Authored by Mr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ ( Human resource development minister, Government of India )
The spread of COVID -19 has called for global cooperation among government, health care professionals, researchers, business houses, civil societies and most importantly, citizens across the globe. In this stride, we must acknowledge the hard work of health care workers, biomedical researchers, front line workers who are working day and night to contain the spread of the virus and to safeguard us. The Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th March 2020 had declared a three-week nationwide lockdown, seeing lockdown as the only ray of hope at present to combat Covid-19. He affirmed that social distancing at the time of lockdown will help India to break the cycle of infection. At this critical stage, I request every citizen of India to abide by the 21 days of lockdown.
More than 35 crore students and 1.08 crore teachers across 15 lakh schools, 1028 universities, 41,901 colleges and 10, 726 stand-alone institutes are unable to attend the classes due to nationwide closure of the education institutes as India prepares to fight against the pandemic. But, mind you, my dear students, the pandemic is no reason to not learn. We have to trust in education’s power to transform; the zeal to learn cannot be bounded by the presence of four walls of the classroom. Ministry of Human Resource Development strongly affirms that in the era of Digital India, a pandemic is not an excuse to stop continuous leaning. The response to this pandemic is while maintaining the social distancing, one adapts to e-learning.
To battle with COVID -19, teachers across India are making a transition to virtual classrooms. They are working day and night to develop content to transact it to their fellow students. To support the teachers and accelerate the process of learning, the Ministry of Human Resource Development provides a plethora of educational applications and platforms at both school and higher education level. The platforms make available with engaging content for the students, teachers, and parents to facilitate the process of learning at the times of social distancing and school closure. There has been triple traffic on the SWAYAM platform within a week of lockdown. SWAYAM facilitates hosting of all the courses, taught in classrooms from Class 9 till post-graduation to be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time.
The country is witnessing a greater acceptance of online education as a large number of students and working professionals are joining e-learning platforms to enhance their skills. The National Mission on Education Project ICT SWAYAM PRABHA with its 32 DTH channels covers new content every day for at least (4) hours which gets repeated 5 more times in a day, allowing the students to choose the time of their convenience. The DTH Channels provides curriculum-based course contents at a post-graduate and under-graduate level covering diverse disciplines such as arts, science, commerce, performing arts, social sciences, and humanities, engineering, technology, law, medicine, agriculture, etc. For school education, it provides content for classes 9-12 and modules for teacher’s training as well. It also assists students (class 11th & 12th) to prepare for competitive exams. For supporting life – long learning, the channels run curriculum-based courses that can meet the needs of Indian citizens in India and abroad.
To realize the goals of Digital India in the school education and teacher education sector, The National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) an initiative of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and CIET-NCERT brings together all digital and digitizable resources across all stages of school education and teacher education. It has the power to reach out and connect all members of the school community through a variety of events and interactions, presently it has 17,656 e-resources and 460 discussion points. The repository also provides a platform for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and online forums for different stakeholders.
Another platform, NISHTHA app provides a platform for integrated capacity building of teachers, the teachers are trained on learning outcomes, school-based assessment, learner-centred pedagogy, new initiatives in education, addressing diverse needs of children through multiple pedagogies, etc. With an impeccable consumption pattern, DIKSHA (National Teachers Platform for India), the DIKSHA platform offers teachers, students and parents engaging learning material relevant to the prescribed school curriculum. To continue learning at the time of lockdown, teachers and parents can access the app for aids like lesson plans, worksheets, and activities while students can use it to understand concepts, revise lessons and do practice exercises. Sharing of best practices and experiences amongst the teacher community through case studies, research papers and innovative pedagogical practices through DIKSHA is highly encouraged. Further, E – pathshala app has been developed for showcasing and disseminating all educational e-resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals, and a variety of other digital resources. Teachers, Educators, and Parents can access eBooks through multiple technology platforms that are mobile phones and tablets (as epub) and from the web portal through laptops and desktops (as Flipbook).
Since the pandemic has derailed the classroom process, I would encourage all the students to continue learning using the e-resources. E-Learning surely provides wider opportunities for enhanced learning, flexibility of learning at your convenience, uniform quality content delivery, re-usability of the content, less paper for hand-outs and books, saves time by enabling quick access to information and the ease of research across subjects. Though the teachers and students are putting in remarkable efforts to make sure that the learning does not stop. The future of e – learning in India has to be rethought to make it more immersive and hopefully more constructive to the teacher and student community than it is today. The school and higher education institutes should become strategic competitive to foster constant innovation and become more resilient. Thus, as much as we brace to face the worst, we must encourage global efforts to promote digital education and nurture the capability of turning this crisis into an opportunity.