The Digital India push for education

#Education_in_INDIA #DigitalIndia

Digital India is a promising opportunity to use technology to revitalise our education system and address the huge learning crisis that our country faces. Although technology, on its own, is not a silver bullet solution to India’s education challenges, evidence from international examples points to the possibility of a positive impact. Innovative technologies today are creating new forms of adaptive and peer learning, increasing access to trainers and mentors, and providing useful data in real-time. Digital India, implemented with vision and commitment, can catalyse such initiatives by creating an enabling environment across the country.

According to the World Bank, in 2010-14, only 15% Indians had access to internet. Under the ICT@Schools scheme, the government has spent a total of R2,585 crore since 2004 to install infrastructure in schools. Yet, by 2013-14, only 60% secondary schools were equipped with computers. Programmes such as this have failed, often due to the lack of a comprehensive vision that links the use of technology for improving student learning, building teacher capacity or providing better governance.

For Digital India to succeed in impacting education, it needs a coordinated and targeted approach to integrate technology into our vast and complex school system. A comprehensive vision to achieve integrated use of technology in education must be built on the following pillars.

Instructional tools for individualised student learning: We see significant investment in the production of e-content such as digitised textbooks, animations and videos. But much of this is merely duplicating rote-learning methods and lacks strong pedagogical principles. Technology can create individual learning paths for children, make learning interactive and fun through gamification and can provide them numerous practice opportunities.

Personalised digital learning platforms such as Khan Academy allow students to learn and master skills at their own pace. Using these products can help students to receive instant feedback as their performance data are captured continuously. Khan Academy already receives the third-highest number of users in the world from India, indicating latent demand for such content. In India, platforms such as Mindspark are providing digital learning tools for children.

We need to build learning tools to address the diversity of languages and state curricula. Such content could either be developed locally or high quality global content could be localised. The government launched the National Repository of Open Educational Resources in 2013 to build a repository of high quality content in local languages. But greater efforts are needed to make such resources available across platforms, adopt a nationwide, open licensing policy for content creation, and train teachers to use them. Central Square Foundation is working with Khan Academy to develop the Khan Academy-Hindi platform, which will have maths video tutorials and practice exercises, mapped to NCERT curriculum, in Hindi for students in classes 5 to 8.

Tech-integrated programmes for competency-linked teacher training: We face a huge challenge of teachers lacking adequate training. While those in government schools have access to professional development and academic support, only 31.5% of them actually received in-service training in 2013-14. Teachers in private schools, who now educate 43% of our students, lack access to training, with training for teachers in low-fee schools being minimal.

Technology allows for reinventing models of teacher education by creating competency-linked training programmes, and enables teachers to connect with peers, and receive coaching from experts remotely.

Although teachers receive minimal training in the use of technology in BEd and DEd, there are signs of technology adoption. Government teachers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttarakhand are using WhatsApp groups to exchange knowledge and ideas with each other. The Karnataka Open Educational Resources platform is enabling teachers to create digital content. There are two specific models by which professional development capacity can increase.

l Blended courses where teachers learn on an online program in addition to working offline with a coach. Content on the online program includes reading, videos and formative assessments. For example, QUEST, an NGO in rural Thane, Maharashtra, hosts an online course for mathematics teaching that includes instructional videos, online coaching and peer support.

l Platform for accessing repository of digital resources such as videos demonstrating best practices in pedagogy. Such platforms powered by facilitated discussion forums enable teachers to learn from each other.

Data collection and analytics for strong governance: Despite the significant quantity of school-related data collected by the state and central governments, it is largely inaccessible to the end-user since it is disaggregated, not yet digitised, and only available after a considerable time lag. With the help of robust Management Information Systems, schools can record, maintain, track and analyse student-level performance data and use it for school-wide goals as well as teacher- or classroom-specific goals. Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Odisha have taken steps to implement such solutions.

