The policy aims to fill the digital gap and aid students to access technology.
The new National Educational Policy has come after a long gap of 34 years. With several changes in the old structure, it gives prime focus to technology consumption. One of the focal points of school and higher education in the policy is to utilize digital resources and to fulfill the vision of digital education and digital India.
The pandemic has completely shifted the mode of learning. Now learning has gone from offline to online. The availability of mobile apps for school learners (Diksha, mobile applications like myCBSEguide and e-Pathshala) SWAYAM and National Digital Library for Higher Education have augmented the process of learning.
Despite the use of online learning, only 20% of the total population owns a Smartphone. Poor migrant families and socio-economically weaker section cannot afford the cost of online learning. For instance, in Palampur a laborer had to sell his cow for Rs 6000 to buy a mobile phone for his children. (The Tribune, July 22)
As per a 2014 survey (Pew Research Center), 57% of Indians see online technology as good for learning. However they face lack infrastructure, inequity, poor quality of digital educational resources, lack of access, and poor attendance of IT teachers. Acquisition of digital devices seems challenging for government schools and colleges especially in rural areas. As per the ASER Rural survey conducted in 31 districts, the availability of computer technology has only slightly increased from 58.4 in 2016 to 58.9 in 2018. This slow pace of availability seems a challenging path for the government’s digital literacy initiative. Besides, it is yet to be seen how underprivileged students will gain from technological devices.
On a positive note, the national policy provides for the creation of an autonomous National Educational Technology Forum which will help in research data analysis. The regional and national conferences will provide value addition to young researchers as well.
English as the medium of education is also used widely in digital technology. In India, where only 15 % (12% Urban, 3% Rural) of the population can understand English (Lok Foundation Survey), the proposal for digital content creation and free access to digital software in mother tongue will help students and teachers in coping with the new knowledge.
Research in technology usage is also something to watch out for. The National Research Foundation’s attempts to use Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and computer-mediated technology for research will be beneficial in finding answers in a fast and predictive manner.
The use of technology for skill development will help in cognitive development but still, this does not seem beneficial for performing art and scientific experiments. These are some practical fields where physical distance of audience applause and guide hinders in confidence building.
The proposed policy to fill the digital gap will aid students to access technology but it is yet to be seen whether it will also inspire students to put more effort into learning and whether it will help them get the adequate environment for learning.
A country like India where more than 1 billion people don’t have access to Internet (according to World Bank) the requirement for allocation, management and establishment of infrastructure increases manifold.
The establishment of an autonomous body to boost the use of technology will enhance learning. A strong social campaign is also needed for creating awareness among masses. The deadline to achieve universal literacy and numeracy by 2025 should be a top priority as a goal that will crucially determine progress at higher levels.
(The author is an Intern with Academics4Nation. She is also a student of journalism.)