubled within next 5 years with average consumption of over 300 Petabytes daily. India tops the list in providing very cheapest data in the world which gives impetus for affordable internet connection. But, when it comes to internet speed connectivity, India has been ranked low both in broadband and mobile internet connectivity. Though the government is targeting 100% internet connectivity through National Broadband Mission by year 2022. It also involves laying of incremental 30 lakh route km of optical fiber cable and increase in tower density.
· Examination and Assessment
The performance of the learner will also change from paper /pen format to online. Various university entrance competitive exams are online and MCQ based but semester/yearly degree program exams will be a challenge for the educators.
The MOOCS (Massive Open Online Course) have gained very much popularity with exponential rise in its subscription in the last decade. The top global player includes Coursera, edx, udacity, future learn & Swayam. They offer micro credentials in the form of specialization, professional course, Nano degrees, academic courses etc. They offer professional degree courses and none of Indian universities offers online degree courses in these platforms. The only two Indian university programs featured on these platforms are from IIM & ISB on edx and coursera respectively. This scheme will be helpful in the domestic teaching and learning and the platform will have global footprint in future also. Indian professors’ lectures along with course and degree certificate will be easily available to the students of other countries. The optimization of time, energy and cost efficiency will help learners to acquire new skills easily which will make them job ready after completing their coursework.
After the announcement by Finance Minister, HRD Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal assured about the liberating of the open, distance and online education regulatory framework and mentioned the catalytic role played by this scheme in bringing social equity as it accommodates students from diverse fields irrespective of geography.
The PM E-Vidya scheme is synchronous with what Narendra Modi quoted from Indian shastras, ‘Esha Pantha’ (sanskrit) which means there is only one way, the way to “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”.