As we design specific schemes, we must ensure that the education ecosystem is supportive of these initiatives. Beginning with the design phase through implementation support and monitoring, there must be adequate investment to ensure the success of these programmes.

In the design phase, educators and edtech solution providers should be consulted and their feedback must inform how technology can effectively be integrated into education.

In implementation phase, we must ensure high-speed internet access in schools, and appropriate technology hardware and content for children. Smartphone usage in India grew 55% in 2014, and as its adoption continues to rise, there is an opportunity to create low-cost models that can provide learning opportunities outside the classroom. In addition, we have to invest in training for teachers and school leaders in the effective use of technology.

The government can establish an autonomous agency, similar to the National Skill Development Corporation, to encourage innovation and develop the ecosystem for digital learning solutions. This autonomous agency can be staffed with talent from the private sector and must fund and leverage private operators to create these platforms.

Finally, as education technology is a nascent area, we need to track it closely to understand its efficacy. We have to measure the success of ICT in schools and facilitate the scaling up of innovations that have a demonstrated impact on student learning.

Digital India is a huge opportunity for us as the government pushes for the use of technology. Let us not duplicate the mistakes of the past by assuming that providing hardware and connectivity to schools will result in the uptake of technology. Instead, let us approach the opportunity with a vision and commitment to adopting a comprehensive approach to using technology to improve the education of our children.

Ashish Dhawan is founder & CEO and Namita Dalmia is associate director-EdTech, Central Square Foundation




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The ‘real’ cost of education in India’s Govt schools

The researchers estimate that the “accounting cost” per student in a government school in the median state in 2011/12 was Rs 14,615, while the median child in a private school cost Rs 5,961.


The research combines newly created data on per-student government expenditure on children in government elementary schools across India, data on per-student expenditure by households on students attending private elementary schools, and the ASER measure of learning achievement of students in rural areas.

According to the study authors, the combination of these three sources allows them to compare the “accounting cost” difference of public and private schools, as also the “economic cost” — what it would take public schools, at their existing efficacy in producing learning, to achieve the learning results of the private sector.

The researchers estimate that the “accounting cost” per student in a government school in the median state in 2011/12 was Rs 14,615, while the median child in a private school cost Rs 5,961. Thus, according to the results of the study, in the typical Indian state, educating a student in a government school costs more than twice as much as in a private school -— a gap of Rs 7,906.

Just these accounting cost gaps, aggregated state by state, suggests an annual excess of public over private cost of children enrolled in government schools of Rs 50,000 crore — or 0.6 per cent of GDP. But even that staggering estimate does not account for the observed learning differentials between public and private. The researchers produce a measure of inefficiency that combines both the excess accounting cost and a money metric estimate of the cost of the inefficacy of lower learning achievement. This measure is the cost at which government schools would be predicted to reach the learning levels of the private sector. Combining the calculations of accounting cost differentials plus the cost of reaching the higher levels of learning observed in the private sector state by state (as both accounting cost differences and learning differences vary widely across states) implies that the excess cost of achieving the existing private learning levels at public sector costs is Rs 2,32,000 crore (2.78 per cent of GDP).






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The cost of getting a (decent) education in India is skyrocketing

Millions of Indian parents are, quite literally, paying the price for the country’s abysmal education system.

Between 2008 and 2014, the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reported (pdf) last week, the average annual private expenditure for general education (primary level to post graduation and above) has shot up by a staggering 175% to Rs6,788 per student.

During the same period, the annual cost of professional and technical education has increased by 96% to Rs62,841 per student.

And here’s exactly what the 65,926 Indian households—both urban and rural—that the NSSO surveyed in early 2014 are spending this money on.

Private coaching accounted for 15% of the average total expenditure on general education. As many as 25% of students across the country were reported to be taking private tuition classes, suggesting how pervasive the industry has become.

But given the sorry state of India’s education system, this is no surprise. According to the latest Annual Status of Education report, which assesses government schools in the country, nearly 20% of students surveyed from Class 2 didn’t recognise the numbers between one and nine, and only 25% of students in Class 3 could do subtraction.

