“The future of India lies in its villages.”
Asserted by Father of nation at the dawn of democracy and independence in India, this statement calls for validation in the rise of New Normal.
With the countrywide restrictions imposed on mobility and sociability, the teaching learning process has been instantly propelled on to virtual platform- prepared, unprepared or partially prepared- making internet and connectivity the most inalienable right.
While access to computers and smart phones has become the new essential, access to seamless internet connectivity has still not been guaranteed. City schools have managed to paddle along online modem to keep literacy and numeracy quotient minimally affected. However, the digital divide has brought the curtains down from pre-existing economic, educational and social inequalities between urban and rural set up and the need of last-mile connectivity and a digital crisis response plan in rural India, which is still struggling with 2G speed.
The evident crunch of digital infrastructure, digital content, patchy connectivity and unskilled faculty has irrevocably impacted around 44 percent officially recognized as backward out of the 731 districts of India, resulting in information poverty. However, this digital shift, despite being detrimental to education sector, has also given a paradigm facelift to teaching tools and outlook.
Instantly, the need has been generated for contextually relevant digital education that integrates application part into all aspects of education and life. The pandemic has acted like an agent of awareness.
COVID-19 has thrown flood lights on how policies, crises and emergency response should have a digital inclusion plank to mitigate the fallouts.
Fortunately, the states had been making discernible efforts for a couple of years, to transform their education system with a consortium of partners. Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and MHRD have shifted gears to set up a digitally integrated ecosystem in rural areas with community wireless networks and information resource centre, open a new arena to put customized content through online modes. Dedicated efforts of DIKSHA portal and NITI Aayog, are reaching out to the teaching quality and foundational skills of around 2,08,000 government schools via tech based academic monitoring and lessons in multiple languages. Even the efficacy of existing digitally well-equipped schools wherein IT was being viewed as a subsidiary subject taught once or twice a week, is re-visited.
In a nutshell, an unprecedented tornado of learning has risen over in just a span of 3 months. Future road is being laid- to reach out to students, irrespective of lockdown, curfew or calamity- not just as a learning platform but also for information-sharing.
The world has, once forever understood the need to enable students with skills they will need in order to navigate an unpredictable future: 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The journey that started like an uphill task has undoubtedly started showing up the green pastures, in a close reach.
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