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Need for Cost-Effective, Accessible for All Solutions to Augment Education Sector: KS Raj

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Kumar Saurabh Raj

Elets Technomedia organised a three-day India Transformation Summit to highlight the growth and development in India especially the digital transformation taking place. Kumar Saurabh Raj, Director, Technical Education Punjab addressed the summit on ‘Challenges and Opportunities in the Education Sector During COVID-19 Situation’.

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Mr Raj started off with a few facts on education in the pre-COVID time. He mentioned, “There were 258 million children across the globe who were not getting primary or secondary education or were dropouts from their schools. And, these figures in the low and medium-income countries translate as 53 per cent.”

In the annual budget of 2019, Rs 98,000 crore were allocated for education and NITI Aayog had stressed that this amount which is three to four per cent of the GDP of India shall be increased to six per cent and this was prior to COVID pandemic, said Mr Raj. “What COVID-19 has done to education! When we take feedback from primary, secondary, medical or technical education students, we see the learning is declining. Moreover, teaching quality has deteriorated, health and safety of the students is also at risk, and other challenges are also surfacing,” he added.

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The Director, Technical Education emphasised that education is not a lone sector but it has inter-dependency on various other sectors like finance for example. “The IMF says that the Global Economy will shrink by three per cent in 2020 and this is worse than the financial crisis of 2008-2009. This is going to start a reverse trend where problems like increase in child labour, child marriage instances may turn up,” he pointed out.

Citing examples of the abovementioned scenario, he said, “In Ethiopia, in 2008, the dropout rate ascended from eight per cent to 13 per cent of which 1 per cent were girls. From 2008 to 2015, the dropout rate in Brazil raised from eight per cent to 20 per cent wherein the strength of secondary and higher secondary students were more. Similarly, when Ebola spread induced financial crisis in Sierra Leone the dropout rate reached 16 per cent. During this time, the schools were shut down for almost a year in Sierra Leone… So, we can expect the increase in dropout numbers due to COVID crisis.”

Speaking of the possible solution for the education sector during the COVID scenario, Mr Raj said, “There are two phases hen we talk about the pandemic. First, we have to cope up with the situation and secondly, whatever method we implement in phase 1 we need to continue it in the long run.”

Also Read: “Digitisation Taking Centre Stage post-COVID” – Shivdular Singh Dhillon

Continuing on the solutions, he mentioned, “There are a few measures like online streaming of lectures, e-content, using ‘Diksha’ portal, transfer of mid-day meal funds to the student’s family, etc., we need to enhance the scale of our measures. There is a need to provide apt financial support to students who belong to poor families and such support should directly come from the government. Following the implementation of such solutions which prove to effective and working to improve, we need to work on continuity.”

Mentioning examples from countries like Singapore, China, Mr Raj pointed out that if we implement the kind of solutions they have adopted, we need intense planning and even more financial backing which make such solutions unrealistic in India scenario. Considering convent schools, it is somewhat possible as the students from rich families o there, their fee is way more than any public or government schools. But, the major population in India is either poor or middle-class and thus cannot afford such expenses.

“Diksha portal, which can possibly be a solution to many education-related problems, is NCERT’s portal and the challenge that turns up is that every state in India has their own board and hence having a common portal becomes a bigger challenge”, he pointed out.

Wrapping his address with a concluding remark on the COVID scenario and possible solution, he said, “We need to pool resources as by doing so we can make online content, video lectures, classes, illustration, etc. available for every student across the country.” Citing examples for his proposed solution, he said that Argentina is broadcasting around 14 hours of educational content or lectures on TV and seven hours of radio broadcast. In Kenya, a YouTube channel has been created for all the students to access study material. So, such measures can pose a potential solution to overcome COVID crisis.”

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