Part of this learning problem has to do with the state of teachers in the country. Last month, for instance, 220 English teachers in Punjab demonstrated their own ineptitude in the English language when asked to provide written replies to explain their students’ poor performance. The alarming mistakes ranged from incorrect tenses to spelling disasters, such as “leak” instead of “lack” and “vacent” instead of “vacant.”

With public spending on education stuck at the woefully low level of just 3.9% of government expenditure, Indian parents are being forced to burn an increasingly large hole through their pockets to ensure that their children can get a decent education.

In Delhi alone, the average expenditure on general education has grown three times since 2008. This starts right from the nursery level, with parents spending more money on donations and fees than the cost of degrees at Delhi University and even some management institutes.

Here are the five costliest states for general education in India:

The NSSO survey also reported that the cost of technical education has jumped significantly, particularly in states such as Kerala, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.

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India made ‘impressive progress’ in providing primary education: UN Report

India has made “impressive” progress in providing primary education to its children but it is still struggling to achieve similar results in lower secondary education and has the largest number of out-of-school adolescents, a UN study said today.

According to the study by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFR GMR), 124 million children and adolescents are now out of school while international aid to education continues to remain below 2010 levels.

“India has made impressive progress in the provision of primary education but is struggling to do the same for lower
secondary education,” the report said.

In 2011, the latest year with data, more than 16 million young adolescents of lower secondary school age were not enrolled in school in India. In addition, Bangladesh, Mexico, Indonesia, Niger, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic each had more than 1 million out-of-school adolescents. The report noted that India is providing financial resources to help children with disabilities attend mainstream schools and adapt school infrastructure. In addition, teachers are being trained on inclusive education, with resource centres established to support clusters of schools. India, which has the largest number of out-of-school adolescents, has seen a reorientation of external support from basic to secondary education between 2012 and 2013: aid to basic education in India fell from USD 100 million to USD 27 million and aid to secondary education rose from USD 21 million to USD 232 million between 2012 and 2013. According to the latest UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, there were more than 0.5 million out-of-school children of primary school age in at least 19 countries. At least one million children were denied the right to education in India, Indonesia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania. India had 1.7 million out of school children of primary school age in 2012. The latest numbers show that some 24 million children will never enter a classroom with girls remaining the most disadvantaged cohort figuring in the study. In South and West Asia alone, 80 per cent of out-of-school girls are unlikely to start school compared to just 16 per cent for their male counterparts. UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova pointed to warnings that unless countries “make serious commitments” towards increasing education aid, the ambitious targets made by the international community promising 12 years of free and equitable access to quality education “could remain elusive for millions of children and youth.” Despite a six per cent increase in aid to education, investment levels are four per cent lower today than in 2010 and risk stagnating for the next few years. “Aid needs to be shooting upwards, not creeping up by a few percentage points,” declared Aaron Benavot, Director of the EFA GMR. Estimates suggest that it will cost an extra USD 39 billion to provide the 12 years of education to everyone in low and lower-middle income countries.


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The state of higher education in India

When Smriti Irani was chosen to be India’s Minister for Human Resources Development in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, sceptics immediately pounced on her lack of formal education. Many felt otherwise, for she is feisty, energetic and articulate and these qualities, it was felt, would more than make up for her dubious academic qualifications. Has she shattered these high expectations? Are her oratorical skills being fritted away? Combativeness is a strength but not always. She should get off the back of centres of higher learning like the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) and other schools of excellence. And what indeed is the state of higher education in India?

