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Centre to focus on online education

Centre to focus on online education

Context:

The central government has decided to distribute laptops or tablets to 40% (4.06 crore students) of all college and university students over the next five years.

Objective: To minimize social inequity in online education coming to the fore due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government also wanted to equip all government schools with information and communication technology.

Details:

  • Around 1.5 crore students are to receive devices in the next financial year 2021-22. An average cost of Rs 15,000 has been assumed per device. The cost of making devices has been distributed among Centre and States in a 60:40 ratio.
  • As per the School Education department estimation, there is a need to spend up to Rs1 lakh per school for sanitization and quarantine measures in preparation for the safe reopening of schools.
    • The measures would include ensuring basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities, safe drinking water, availability of alcohol sanitizer, disinfectant, cleaning material and equipment for temperature checking.
  • Funds for these measures are being provided on the basis of the number of students. for schools with over a thousand students Rs 1 lakh and Rs 25,000 for small schools with less than 100 students.
  • Funds will also be provided for awareness and community mobilization to sensitize parents, students, and local leaders. A sum of Rs 1,000 per teacher to encourage them to function as first-level counselors, providing basic information about COVID-19 and for digital/online/mobile education.
  • ICT facilities are not available for 3.1 lakh government schools above the upper primary level the government proposes a budget of Rs 55,840 crore to equip them with such facilities.

Challenges in online education in India:

  • Access to electricity:  Electricity is a must for digital education, both for powering devices and for connecting to the internet. Government’s Saubhagya scheme aims to provide electricity to households shows that almost 99.9% of homes have electricity connection. But a nationwide survey of villages conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development in 2017-’18 showed that only 16% of India’s households received one to eight hours of electricity daily, 33% received 9-12 hours, and only 47% received more than 12 hours a day.
  • Accessibility of computer: 24 % of Indians own a smartphone but only 11% of households possess any type of computer, which could include desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, tablets.
  • Internet facility: According to the 2017-’18 National Sample Survey report on education, only 24% of Indian households have an internet facility. While 66% of the population lives in villages, only a little over 15% of rural households have access to the internet. For urban households, the number is 42%.
    • Only 8% of all households with members aged between five and 24 have both a computer and an internet connection.
  • Gender Gap: As per the Internet and Mobile Association of India report, in 2019, while 67% of men had access to the internet but internet access for women was only 33%.
  • Digital infrastructure: Despite initiatives from both the governments, there has not been enough expenditure on improving the digital infrastructure for online education.
    • In fact, in 2020-’21, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) budget for digital e-learning was reduced to Rs 469 crore from Rs 604 crore in 2019-’20.

Some government initiatives:

  • Bharat Padhe Online: It was a week-long campaign for crowdsourcing of ideas for improving the online education ecosystem of India. Students and teachers were the main target audience in the campaign.
    • Objective: To invite all the best brains in India to share suggestions/solutions directly with MHRD. It also aims to overcome the challenges of online education while promoting the available digital education platforms.
  • YUKTI Portal: It is a unique portal to monitor and record the efforts and initiatives of MHRD.
    • The portal will allow institutions to share their strategies for challenges that are there because of the situation of Covid-19.
    • A two-way communication channel will also be established under the portal. Channel will be between the Ministry of HRD and educational institutions so that the Ministry can provide the necessary support system to the institutions.

Source: The Hindu