New Delhi 24th June 2015 (By P.Sunderarajan) Setting up of a national digital library, provision of scholarship for differently abled to pursue technical education, connecting institutions of higher education to villages so as to solve the problems of the latter.
These are but some of the new initiatives that have been taken by the new Government at the Centre headed by Narendra Modi in the area of human resource development over the last one year.
One year is not a long time in the history of a country. But, going by the slew of measures taken by the Government within this period it seems quite clear that the country could be on the threshold of a sea change in the field of education.
Even while being aware of the need for fiscal prudence, the Government has launched a long list of new schemes and projects covering the various aspects of human resource development. Interesting, none of the on-going programmes have been sacrificed too.
A key feature of the new initiatives is a focussed attempt to utilise the modern tools of information technology in the best possible manner. For instance, a project has been taken up to create a national digital library of ebooks and other e-contents on various subjects and topics and another to set up a platform through which highly qualified faculty of centrally sponsored institutions like IITs, IIMs and central universities would offer online courses free of cost.
Called Swayam`’, the mass-scale online open course platform would be hosted on a virtual cloud and have provision for the beneficiaries to get certificates following tests at the end of the courses.The digital library, in turn, will be set up by IIT, Kharagpur, and a sum of Rs. 10 crore has already been released to the institute for the purpose.
In addition, technology is being used to identify geographical pockets which fared poorly in terms of education among girls, particularly of those belonging to marginalised sections of society so that corrective measures could be taken. The digital atlas project developed in partnership with UNICEF was launched on March 8 on the occasion of the World Women’s Day.
Further, a separate portal has been developed by the All India Council for Technical Education to enable prospective students to make informed choices about which colleges to pursue admission in. The searchable database of all accredited colleges in the country provides detailed profiles for each of them. The `Know Your College Portal’ was launched on November 11 and has so far received 1.63 lakh hits.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development has also taken an initiative to map the entire country on a GIS [Geographic Information System] platform to identify habitations which still do not have elementary and secondary schools. A total of 28 States and Union Territories have so far provided the necessary data and the National Informatics Centre has mapped them on the platform.
Central Board for Secondary Education [CBSE] has also developed an innovative online self-assessment tool that could be used by schools to look at their performance at an aggregate level as also at the level of each student and compare them with regards to all CBSE schools at various levels. Called ‘`Saransh’’, the tool covers data for 2.02 crore students and 1.5 lakh teachers across 15,000 schools for a period of seven years.
Apart from initiating schemes to make effective use of the latest tools of technology, the new Government has also come out with new schemes and projects to make the education system sensitive to the needs of the differently abled children and also children with special needs.
Among other things, it has launched a scheme called “Saksham’’ under which differently abled students will be provided with a scholarship of upto Rs. 30,000 per year to pursue diploma and undergraduate level courses in technical institutions approved by All India Council for Technical Education. In all, 1,000 such students would be provided the scholarship every year. They would also be provided with an additional sum of Rs.2,000 per month for 10 months as contingency allowance.
Likewise, a handbook has been brought out to guide teachers on how to take care of children with special needs. All primary school teachers across the country are to be given the handbook. The aim is to provide for inclusive classrooms.
The new Government at the Centre has also come out with a special scheme called for Udaan for girl students. It is a mentoring and scholarship scheme to enable meritorious girl students to transit from schools to technical education without much difficulty and also aims to enrich and enhance teaching and learning of mathematics and science at senior secondary school level by providing free online resources for all.
Pre-loaded tablets with text and video material, a helpline to enable the students to clarify doubts, along with 50 mentoring centres across the country which will have virtual classrooms have been made available.
The first batch of 950 students was selected by CBSE in November for the scheme. Of them, 307 girls belonged to families with income of less than Rs. one lakh.
The focus of the project is to address the low enrolment ratio of girl students in prestigious engineering institutions and enable them to receive special incentives and support so that they can join these institutions and go on to take leadership roles in the future.
Another interesting step is the launching of a mission named after freedom fighter and educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya to build a strong professional cadre of teachers by addressing all the issues related to teachers, teaching, teacher preparation, professional development, curriculum design, design and development of more effective pedagogy and better assessment and evaluation methodologies.
The Rs. 900 crore schemes were launched by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on the occasion of the Good Governance Day on December 25. An executive committee chaired by HRD Minister, Smriti Irani and a project approval board chaired by Secretary, Higher Education and co-chaired by Secretary-School Education and Literacy to monitor the mission have been established. As part of the scheme, the first inter-University centre for teacher education has been set up by University Grants Commission at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
The Central Government has also launched a scheme called Unnat Bharat Abhiyan to promote the transfer of technologies from the laboratory to the land. Under the scheme, institutions of higher education would connect with villages in their neighbourhood and address the various problems faced by them. The scheme would particularly focus on offering solutions for water management, organic farming, renewable energy, infrastructure and livelihood. IIT, Delhi is the coordinating institute.About 130 villages have so far been adopted by IITs, NITs and IISERs across the country under the scheme..
Besides a new scheme called `Gian`[Global Initiative for Academic Network] has been launched which will bring world class educators from across the globe to teach in India. Indian American mathematician, Manjul Bhargava, has agreed to spearhead it. Prof. Bhargava is a winner of Fields Medal, which is considered as the highest honour for a mathematician in the world.
`Gian` is aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of Higher Education in India so as to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India’s scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.
Among other things, the Central Government has also launched a scheme called Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan to revive interest in science, mathematics and technology among youth through support for innovative learning based on observations and experimentation. The thrust would be on learning outside the classroom through direct interaction with the environment around the educational institutions.
Further, a campaign called `Pade Bharat, Badhe Bharat’ has been launched to ensure that learning levels of class I and II students in reading, writing language comprehension and numeracy is at par with the world. The campaign will also seek to ensure that every school provides teaching-learning for 200 days in a year, with 800 instructional hours.
With year one taking off on such a sound note the expectation is that more benefits will accrue to the cause of education in the coming years thus taking country at a much faster pace towards the goal of a developed nation.
Sh. P.Sunderarajan is a freelance journalist.