Connecting rural India to global opportunities with a hundred thousand learning hubs

September 6th, 2014


Centre for Public Policy, New Delhi

PM Modi’s far-sighted moves giving an elevating jerk to the economy, with realizing the dream of a vibrant technological India, PM evokes for a ‘Digital tomorrow’.

India is eagerly waiting to embrace the digital world and trying to make versions of their own holdings without realizing the fact that bringing digital revolution to 65% to 70% people, who are residing in technology deficient rural India is one of the most difficult challenges to combat with. It’s time to bring the much needed transformation in the education sector as the field is mired in tradition, ideology and interests. The present and the traditional form of learning imparted to youth in rural India needs to be addressed with newer mode of learning so that they can learn at their own pace both within and outside the classroom.

India has over 400 million school and college-age citizens, which is more than any other country in the world yet access to quality education remains an unattained dream for them. Segregating it by states, the situation is much worse than what the national average indicates. Hence, major work needs to be done in the remotest villages, which lacks digital infrastructure in terms of connectivity, availability of internet, learning centres et al. In the recent budget 100 crore has been allocated for developing digital classroom across various parts of the country, which seems insufficient to make any impact as this can only install a few thousand classrooms.
Digitalization can play a fundamental role in expanding the scope of education all over India especially among the rural youth and economically weaker section of society if government can impart sound technical knowledge and make them compatible with Wi-Fi and VOIP, high-speed internet facility and smart classroom. In order to ensure this Learning Hubs can be a significant medium. Of course, there are obstacles.
If state governments, NGOs and private organisations can work in collaboration, digital classrooms can become affordable.
Modi’s dream of digital education can act as a major trigger to overcome the challenges such as lack of textbooks, poor infrastructure and poor transportation facilities. The Government needs to be more proactive in furthering this agenda and to avail quality education in the rural terrain as well. In one such initiative Modi has talked about Indian MOOC. MOOC is an online course that aims at providing large-scale interactive participation and open access to learning material such as videos, readings, and problem sets via web, in addition to traditional course material. This helps to build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants. Modi ji has plans to launch an India-focused MOOC platform ‘Swayam’ that will to go live on 25th September. Under this program, aspirants can opt for three different courses-two from IIT Bombay and one from UC Berkeley’s Umesh Vazarani’s. The courses offered in this online platform are presently available on edX, an MIT and Harvard. Swayam platform can have a potential impact towards digitalizing the education for over a one billion population.
Our tech-savvy PM choose to build a close connection with the school children on “Teachers Day” via live streaming on the web and answering the questions from some students through video-conferencing and many more will link in via satellite. Such innovative models can push India towards the path of digitalization and technology and nurture the young minds with the true sense of democracy.
Centre for public policy suggests that to facilitate the technology for a common man learning hubs can prove to be the major game-changer. For that a good amount needs to be invested by the central and state government towards fulfilling the dream of setting-up One Lakh Learning Hubs, equipped with all modern amenities in every village so that students do not have to travel to neighbouring villages. These hubs can train the youth how to make use of various services available on laptops and smart phones using internet facility.
CPP suggests that for achieving the target of educating and training 500 million students in rural India around one lakh learning hubs needs to be installed, wherein each hub should educate minimum of 5000 students. For such a significant reform, intervention of government is required in each stage, ensuring the better use of the existing expenditure. Online learning can be one of the growing ways to learn entirely new skills and can be used as an effective medium where drop out rate is high.
With exposure to modern technology, even students in rural areas can engage in better conceptual understanding and can also be trained on a global level. Technology will pave the way to open up closed linear thinkers and if we keep on experimenting, we may face success or failure but it will bring us closer to fulfil the promises of the electronic environment.
CPP is a think tank, based in Delhi committed to dialogue and discussion on a wide array of issues like better governance, equity and inclusiveness, harmony in society, education et al…

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