The Congress party’s Mani Shankar Aiyar and the historian Ramachandra Guha have written extensively on Irani’s failings and the trend seen since her appointment of creeping ‘saffronisation’ of education. Many readers may contest the use of the expression ‘saffronisation’ in this context, for it means different things to different people and to some it might seem as an attempt to devalue, deride and mock the glory of ancient India. The study of Sanskrit at the expense of German made headlines recently and Irani’s combativeness was put to good use, as there are scholarly essays that argue that learning Sanskrit can be of great value in computer programming and coding. Ancient India has much to teach modern India and Shashi Tharoor wrote an excellent article extolling the virtues of ancient India but stressing the need for a healthy dose of scientific temper while reading these scripts from antiquity. Sadly it is this recent obsession with Hindu exceptionalism that clouds a fuller understanding of India, modern or ancient. India’s higher education system is impressive but only on paper; though the third largest in the world behind the United States and China, it sadly lacks internationally recognised schools except for a few. And even these appear only in the top 100 or 200, barring the Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru, which ranked 22nd in 2014, the IIMA, which was ranked 7th by the Financial Times in 2011 and the University of Calcutta, ranked 38 in 2005. Incidentally, this was the first multi-disciplinary university in modern India, established in 1857.
The trends seen world-wide show a close linkage between higher educational institutions and research bodies, whether in the private or public domain. There is an umbilical connection here as research drives the surge for excellence and it is a two way process; both sides benefit. India, though an early entrant to scientific research, concentrated heavily on establishing and funding autonomous institutions that until very recently were completely isolated from universities or seats of higher learning. Countries like Taiwan and South Korea, much later entrants, did not make these mistakes and are way ahead of India.

Close scrutiny

Autonomy is another key mantra in spawning world famous universities. W.R. Niblett, Professor of higher education, University of London notes that “The first justification of university autonomy lies here; if any subject is to be studied in a way as to yield truth and insight … it must be studied not just instrumentally but autonomously and this applies to business management and veterinary science”. How does this square with Irani’s drive to throttle the IIM’s autonomy granted to it years ago? The IIMs, and in particular IIMA, need our special attention. The IIM Bill 2015 that Irani is vigorously championing and is the cause of a flurry of debates and public activism requires close scrutiny. First, the two oldest IIMs, Calcutta and Ahmedabad, and others that followed, were created as autonomous institutions for the very reasons put forward by Professor Niblett. They are publicly funded to an extent but they have always been out of reach of the Indian University establishment and that is precisely the reason why they do not have degree awarding rights. Consequently these institutions hand out diplomas but in no way has that dimmed the prestige and recognition conferred on its alumina.
Why then would these institutions give up their hard earned rights? The IIM Bill 2015 has some merits but at the heart of this draft legislation is the overweening craving to control and wield influence on these institutions. And to be fair to Irani this predates her and even her predecessor, the highly educated polymath Kapil Sibal of the Congress party, who was attempting to do the same thing. Recently The Hindu newspaper thundered in its editorial ‘Give IIMs their freedom’ and questioned the purpose of this bill pointing out ominously that the word ‘regulate’ finds repeated mention in the bill.

IIMA was formed in 1961 and the book ‘The IIMA Story’ by Praful Anubhai tells us how it was born, who were the key players and what has made it synonymous with success. Its founding fathers were two famous Gujaratis — Vikram Sarabhai and Kasturbhai Lalbhai — and IIMA was one of the first public-private partnerships in education in India.
Would a prime minister who takes such enormous pride in his Gujarati roots let any harm come to this prized asset? Will Irani, one of Modi’s storm troopers, be asked to step down?

– Gulf News

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Over one-third population in rural India illiterate: Socio-economic census

Over one-third of Indian population living in rural areas is illiterate even after 68 years of independence, according to the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011.

Rural India Education
Rural India Education

Around 64 percent of the rural Indian population is literate, the Census data showed.
Rajasthan leads the pack of illiterate states with 47.58 percent of its population falling in that category, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 44.19 percent of its people in rural areas being illiterate.
Bihar is at the third place with 43.85 percent and followed by newly carved state Telangana with 40.42 percent population belonging to this category.

