EU budget: towards the digital transformation of learning

The Budget must offer avenues for creating partnerships to bring digital technologies to remote classrooms

By Vineet Nayar

The Union’s FY23 budget would be the third presented in the shadow of the ongoing pandemic. Embracing what was called the “new normal” in the first phase has now created a new, altered reality. Education has undergone drastic changes and lockdowns have boosted the adoption of digital technologies. Classrooms needed to embrace digital technologies, but many were lagging behind due to several factors. Even though the government launched DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing) in 2017, many classrooms have continued to struggle with the adoption of digital technologies. Interventions such as foundational literacy and numeracy programs and digital assistants like Sampark Didi created by the Sampark Foundation attempt to bridge this gap.

Previously, universities were not allowed to offer more than 20% of course modules online, but the pandemic has led to all education being delivered online. It is estimated that with the proliferation of smartphones in India, the internet penetration rate is expected to cross 55% by the end of 2025. While last year’s budget focused on world-class institutions, the program and self-governing organizations, the focus of this budget should be on digitizing learning and classrooms. The National Education Policy 2020 recommends that public investment in education be increased to 6% of GDP.

The edtech industry has been at the forefront of major changes in this area. Even though many Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities remain underutilized when it comes to the reach of online education, many aspirants are tapping into these resources for a wide range of activities from competitive exam prep to online education. improvement of skills. Given the government’s focus on Skill India and Make in India, it would be ideal to consider tax rationalization on edtech offerings to make them more accessible. Several industries and their workforces have shrunk following the financial losses triggered by the pandemic. As a result, the market is full of underutilized and underqualified talent, many of whom are looking at other ways to earn a living through entrepreneurship or upgrading their existing skills, both of which are in demand through online platforms. Currently, courses offered through these platforms fall under the 18% GST. Reducing this rate could provide significant relief to consumers and help deepen digital engagement between users and a future-ready product.

The other part of digitization would be to create smart classrooms in rural areas. In 2021-22, the highest allocation of the education budget, 2.2%, was for the Ministry of School Education and Literacy. Based on this initiative, this budget must offer avenues for creating partnerships to bring digital technologies to remote classrooms. These could include, but are not limited to, digital whiteboards, voice assistants, gaming content, and virtual reality tools. NITI Aayog is working on partnerships in this regard, but this momentum to bring technology into classrooms must not slow down. Several civil society organizations are working to create classroom-specific interventions that have proven effective. These interventions need to be identified, scaled up and replicated in all schools to address learning gaps. While students in urban areas have had access to both physical infrastructure and internet facilities, several reports have suggested that their counterparts in rural areas do not share the same privileges, leading many students to drop out of the education system. . This danger of school dropout due to the lack of technological infrastructure must be mitigated.

The final component of a successful digitization of the learning process is teacher training. In last year’s budget, Rs 250 crore was allocated for teacher training and adult education. An increase in this allowance is necessary. Teachers need to be equipped with hands-on practices and lessons on combining pedagogy with technology. The government’s eVidya program is a step in that direction, but today’s rapid pace of technological change demands that all employees not only be tech-savvy, but also quick learners. This also applies to teachers.

In the words of Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

The author is former Vice President and CEO, HCL Technologies, and Founding Chairman, Sampark Foundation

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