EDUCATION / GOVERNANCE/ SCIENCE & TECH
Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources
- e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential;
Context: COVID-19 pandemic has put spotlight on the need to push Digital Education as well as the challenges that lie ahead with it.
Challenges to Education Sector due to Pandemic
- Suspension of Learning Centres: Most schools and colleges campuses will be closed through 2020 due to an increasing number of COVID cases. This could even extend to 2021.
- Safety and security of students, teachers and staff will be challenging whenever educational institutes reopen
- Increased Maintenance Cost: Schools and Colleges need to ensure hygiene to check the COVID-19 spread and this involves increased usage of disinfectants and sanitizers
- Redesign Classrooms: Some of the educational institutes have started online classes to ensure continuum of learning. When these institutes reopen they need to upgrade their school digital infrastructure to deal effectively with future such breaks
- Financial Difficulties: Institutes are finding it difficult to pay teachers without students and parents are finding tough to pay fees without work
The answer to the education crisis during the pandemic has been to offer online education. However, there are serious issues related to it, some of which are
- Internet Access: It is estimated that only about 25 per cent of Indian households have an internet facility. For rural households, that number drops to 15 per cent.
- Teacher Training: Teachers are not adequately trained to impart education through online mediums.
- Underprepared: Government schools and colleges do not have the resources to provide digital education.
- Regulation: In India there is lack of a proper policy on digital education, infrastructure and multiple languages.
- Parenting Issues: Additional burden on parents to ensure that their Children attend the online classes and this impacts the productivity of their work
- Students Discipline: There is inadequate space and peace at home for students to concentrate on learning.
- Logistical Issues: Digital education requires uninterrupted broadband connectivity for several hours a day
- Lacks Holistic Approach: Digital education is not about videos of lectures on blackboards by teachers on the internet. It is about appropriate platforms, technology, tools, interactivity, curation, content and a lot more.
Government Initiatives in past to help digital education
- NOFN — National Optical Fibre Network (Now called Bharat Network)
- The objective of this programme is to connect all 2,50,000 panchayats at the cost of over Rs 40,000 crore
- It was conceptualised as a bulk broadband common infrastructure for the country. Overlaying education and health services up to panchayats and villages was an important component of the strategy.
- It has reached many rural areas telecom operators did not want to serve due to lack of profitability. The Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund was used to build NOFN.
- However, the NOFN is still not completely operational, after almost eight year
- National Knowledge Network (NKN)
- The NKN was established as a high bandwidth, low latency network to connect all knowledge-creating organisations comprising IITs, IIMs, universities, research labs and other e-governance institutions up to the district level.
- It was aimed at encouraging collaborative development and building a repository of knowledge in all fields.
- This network exists and is fully functional.
- However, only a few institutions take full advantage of it because of a lack of understanding, local facilities, funding and technical expertise.
- The driving force behind NOFN and NKN was to build an IT-based teaching system, which could address the shortage of quality teachers and school infrastructure at the bottom of the economic pyramid
- There is need to relook at the NOFN and make it a core component of digital education ecosystem of our country.
Connecting the dots: