Noteworthy Digital Initiatives that are Redefining Rural Education in India
State of Rural Education in India
Majority of India still lives in villages and so the need for redefining rural education in India in the 21st century holds critical importance. Rural education in India is currently facing a lot of challenges in education like declining attendance of students in schools, lack of committed teachers, proper infrastructure, quality and access to education etc.
Although the rural population is gradually understanding the importance of education but due to adequate financing they are forced to hold back their children. In addition to this problem, there are instances of only one teacher for managing the entire school in many government schools and sometimes when they don’t turn up, the school remains shut. All this ultimately results in very few students moving ahead and pursuing their college education. This means that they end up wasting their secondary education and are unable to get suitable jobs in the market.
The foundation for improving quality, accessibility and affordability of education in rural areas of the country can be laid down by encouraging technology interventions. Innovative use of digital initiatives can make a difference for creating vital impact to solve some the key issues in rural educating in India.
Need for Digital Initiatives to Strengthen Rural Education in India
Appropriate use of technology can help in mitigating a lot of concerns through digitised education services. With the help of public-private partnership, rural areas can be equipped with multimedia teaching tools, smart classes having the facility to learn through video lectures, smart boards etc. Through interactive digital media tools, schools having one teacher can conduct remote lectures across several locations. This will also help in addressing the shortage of teachers in these schools.
While using technology, there could be initial challenges to acclimatize teachers in rural areas with its usage and expose them to digital tools. Therefore, before implementation, due care should be taken to train teachers. Interactive learning through digitisation can make learning in classrooms interesting and engaging which in turn can arrest drop-out rate.
The collective efforts of the government and civil society organizations along with private sector companies have already begun to steer rural India through the digital transformation of education.
Here are some of the digital initiatives taken by the government, corporates and social enterprises to bring change in rural education in India
A crucial success factor for rural education in India is the necessary infrastructural support for digitalization of education. Under ‘E-Kranti’, the government of India is trying to bridge the digital divide between remote and urban areas by providing basic infrastructural set-up for internet services.
Use of Technology in Improving Delivery of Education Services through Collaborations
Government is now encouraging the role of NGOs along with players from the private sector in spreading digital education tools across Indian villages. It is focusing on improving the quality of education in rural areas through technology integration and utilization of the resource capacity of companies. The emphasis is being laid down on migration from blackboards to digital boards.
The Learn, Out of the Box program launched in partnership between Vodafone Foundation and Pratham Education Foundation is one of the few digital programs aimed at expanding access to e-learning for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Under this program, Vodafone’s WebBox (essentially a smartphone repackaged as a keyboard), is given to teachers in low-cost schools throughout India. The WebBox serves as a low-cost “smart class platform,” enabling teachers to show videos, images, and other relevant curriculum content in class. The WebBox can also be taken home by a teacher who wishes to spend time preparing prior to a class, inputting classroom activities, quizzes, and project assignments.
Similarly, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, through collaboration with the multi-national corporation Samsung, has not only provided access to digital learning to several students but also trained teachers to use interactive technology.
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, the government-run schools primarily for children from rural India, are committed to increase access to education through digital learning platforms.
eVidyaloka is an educational social enterprise, with a vision to enable quality in education for the children of rural India. As part of the eVidyaloka’s program, students get to interact and study online with the help of volunteer teachers.
Digital classrooms can really help in the upliftment of rural education in India by allowing students access to resources and knowledge which otherwise would not have been possible.
Rubaru, an annual event by eVidyaloka is organized to promote rural-urban connect. The event is aimed at bringing thought leaders in education to discuss how the rural education system can be improved through urban support.
Over the years, rural education in India has witnessed a lot of reform plans to increase enrolments and improving overall education quality. In this regard, eVidyaloka has been making efforts to improve rural education through technology.
eVidyaloka through its use of online and digital classrooms is trying to improve education quality by bridging the gap between urban and rural education.
Teach For India
Through its Fellowship program, Teach for India encourages some of the promising individuals from the nation’s best universities and workplaces to serve as full-time teachers to children from low-income communities in some of the most under-resourced schools of the country.
The program grooms Fellows by exposing them to grim realities of India’s education system and provides the opportunity to cultivate the knowledge, skills, and mindsets essential to take up leadership positions in the education system and contribute in bringing equity in education.
There is a focus on developing Massive Online Open Courses to help rural students pursue courses of their choice. These courses are designed on the latest syllabus and delivered by eminent academicians as well as industry leaders via virtual classrooms.
What’s Next – Challenges and the Way Ahead
The Government of India under its Digital India Campaign intends to provide high-tech education services using technology such as smartphones, apps and Internet services. These can help in gaining knowledge and mainstreaming of children in remote areas that are facing challenges of adequate education services.
New digital tools in education are helping rural India solve problems of outreach as well as quality. Teachers are being made available via virtual classrooms, in far-off places. Speedy work is being done to build requisite infrastructure for ICT-enabled education.
The Digital India initiative plans to connect rural areas with high-speed internet networks. Similarly, education programs such as e-Basta which aims to make digital education via ebooks on tablets and computers are making education accessible to learners in rural areas. Edusat provides video education in rural India.
Our education policies should address the interests of all the stakeholders so that all feel motivated and informed to work towards improving education. Institutional networks such as the panchayat should be equipped with adequate funding and professionally trained staff to build capacity for ensuring widespread technology adaptation and implementation.
The quality of education in rural schools is dismal.
In India, education in rural pockets is important to eradicate poverty. Its bigger role in the growth of the country’s economy cannot be ignored.
Although education in the urban areas has progressed comparatively at a much faster pace for obvious reasons, however, the villages are still not given sufficient preference. Rural education in India is important not only for the enhancement of life quality of the rural community but also for the overall progress and development of the country.
Policy makers are concerned with the slow rate of growth in rural education. A study by the government in 2014 had revealed that 67% of India’s population belongs to rural areas. Nearly 60% of students in rural areas up to the age of 10 do not possess basic reading skills nor can they solve simple mathematical problems. The high rate of dropouts, nearly 50% by the age of 14, is further adding to the dismal state of affairs. Amongst female students, the dropout rate increases even further due to the prevailing socio-economic conditions.
Barely 47% of grade-5 schoolchildren could read a grade-2 textbook. One of the major reasons behind this is the lack of quality education available in rural schools.
Gaps in basic Infrastructure support such as electricity, potable water, health and hygiene is a big obstacle in improving the condition of education in rural schools. Lack of internet access prevents broadening of the education environment in the rural sector. Many of these areas are frequently disturbed by natural or political disturbances which makes it even more difficult to establish a sustainable educational environment.
Considering such limitations, implementing the new digitised education tools in rural India becomes essential. In this direction, apart from the government, a number of organisations are coming forward to find ways and means for enhancing education standards in rural parts of the country.
Social entrepreneurs are continuously working to develop innovative and practical ideas to support rural students. NGOs supported by international agencies are giving momentum to the progress of rural education and infrastructure.
Although such initiatives are a drop in the ocean continuous efforts will certainly make a dent in the system. Whatever progress in this direction has been made so far, it is well-received and needs a further commitment from all the stakeholders.
Rural India does not lack aspirations and the will to succeed but the only support they need is the effective implementation of programmes on the ground and a large-scale development framework to safeguard the right to education. It is a big contributor to India’s GDP growth through agriculture, construction, services etc. Hence, the government and other stakeholders need to realize its strategic importance in the socio-economic development of the nation. They must intensify their efforts to advance accessibility and affordability of quality education services at primary, secondary and tertiary levels in underprivileged areas.