However, the most literate state of Kerala has only 11.38 percent population falling under the illiterate category.
After Kerala, Goa has the least illiterate population with 15.42 percent and Sikkim at the third spot with 20.12 percent.
Himachal Pradesh has also done well in terms of improving its literacy rate. The state has only 22.05 percent illiterate population.
All India average of the population having below primary education is 13.97 percent, while middle education pass out is 13.53 percent.

The percentage of graduate and higher education is only 3.45 percent across the country.
However, Goa is ahead of Kerala in term of population with graduate and above education qualification. While Kerala only has 7.75 percent falling in that category, 9.48 percent Goa’s population is graduate and above.

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Madrasas Not Schools If They Don’t Teach Subjects Like Math, Says Maharashtra Government

The Maharashtra government has said Madrasas or schools for Islamic instruction, and any other institutions that do not offer formal education, will not be recognised as schools and will not be eligible for state funding until they teach subjects like Science, Math and Social Sciences.

“Those schools which do not follow the curriculum approved by the state government will not be recognised as schools. Therefore, children studying in Madrasas or in any other institutions based only on religious studies will not be counted among school students,” said Dilip Kamble, Minister of State for Minority Affairs.

He also said that the Maharashtra government plans to conduct a survey on Saturday for a head count of students in the state who are being taught in the informal education sector. These students will be marked as “out of school.”

The aim of the exercise, Mr Kamble said, is to ensure such students can be “included in the mainstream.”

The BJP-led state government had earlier this month asked Madrasas in the state to include those subjects in their curriculum to continue getting government funds. There are about 1.5 lakh students enrolled in 1900 madrasas in the state.

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP explained, “The education being provided by Madrasas is good, while some of them are incorporating mainstream education. Some of the Madrasas which don’t have the means to do so, they need to be encouraged and given help.”

“It is ill-designed and ill-timed, I don’t know why they are doing it,” said Kamal Farooqui of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Madrasas, he said, are part of formal education and their students get direct admission to universities.

The Nationalist Congress Party or NCP’s Nawab Malik criticised the state government for “ignoring Madrasa modernisation, whether it is giving salaries to their teachers for English, Marathi and Mathematics or incorporating central schemes.”

The previous Congress-NCP government had launched a “Madrasa modernisation scheme” in 2013, but that dispensation too did not recognise them as schools.

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From digital lockers to e-education: How Digital India will transform the country

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched his most ambitious Digital India programme, which aims at transforming the country into a digitally-empowered knowledge economy. The programme aims at bringing as many as 2.5 villages under broadband connectivity. The highlights of the Digital India programme, worth Rs 1 lakh crore, are digital locker, E-education, E-health and National Scholarship Portal. Here’s a guide to each initiative launched under the Digital India programme:

Digital Locker:

Digital locker is a dedicated personal storage space for e-documents as well as Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) of e-documents issued by government departments. The system will have an e-sign facility, which can be used to sign stored documents. Each locker is linked to the resident’s Aadhar number.

The move is aimed at minimising the use of physical documents and provide authenticity to e-documents, thereby, giving secure access to documents issued by government. It will also reduce administrative overhead of government departments and agencies and make it easy for the residents to receive services.


As the name suggests, the programme is aimed at providing high-tech education using state-of-the-art technology to all. This programme can also be used to provide education in far-flung areas where it may not be possible for teachers to be present in person. The education can be imparted through virtual means as part of the programme.


The E-health initiative, which is a part of Mission Digital India of the government, aims at providing timely, effective and economical healthcare services to all citizens. E-health is particularly relevant for masses that have little access to healthcare services in India. The programme looks at helping people maintain health records in a cost-effective manner. This is expected to be linked to the Aadhar number of citizens.

With this initiative, getting an OPD appointment, lab reports and blood availability in any government hospital becomes easy. Online Registration System (ORS) is a framework to link various hospitals across the country for Aadhaar based online registration and appointment system, where counter based OPD registration and appointment system through Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) has been digitalised.

