We spoke to Siddharth Chaturvedi, Director, AISECT, about the various challenges in providing ICT-based education to the Indian masses and how latest technology trends can shape education in future
In a developing country like India, lack of technology, internet access, and qualified trainers act as the biggest challenges in providing ICT-based educational services to the masses, especially to the rural masses. According to the latest report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) released in February this year, mobile internet penetration stood at 23 per cent in the country, with only 9 percent of rural people having access to the technology. The data clearly indicates the slow rate of internet penetration in the country, especially in the remote corners of India. Adding to this, shortage of technical equipment and eligible teachers capable of imparting ICT-related content adds to the problem. “However, with 2010-2020 declared as the ‘Decade of Innovations’ by the Government of India 6 years back and the initiatives like digital literacy going on full pace by the Modi-led NDA Government, I believe in the coming few years, the scenario of e-learning will take a complete 360 degree turn in the country, especially in remote areas,” said Siddharth Chaturvedi, Director, AISECT. “Availability of quality content in regional languages also acts as a barrier for delivering ICT-based education in rural areas,” he added.
Gearing the Barriers
According to Chaturvedi, the present government needs to conduct Training of Trainers (ToT) for generating resourceful personnel to undertake various initiatives at K-12 to higher level education. For tackling the content problem for schools, Advantage PRO Interactive Multimedia Content was launched by AISECT with an objective to provide low-cost and high-quality e-learning modules and solutions to the K-12 students in the semi-urban and rural schools.
“In higher education space, our higher education institutions like the AISECT University (AU), Dr. C.V. Raman University (CVRU) and SCOPE Group of Institutes have been offering digital learning solutions to the students,” said Srivastava. “With advanced laboratories, modern equipment, lecture halls equipped with video conferencing, digital classrooms and a complete digitized library service equipped with the DELNET software, we offer a technologically advanced learning environment to our students,” he added. AISECT has also launched its MOOC platform in association with ALLISON, aisectmoocs.com, which offers many e-learning courses in schools, skills and higher education segments, free of cost to learners.
Implementing ICT to Empower Youth and Employment
ICT has played a pivotal role towards empowering and generating employment for the youth. “We have initiated a portal named ‘aisectonline.com’ which empowers the students at the grassroots level by enabling them to have access to education anywhere and anytime i.e. as per their convenience,” remarks Srivastava. Dr. C V Raman University is India’s first University to have a Community Radio Station in its campus to connect with learners in its periphery. Also, working towards creating employment opportunities for the skilled workforce, ‘rojgarmantra.com,’ a rural job portal which is today considered as the country’s biggest rural job placement initiative, was launched by the government a couple of years ago. The portal acts as a mediator between the 4 lakh job seekers registered with Rojgar Mantra and private & public sector enterprises working at the bottom of the pyramid.
How AISECT helps in promoting rural education
They have pioneered the ‘Multipurpose IT Centre’ Model in India. It is a self-sustainable, demand-led and flexible model that addresses the multifaceted education & ICT services requirements of rural India. This model is based on the simple and proven premise that just one business stream is not sufficient to sustain an entrepreneur in rural areas and the ICT infrastructure should be suitably leveraged to mount multiple services using the same infrastructure. AISECT have used ICT in providing basic computer education and skills training to the students of semi-urban and rural India. Various products and services, including skill development programs, placement assistance, banking facilities, mobile recharge, internet access and G2C services, were also mounted over the years to the AISECT Centre’s offerings. To ensure sustainability and scalability, an entrepreneurial network was set up involving a host of individual entrepreneurs across the country.
“With Indian students forming the second largest pool of students opting for the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) along with the initiatives proposed by the government in the Union Budget 2016-17 towards uplifting digital literacy in India, I feel MOOCs are trending today in the education sector,” opines Srivastava. AISECT, has also pioneered the ‘Multipurpose Centre’ Model wherein the existing infrastructure of an Education & Training Centre is utilized to offer various services including skill development, capacity building, information window, banking and insurance services, maintenance and repair, sale of allied products and services such as recharges, ticketing, financial services, educational services etc.
Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has Digitalized Education
“We have so far trained over 20 lakh people over last 15 years, through our widespread network of Skilling and Education Centres which are spread across 388 districts, 1070 blocks and 6000 panchayats in 29 States and 3 Union Territories,” said Srivastava. They have also formed eleven major academies under their partnership with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) in order to train over 13 lakh people within 10 years. We have implemented various skill building training programme across the country. Most of these initiatives were for beneficiaries belonging to weaker and underprivileged sections of the society like SC/ST, OBC, Women, minorities, BPL, Scavengers etc. These training have been supported by the various Ministries of Govt. of India and the State Govt. Departments. AISECT is Empanelment with State Skill Development Missions in new project states like UPSDM, GLPC, HRSRLM, RSLDC, OLM along with MPSRLM. DDUGKY/Aajeevika Skills Projects of MoRD, GoI have been initiated in multiple states like Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, and UP. About 60% of the students trained so far have secured gainful employment. Moreover, about 45 lakh people in semi-urban and rural India have been impacted through the various skilling, vocational training, financial inclusion, e-governance and other developmental initiatives of the organization.
Roadmap for future
The future roadmap of ICT-based education depends on a speed of broadband penetration, availability of web-enabled and mobile compatible learning content and maturity of consumers in accepting the digital format of education. As far as former is concerned, the Government seems to be moving speedily enough in creating the requisite infrastructure as soon as possible, whereas for the latter, the consumers in urban areas have already undergone the initial phase of exposure to digital format of education and are now wiser to choose the right content to supplement the offline classroom based teaching learning. The big opportunity lies in rural areas wherein the digital format can bring in big gains. On the other hand, one major outcome of digital education would be increased collaboration between learners in all segments. Self-paced and on-demand learning would also gain further momentum in future.