Budget 2018: How Jaitley turned classroom blackboards into 'digital boards'

Every year, there is much anticipation across industry sectors around the announcements of the Union Budget. Everyone wants to know what’s in store for them. However, for the first time in several years, it was heartening to hear Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as he highlighted in the Union Budget for 2018-19 the government’s focus towards improving the quality of education by integrating technology. His emphasis on the need to move away from “blackboards” to “digital boards” signifies the role that technology must play in improving the quality of education.


Unlike previous years, when the government’s push remained on improving the standard of higher education and increasing access to education, this time the government did not differentiate among primary, secondary and higher levels of education but considered a holistic approach towards education. The government did this by leveraging technology to improve the quality of education at the grassroots levels – that is, primary schools – so that the progression of standard of education to the higher levels can be ensured.


With this year’s Budget having a strong emphasis on digitisation, infrastructure development and improving the quality of education, the full educational sphere and the sector itself is poised for a major growth. For a long time, it has been known that technology can revamp the education for better by maximising its reach while making it more affordable. This in context to India holds a lot of potential. Since, due to India’s geographical expanse and socio-economic conditions the average quality education at primary and secondary school levels is dismal. To ensure that one of the world’s largest population gains uniform access to quality education, it becomes pivotal to leverage technology.


There are several education technology companies that have been working in this area of providing hardware and multimedia content to aid teachers and make learning in classrooms fun and interactive. Through interactive mediums such as digital boards, the education can be delivered remotely by one teacher to several classrooms across an area, thus eliminating the need of having a teacher in every classroom. In several private schools this way of education delivery has become a practice, and can be replicated to transform the education in government primary schools, especially in the rural areas as this mode of teaching reduces the dependency on teachers, which remains to be a big challenge in rural India. By way of smart classrooms where traditional blackboards are replaced with digital boards, the government’s initiative to make education at primary level accessible even to far-flung and inaccessible regions can be realized.


The advent of digital technology is also beneficial for the teachers, as it not only aids them in classroom teaching but also gives them an opportunity to develop key skills. Teachers can record their lecture sessions and develop learning materials which could later be shared with the students. Education boards can collaborate with schools and develop training programs that can help teachers enhance the quality of teaching across regions and make learning more engaging for the students. DIKSHA is one such initiative from the government to equip all teachers across the nation with advanced digital technology. It will aid teachers to learn and train themselves for which assessment resources will be available. It will also create training content, profile, in-class resources, assessment aids, news and announcement and connect with teacher community.


The need of the hour is to use technology to address the prevailing gaps in the education system. The government understands the need for quality of education and setting up of higher education finance agency, integrated B.Ed. programme and revitalizing infrastructure and systems' in Education by 2022 with Rs. 1 Lakh crore in next 4 years, steps in right direction. Furthermore, significant budgetary allocation towards improving education infrastructure in the country augurs well for learners.


The author is managing director, Pearson India

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