Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed education reforms in the Union Budget 2022, with a focus on skill development, the establishment of a Digital University, and the universalization of quality education. In addition, the PM eVidya Program was implemented in order to lead to a more Atmanirbhar Bharat.
The government has prioritised the problems faced by the children due to prolonged covid lockdown. The development of high quality e-content in all languages which will be imparted digitally through mobile phones, TV and radio by digital teachers. However, many parents have raised questions on this teaching format. The understanding of concepts in this model will be difficult for the children and have criticised the online format of teaching.
Consequently, several ed-tech companies are attempting to persuade the parents, especially ‘vulnerable families’ by providing free services in disguise of mandating Electronic Fund Transfer or Auto-debit feature, as per the Department of School Education and Literacy. Education experts such as Shweta Singh, E-Vidya teacher, Niru Aggarwal, trustee of Greenwood High International School have stated that this “digital format is innovative and is necessary to train and build skills in children to make them employable in the future”.
Recognising the need of the children especially in the rural areas, the government has implemented the initiative of One Class One Channel under PM eVIDYA programme providing impetus to provide supplementary education. Under this scheme, education will be imparted on about 20 to 200 regional channels from class 1st to 12th.
“Thanks to the FM for recognising loss from 2 years of school closure but really one class, one TV, e-content is not the answer. Opening schools is the end. Are we so blind to realities on the ground?” Yamini Aiyar, policy reacher commented. Several Children are also sceptical about pursuing one-way education on television.
Encouraged by the idea of digital teachers available in every spoken language to educate the children, it has facilitated the creation of a new generation of workforce equipped with rendering services on digital platforms. The government has also proposed world-class universities to offer technical courses without any Indian regulations in financial management, financial technology, science, and technology. This brings forward a ‘digitally empowered society’. It is also argued that this education model will prove to be a monetarily cheaper model for the economically weaker sections of the society and therefore will be encouraged to educate their children.
With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there is a pressing need for a digital platform for imparting education by building a Digital University which will “provide access to students across the country for world-class quality universal education with personalised learning experience at the doorsteps”. In a Hub and Spoke model, public universities and academic institutions will be brought together in this network.
“A central digital university has potential to help bridge not just a digital divide but a learning divide by creating access with a wide mix of courses, faculty, and digital learning tools through virtual learning environments”, stated Charu Malhotra, MD and Co-founder, Primus Partners.
Aided by standard access, their aim also to universalise the quality of education. In 2022-2023, e-labs will be created to facilitate learning in a simulated environment. About 75 skilling labs and 750 virtual labs in science and maths. Apart from installing e-labs, the government has also planned to work towards improving the skills in the existing workforce of the country. It is decided that the Industrial Training Institutes in India shall start giving skilling courses. While Rs 250 crores each will be invested in the five institutions of Urban Planning known as Centre for Excellence.
The DESH-Stack e-portal has also been launched to facilitate the students and industry professionals to learn e-skills through on-line training. “Skill-based education requires heavy investment and higher budget allocation.” said the CEO High School Moms and INACE, Abhishek Gupta. Owing to which the budgetary allocation in the education sector has increased by 11.86 percent which is Rs 11,053.41 crore higher than the FY 2021-22.
The development of the education sector has been prioritised by giving it an online approach to make it more inclusive and adaptable. However, it is important to ensure that these reforms and initiatives have a long-term impact and are able to bridge the loss of the students effectively.