June 2018

Reforming Education through Digitisation

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With the advent of technology and its surging acceptability in society at large, there is a huge scope to take education to the remotest part of the country, for enhancing awareness and improving understanding. But, the education field in India is mired in tradition, ideology and incumbent interests, writes Akash Tomer of Elets News Network (ENN).

“The use of technology coupled with bold decisions can help India leapfrog into inclusive growth and improve the quality of health and education.” – Bill Gates

The statement by the founder of one of the world’s largest technology companies indicates that the use of technology may help India to get placed among top countries of the world in terms of education.

India’s education sector is witnessing the increased use of technology such as Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality in day-to-day practices related to education sector. The Government is also focusing on greater use of technology as it looks to implement largescale reforms such as Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) scheme.

While technology-enabled initiatives or platforms in line with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) such as Swayam (for teachers’ training) have seen use of technologies, the Government is also emphasising on boosting the use of tools such as virtual lab, virtual reality (VR)-enabled classrooms or curated online content for both students and teachers.

Swayam, an online life-long training platform developed with the help of Microsoft, or Diksha, a platform that aids teachers with digital and techbased teaching solutions, are “prominent efforts” in revamping the education infrastructure.

“Digitising education has been an imperative keeping in mind the affordability, accessibility, inclusiveness of the large trainable youth population. Technology may be used to reach the diverse population at the remotest corners. MOOC platforms, NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning) are already in use for promotion of higher technical education. They may be used for reaching out to school children as well,” said Sriman Kumar Bhattacharyya, Deputy Director, IIIT, Kharagpur.

He added that IITs across locations are working on “digital convergence” and “development of innovative infrastructure for education” which could result in increased use of new-age technologies.

India’s education sector is witnessing the increased use of technology such as Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality in day-to-day practices related to education sector.

Education system in future

The series of education provisions in the 2016-17 Budget provides an exact picture about the present Government’s future plans for education.

The Government is planning to establish a new agency — Higher Education Financing Agency to oversee the infrastructural developments in Higher Education. At the same time, owing to standardisation of training, a new regulatory body’s establishment has also been on the agenda. In addition to supporting online courses, the next step of the Government in the direction of digitalisation is the creation of an online register for report cards and degrees.

Concerning State investments, the higher education continues to enjoy priority, but public education, particularly technical training, will also benefit, as the allocation of financial sources makes clear.

Other than the Government, various private organisations are also supporting India’s digital initiatives for education. Software major Microsoft, working with Atal Tinkering Labs across 25 schools in the country to empower students and teachers with technology skills, is also pushing for the use of cloud computing for creating an efficient digital lab experience.

Pratik Mehta, Director Sales at Microsoft India, said technologies are fast finding ways into the classrooms in multiple ways such as mobile devices giving students “access to the latest teacher curated content”, VR-enabled classrooms offering students “an enhanced learning experience”.

Apart from the Rs 1 lakh crore expenditure estimate for RISE spread over four years, the Government has increased the overall expenditure estimate for education by 4 per cent and it grew by more than 11 per cent in 2017-18. Despite a growth in budgetary expenditure allocation, many projects have seen delayed implementation and use of funds. Going forward, analysts said, technology will play a key role to speed up implementation of education reforms.

India as a nation is on a growth path in education sector and digitisation is supporting the collective efforts of public and private sector to realise the dream of becoming the education hub of the world. Along with other States of India, educationally backward States are also focusing on improving the education scenario.

Digitising education has been imperative keeping in mind the affordability, accessibility, inclusiveness of the large trainable youth population. Technology may be used to reach the diverse population at the remotest corners.

The two States – Bihar and Chhattisgarh are adopting the digital educational practices rapidly. Bihar which may be considered as the educational hub for Eastern and North-Eastern India, Chhattisgarh is gradually gaining popularity as the educational destination for Central India. Educationists opine that the two States are leveraging the technology to improve the education sector from primary to higher level.

Digital Education in Bihar – Educationists’ view:

“Information technology has reformed each sector it has grasped and it is currently in the promising phases of altering academia. In the coming decades, Information Technology is likely to change the education sector hopefully more constructive to the people than it is today. Digitisation in education industry has totally changed the learning and also the teaching process to a great extent.” – Prof S B LAL of Patna University.

“Digitalisation really helps to read many books and gather more information easily. Students of Bihar benefitted a lot through digital education. Many schools are adopting virtual class room, flipped class room, e-text books, adaptive learning and on-line learning etc. Class room technologies are enhancing day-by-day, to make the teaching process more comfortable and interactive.” Dr Sanjoy Kumar Parida, Dean – Academic, Indian Institute of Technology, Patna.

Digital Education in Chhattisgarh – Educationists’ View:

“We have taken giant leaps with the help and guidelines of Ministry of Higher Education, Chhattisgarh towards promoting digitally enabled and strengthened higher education programmes. Whole hearted participation of universities and colleges of the state in MOOC through SWAYAM and SWAYAM PRABHA programmes of MHRD will bring in qualitative changes in standards of higher education and provide equal opportunities of education to every child male/ female, adults, senior citizens even at the remotest corners of the state,” said Dr Sanjay Kumar, Vice Chancellor, ITM University.

“Universities have launched massive drives towards digitising libraries, records, rules, regulations, certificates, study materials etc and they have become members of National Digital Library, National Academy Depository schemes. Campuses are made smart, digitally enabled , clean, green and conducive. Participative & demonstrative teaching and learning processes have made education in the state interesting, entertaining and creative. Surrounding villages of the university campuses are adopted to transfer the much needed knowledge to each villager to ease out problems faced by them. In the state, students are bright and very receptive. Free laptops, mobile and tabs are given to each student to promote higher education,” he added.

Some may doubt that the digital reforms may live up to their promises or not but, they certainly prove that India and its States have recognised the challenges of the 21st century, the power of knowledge, information, and innovation, and accordingly radical reforms are taking place in the country.

The successful creation of knowledge-based society would carry great opportunities for India, while its failure could push the nation towards not just an economic but a political crisis as well.

 

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