Portal facilitates online appointments with various departments of different Hospitals using eKYC data of Aadhaar number, if patient’s mobile number is registered with UIDAI. And in case mobile number is not registered with UIDAI, it uses patient’s name.
New Patient will get appointment as well as Unique Health Identification (UHID) number. If Aadhaar number is already linked with UHID number, then appointment number will be given and UHID will remain same.

While visiting a hospital for the first time, one can skip the hassles of registration and other formalities by merely identifying self through the Aadhaar Number, select hospital and department, select date of appointment and get the same through SMS.

National Scholarship Portal:

The National Scholarships Portal is a one-stop solution for end-to-end scholarship process. From submission of student application, verification, sanction to disbursal to end beneficiary for all the scholarships provided by the government, this is an important tool of the Digital India initiative.

This move simplifies the process for students by providing common application form and one-time registration. SMS and e-mail alert would be sent to students at every step of scholarship process.


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Four points about higher education in India

The recently released rankings of the Times Higher Education for Asia paint a grim picture of Indian Higher Education. The country the size of India has managed only 9 varsities in the top 100 education institutions in Asia. It pales in comparison to 19 varsities from Japan (down from 20 in 2014) and 21 universities from mainland China (up from 18 in 2014) in the top 100.

India’s top-ranked institution in 2015 is the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) that pipped Punjab University (PU) to take 37th rank on the list ahead of PU’s 38th rank this year. The rankings judge the performance of universities across their core missions of teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook. Four points merit attention with respect to India’s higher education system amid this not so good performance.

First, there is simply too much focus on quantity at present in India. Opening up of newer institutions is being done at breakneck speed but the performance of the existing ones is not looked into and bettered. Opening up of higher education institutions while being important is not the sole means to reduce the educational imbalance. Upgradation of existing institutions can pave the way for reducing the educational imbalance in states. Quality often suffers when there is too much focus on quantity of Institutions being opened. It requires careful educational planning and implementation for catering to the influx of burgeoning population at the same time providing them with a quality education.

Secondly, several curricula need to be updated in subjects where change happens quickly. The process of updating of curricula is something that needs to be done at a faster pace in subjects like engineering, sciences, etc. At present, the curricula that is taught especially in the technical domain is mostly outdated and something that is at odds with the industry practice. For this, the industry often has to provide job training to new recruits. Including more industry people in education sector goes a long way in bettering curriculum and providing students with a semblance of what they can expect on the Job for the technical education.

Thirdly, there is the issue of faculty expertise, remuneration and community attitudes to an Indian faculty versus a foreign faculty. While it is true that some Indian faculty to an extent are underperforming most in the top tier institutions are very capable, brilliant and comparable to faculty in any other place in the world. However when it comes to remuneration, despite the experience and expertise Indian faculty are paid way less than their foreign counterparts. It is true even when the foreign counterparts come to India for teaching. A Foreign faculty is often paid close to 15 lakhs for a typical MBA/ PGDM course. While for a similar MBA/ PGDM course an Indian faculty is paid a paltry 2-2.5 lakhs. It reflects a deep bias towards a Western faculty member while denigrating our faculty members. It stems from social attitudes to a domestic faculty vis-a-vis a foreign one.

Finally, there is the issue of research in Indian higher education institutions and what is being done to better this over time. Collaboration with centers and research institutions abroad is much needed, and much talked about strategy for Indian universities. The most critical element here is funding and often universities are at the mercy of government for funding. Peer networks, research collaborations as well strong alumni networks can greatly reduce the dependence on funding from government. Also, Indian higher education could learn a lot in autonomy from the U.S. System where there is a system of endowments in universities. These help reduce the dependence on government for funding.

While it is worthwhile to know that India has a very large population that is under the age of 25, it is equally true that if access to education remains critical for realizing it’s demographic dividend. The balance between quality and quantity, if maintained, will ensure that Indian universities produce leaders and alumni who can not only work productively but also think independently as well.

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