Education sector in India has long awaited an overhaul to meet the growing demand for a contemporary education system that is accessible to all. Children and youth in India have in the last decade become increasingly technology-driven, revealing considerable potential and readiness to imbibe and learn using digital media.

1. Creation of a knowledge based society: Digital India has been envisioned as an ambitious umbrella programme to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. We are glad to see that the Prime Minister has introduced initiatives such as e-education, e-basta, Nand Ghar which will impart education using technologies including smartphones, mobile apps and internet services in far-flung areas where it may not be possible for teachers to be present in person. Further, 13 lakh Balwadis in India are planned to be converted into Nand Ghar where Anganwadi educators will be trained to use digital tools as teaching aids. e-basta is another cherished initiative by the government aimed at making school books accessible in digital form as e-books to be read on tablets and laptops.

2. Improve attendance in schools: More than 90 million children in India aged 0-8 years do not have access to quality education. While enrollment in primary school is almost universal, according to Custom Data Tables, ASER and Census of India 2011 survey has concluded that almost 20 per cent children aged between 6 and 8 years cannot read letters or words and are unable to recognise numbers. Sesame Workshop in India through its flagship programme Galli Galli Sim Sim uses the power of media to help children learn basic academic and life skills and enhance their overall cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development. With support from Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ Initiative, Sesame Workshop in India is trying to bridge the education gap by providing innovative and engaging content that is integrated into the prescribed curriculum through games on digital devices. The research for this ongoing project with Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ initiative has demonstrated that children in classes 1 and 2 who were provided with games on digital devices, both in classrooms and at homes showed significant gains in their Hindi language, comprehension and numeracy skills amongst others. Further the games improved attendance, and helped with teachers becoming more familiar with technology as a teaching tool.

3. Bridge digital; divide: The power of technology cannot be denied. With approximately 131 million cellular-phone households in the country, we believe that delivering education through the digital platform to children and teachers could be a potential way to bridge the education deficit. However, the challenge has always been how the technology will get adopted to make a significant difference. With the various digital initiatives that the government has launched, we are hopeful that it will help strengthen access to technology especially in government schools and preschools.

At almost every discussion forum of the Digital India Week, there’s been a consensus on the need for a greater participation from the industry and stakeholders. For the education sector, tech companies have to take the lead and help enable a strong ecosystem by providing technology driven educational devices which should be backed by creative and engaging content. This calls for a number of stakeholders across the country to come together and support this initiative and thereby strengthen the education sector in India.

Authored by Sashwati Banerjee (All rights reserved)

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