The delivery modes of the education must adapt quickly to the new normal of social distancing, and such initiatives form a great part of long-planned overhaul of our education system.
On 17 May, India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the last part of the Central government's ‘Corona package’ involving a hefty amount of Rs 20 lakh-crore. With this announcement, the PM e-Vidya programme was launched to provide learning medium to students through digital platforms. The initiative couldn't have come at a better time given the fact most of the educational institutions in the country have been closed since March. Such measures will ensure that students do not lag behind in learning.
What was announced in e-Vidya Programme
The programme aims for students to use e-resources from the safe confines of their homes. It will work as an assistive measure for student learning. The announced "Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing – DIKSHA" scheme will give students access to e-content and QR coded textbooks for all the classes. While students can access e-content, special radio podcasts in different languages will also be arranged keeping in view those students who come from vernacular state mediums or have problems such as the absence of smartphone owners in their family or neighbourhood.
As per the finance minister’s statement, a single dedicated channel for each grade of students under "One Class, One Channel" initiative of the government will be launched. A channel called "Manodarpan" will also be launched keeping in view the mental health and emotional well-being of teachers, students, and their family members. The government brass is also planning to launch a new national curriculum equipped with a pedagogical framework aimed for early childhood educational needs and their subsequent schooling. The whole initiative has the vision to integrate Indian students with the skill requirements of the 21st century. Among such announcements, the launch of "Numeracy mission" and "National Foundational Literacy" was also announced having a deadline of December 2020 which will ensure that every Grade 5 student attains some predefined acceptable learning levels.
In another move, the top 100 Universities in the country have also been permitted to start online courses starting from May 30. The move is expected to expand the scope of online learning and also integrate students from rural areas who avoid coming to nearby towns for higher studies due to economic difficulties.
In line with the government's resolve of promoting Divyang citizens in the society, development of special e-content for visually and hearing-impaired students, Digitally Accessible Information System – DAISY was also announced. 200 new textbooks will also be added to the e-pathshala platform.
The scheme will try to integrate all the mediums viz. Internet learning, Community radio/TV and Non-Internet App-based Mobile learning into a single medium to benefit the 33 crore students of India.
How e-Vidya programme addresses the needs of "New Normal"
Clearly, the delivery modes of the education must adapt quickly to the new normal of social distancing, and such initiatives form a great part of long-planned overhaul of our education system. While in the past, India has struggled to develop quality education means owning to huge costs involved in the development of infrastructure, this time around the battle seams easier owning to India's software prowess and high rate of smartphone adoption even in far-flung rural areas of the country.
The post-Corona world will in all certainty witness a system of education where remote teaching will be the new norm and the sooner such schemes are implemented, the better it will be for students. The success of such initiatives is imperative in the development of the second largest country of the world in terms of human capital. Such initiatives have the potential to fundamentally change teaching and learning among the teachers and students, respectively.
The e-Vidya programme tries to address some of the major problems in the Indian education system. The initiative will be help decentralize education bringing students from different educational boards - viz. CBSE, ISC, and state boards - to a common platform. Such reforms are necessitated as centralization of examinations – such as like NEET for Medical and JEE for Engineering - has already taken place in higher education.
As we see a renewed interest among multi-national companies to shift their production facilities from China, these initiatives also aim to improve the employability of Indian youngsters.
While it still remains to be seen how these schemes unfold on ground, the fact remains that the Modi government's positive attitude towards building "Aatmanirbhar Bharat" will take serious efforts from even his fiercest critics to deny. This might just be the “Quantum Leap” PM Modi wishes for.
(Siddhartha Ghosh is an Intern with A4N. The author is Research Scholar at Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Motihari)