One TV channel per class announced to complement digital education

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the last tranche of her Covid-19 relief measures| Photo: PIB
The industry and academia have welcomed the one TV channel per class in school education announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday as part of her fifth tranche of the economic stimulus though most of the other steps announced in education find their roots in previous measures taken.

The finance minister announced Pradhan Mantri eVIDYA, a programme for multi-mode access to digital/online education to be launched immediately and comprising digital content and QR coded textbooks for all grades under the DIKSHA programme for school education and earmarking one TV channel for each class from 1 to 12. Apart from this, extensive use of radio, community radio and podcasts along with special e-content for visually and hearing impaired students would be made.

At a time when a large part of the population still does not have Internet access, especially in smaller towns and rural areas, education through TV will help boost school education from class 1 to 12, said Rukmini Banerji, chief executive officer of Pratham.

Edtech firms like Toppr are also willing to join the bandwagon by assisting the government in education through digital and TV medium.

"Announcement on introducing TV channels that will stream classes is a good initiative, however, implementation could be challenging and we are excited to see how it unfolds. We will be happy to assist in anyway we can.  Our video lectures are free for all students of classes 5-12 across 20 boards including CBSE, ICSE and major state boards. We are excited to see more students learn and grow," said Zishaan Hayath, CEO and Co-Founder, Toppr.

"The push from the government to online education will further drive everyone to get accustomed to e-learning and with SWAYAM PRABHA DTH, within a short period of time, everyone across the country will seamlessly have access to all educational content," said Mayank Kumar, co-founder and MD, upGrad.

Union minister for Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for launching the comprehensive e-learning platform PM eVIDYA in his tweet on Sunday. "I am sure that this measure will bring a new revolution in the education sector and will help quality education to reach the farthest corners of India," Pokhriyal tweeted, while adding that the platform unifies all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education to enable multi-mode access to education benefiting 330 million students.

However, other announcements like New National Curriculum and Pedagogical framework for school, early childhood and teachers as well as National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission for ensuring that every child attains learning levels and outcomes in grade 5 by 2025 to be launched by December 2020 are part of the current draft National Education Policy (NEP) that awaits promulgation.

"There is a big focus in the first few chapters of the draft NEP on early childhood and learning levels and outcomes. Our research shows that 50 per cent students in grade five do not have foundational skills. Hence, it is a good thing that the government has announced them as a mission to be launched by December 2020. Learning levels are far from satisfactory in India and it must be made a high priority," Banerji added.

While Sitharaman also announced that top 100 universities would be permitted to automatically start online courses by May 30, 2020, varsities are waiting for more clarity on the same.

For instance, according to a senior faculty member and office bearer in Delhi University, the finance minister's announcement on online courses could be on the similar lines of a recent All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). "There is a proposal going on in DU at the UG level where same courses are being offered by number of colleges now online. AICTE has also said that certain credits can be earned through MOOCs. While UGC has not come up with such a proposal for universities and colleges, online courses may now be part of their syllabi after today's announcement," the faculty member added.

However, according to Ashok Varma, Social Sector Leader, PwC India, the decision to allow top 100 NIRF ranked institutions to offer online courses was part of the budget though accelerating the implementation by allowing them by May end is a welcome move.

"In a year where there in uncertainty on admissions and academic calendar, a number of students would benefit from this. Further, the number of students pursuing studies outside India would come down which in turn would increase the completion to get into good higher education institutions within India. The option of pursuing online studies from highly ranked institutions is expected to provide some relief to such students," said Varma.

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