When we travel across the country by road, we see how much we benefit from investments in infrastructure. Road travel has become an enjoyable experience due to the extensive network of well-maintained highways that connect the country. This feat enabled trade, encouraged tourism, boosted the automotive market, and created livelihood opportunities in remote villages through toll booths or highway restaurants. Infrastructure has provided an enabling environment for realizing India’s potential.
Efforts and investments are underway to build the infrastructure that creates the potential for growth and development, including roads, ports and airports, utilities like electricity, water and internet. India’s 5.98 million kilometers of roads make it the second largest road network in the world. In the past year alone, 13,298 km of highways have been added. The government has also accelerated reforms in the telecommunications sector, allowing widespread internet penetration. The second largest telecommunications market in the world, India is on track to reach 900 million Internet users by 2025.
The nation’s true potential, however, lies in empowering its young people through access to education. When people benefit from investments in infrastructure to strengthen their financial security, seek learning and career opportunities, and raise their standard of living, they achieve progress. The education sector is ready for reforms and investments. The pandemic has demonstrated a critical need to prioritize the digitization of education and learning. The low cost of smartphones and internet penetration present an opportunity that policymakers and educators cannot afford to ignore. In 2020, when schools were closed, the digital divide only peaked; a very small minority of students have been able to benefit from online lessons, as this has required additional expenditure from parents and schools.
What is needed to enable digital access to education? A smartphone or device in each student’s hand, an affordable internet connection, and personalized content and learning. Although it sounds simple, the NCERT survey showed that at least 27% of students do not have access to smartphones or laptops to take online courses, while 28% of students and parents believe that the lack of electricity is one of the main concerns. For children from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds, a device and internet connection can include them in mainstream education. Online education can also streamline the quality of education, with access to standardized or diverse content in different languages.
The National Education Policy (NEP) contemplates the integration of technology in online and digital education to ensure equitable use of technology. This will play out for years to come. It’s time for government, educators and business to work together to create the new digital order of education for all. Basic enablers such as the internet and devices can attract CSR finance. Reinventing the teaching method to make it suitable for delivering online learning requires thinking about skills and curriculum. Teachers need to adapt and evolve new teaching methods, as well as learn new content creation skills and abilities. Schools will need to be able to invest in new systems and applications that are secure and designed for education, as well as in the capacity building of teachers. Assessment criteria and exams will also need to be redesigned, with collaboration between technology experts, industry, educators, policymakers, teachers and parents.
For now, the easiest way to start is often the best: find a way to provide smart devices and the internet to every student, so no one is left behind.
Just as the road network has had an exponential effect on livelihoods and the economy, the infrastructure and investments made to enable digital education will enable India to extract the maximum potential from the large population. young. India’s hope of being a global superpower lies in its young population. The window of the “demographic dividend” opened in 2018. Supposed to be a 37-year period where India will have more working population than dependent population, investments in digital education will have the same exponential effect on the national economy.
Imagine the impact we could create if children across the country could learn at their own pace from free content available all over the internet. Some of these self-taught children may end up building the next Google and Apple of the world!
(The writer is the founder of an online learning platform)
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