Information and Communications Technology in the Education Sector in India
India has successfully achieved quantity benchmarks for education by making schooling accessible to all and making rapid strides in improving attendance. Next, India must improve the quality of its educational system, which is limited by large class sizes, limited teacher expertise, poor access to resources, and teacher absenteeism. ICT provides tools to address all these challenges. Historically, ICT has been used to improve educational coverage. Educational radio programs have been produced since 1972, and corporate initiatives have introduced computers to classrooms since the 1990s. Most radically, India even launched a satellite to broadcast educational content to remote schools off the grid. Yet the digital revolution provides the greatest opportunity for ICT to contribute to improved education and equality of opportunity across India.
ICT has been applied to improve education in several ways. Teachers can gain access to improved lesson plans and teaching resources that incorporate multimedia and best pedagogical practices. Similarly, these platforms are used to deliver interactive teacher training that uses data to analyze teachers’ strengths and weaknesses. Data can also be used to break down and isolate challenges for students or entire classrooms. Finally, communication tools embedded in these platforms provide teachers, students and parents with a more collaborative classroom experience.
The MHRD’s DIKSHA platform, powered by EkStep, is currently the most comprehensive and widespread societal platform in use. Integrating ICT into all aspects of education, DIKSHA incorporates quality user-developed content, student assessment tools, data collection and analysis, teacher professional development, and parent-teacher-student communication into a multilingual package now being implemented in several states. Additional general-purpose platforms include Karnataka’s Meghshala, Gujarat’s Learning Delight, and the Central Board for Secondary Education’s Saransh. More specialized platforms also exist to fulfill specific needs, such as StoryWeaver, an initiative to develop mother tongue literacy material. EkStep and DIKSHA provide functionality to incorporate other platforms as specialized modules within their own system, a powerful integrative feature with the potential to consolidate the many different platforms in existence under one roof without sacrificing local adaptability or flexibility.
Education policymakers should continue encouraging the consolidation of redundant platforms. While teachers often use ICT resources such as Youtube in the classroom, these freelance solutions do not provide the opportunities for beneficial synergies inherent in a platform. Additionally, implementers and end-users of education platforms should be more fully trained in the capabilities of these tools, with continuing support provided to increase familiarity and comfort level. Significant infrastructure investment is required to provide electricity to many schools, let alone digital connectivity, and opportunities exist for involving India’s major industries in content production. Finally, the definition of a digital school must be clarified to incentivize and prioritize investments in ICT integration.
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