Lok Sabha TV – Education – Improving Accessibility

Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality. Education is a key to enhance India’s competitiveness in the global economy. India’s tertiary education system is considered one of the largest in the world with over 30 million students. The scope of education needs to be expanded specially at the higher level. Several steps in this direction in last one decade one of them being the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) which was initiated in 2003 by seven IITs in Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati and Madras along with IISc Bangalore under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Under NPTEL, a series of web and video courses are offered to students in various disciplines of engineering, basic sciences, management and humanities. Currently more than 1000 such courses are available on the NPTEL portal for free.

India’s population is expected to cross 1.35 billion by 2020. By then, the average age of an Indian citizen would be around 29 years. The three Ds often talked about are demography, demand and democracy in this regard. Demographically it is an advantage to be a young nation but meeting the demands of the young population is a huge challenge and for democracy to prosper, India needs revolutionary solutions to meet the emerging demands. Therefore, development is required at present. To achieve it, the very basic premise of an educated society has to be fulfilled first. Technology advancement and its rapid infusion over the past few years gives India a real hope. The MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses have the potential to take India from an under educated to a wholly educated society.

Key Challenges and Achievements:

  1. The gross enrollment ratio in higher education in India is only one third of what is found in developed countries. The ways to achieve this are starting large number of institutions but this is not easy because even if institutions are set up, it is not known whether the faculty will be qualified enough or not to guide the students. The other way is to use the online platform where some of the best faculties can address and reach a large number of students in remote and rural areas of the country as well.
  2. SAWYAM builds upon the experience of NPTEL. It is covering a vast number of subjects while NPTEL has focused on engineering. SWAYAM offers transfer of credits which means that if a certain course is taken on it and completed successfully, some credit is earned by the student.
  3. There are universities which have academic councils to officially approve that an online course offered by NPTEL or SWAYAM can be taken for credits by students affiliated to that particular university. If there is such a rule in every university, this might help in greater enrolment of students. Further, it will provide good students of some lesser known university to have access to lectures of some good faculties which otherwise is not possible.
  4. There is also a language barrier present as many students are not comfortable only in english. Therefore, for every course available under SWAYAM or NPTEL can be translated into some of the different languages or there can be subtitles if the main discourse is in english. Quality education in other languages is important.
  5. Placement linkage is an area of concern. It happens in premier institutions in a well coordinated manner. There is a need for synchronization between what is taught and what is required in the market in other institutions as well. In technical education, AICTE is working on modules which will help in improving skill set which is required by the market. All universities have to focus in this area and in other streams also.
  6. The work done so far has been good but there is a need for NPTEL or SWAYAM to have greater coordination with local colleges so that the content created is accessible much easily to the students because it often happens that internet connectivity in small towns and cities is not that good.
  7. In online education, a learner who is being addressed is not known therefore, clearing doubts is not easy. It is not known whether the student is receiving what is being delivered or not.

Conclusion:

These lectures are being delivered to the country so they need to have certain quality standards. Many local universities think that online education is like distant education which is not the case. It is a source of direct learning as rich and effective as classroom learning. There might be operational challenges in accomplishing the dream of education accessibility for all but with better co-ordination among Government, premier institutions and local colleges, it can be achieved.

 

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