In the wake of the COVID pandemic, when technology was most needed, especially to ensure the continuity of students’ education, Microsoft India partnered with the Gujarat government and provided apt technology support ensuring education to all students through digital modes. Addressing the government’s shift to technology, Pongumatla Bharati, Commissioner, Primary and Secondary Education and State Project Director (SPD), Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, Government of Gujarat, elaborated on how the Gujarat government tackled the COVID scenario considering its impact on the education industry. She was speaking at the Education Innovation Summit – Gujarat edition jointly organised by Elets Technomedia and Microsoft India.
She said, “When the exams were cancelled due to the nationwide lockdown in 2020, Gujarat adopted a multimodal strategy that focussed on various aspects – catering to students with and without devices, leverage technology to reduce the impact of the pandemic on education, and more. In April, we conducted a survey to know which student was having what type of device. Also, once the lockdown was lifted we took various steps to cater to the students who do not have access to any device.”
“Our aim was to ensure the continuity of everyday education for all students. So we issued various resolutions and all the HODs of various education departments came together to take steps to reduce the learning gap.” The Department organised an intensive outreach programme to ensure that all the measures taken for the students and benefits offered are actually reaching the students. Moreover, to ensure that students are healthy mentally and are not under any kind of stress, psycho-social support was provided to the students. “Each day a video or some audio-video content was sent to the students through Whatsapp groups so that students can stay motivated through these,” she added.
P Bharati said that teachers were instructed to reach out to at least 15 students through mobile phones and talk to them. Also, at those remote places where there were no network connections, teachers visited the homes of those students. A few immediate responses were taken when the lockdown was imposed include showing the available e-content on news channels so that it reaches the students. Further, she said, “We prepared weekly study materials and worksheets for students which we used to release every Saturday. This was done through Whatsapp groups. Feedbacks were taken from the students and parents on the worksheets and this activity was monitored every day by the authorities.”
She also mentioned the details of the survey conducted to know how many students have what type of devices. Moreover, details on TV channels broadcasting educational content, distribution of hardcopy textbooks to students, online lectures on Microsoft Teams, and more initiatives were also presented by her during her address. She also brought to light the attempts of the state government to build capacities of all the stakeholders that include training teachers to teach through online mediums.
Answering a question about key focus areas for the Gujarat government in terms of the education industry, she said, “As the COVID situation is still continuing, we will definitely keep running all the initiatives we took last year and we are trying to further improve those initiatives. Another thing that we’re taking up is ‘Gyan Setu’ or a bridge course. So, as soon as the academic session begins, the government has decided to print the study material of the bridge course and distribute it to all the students. The students have to do a one-month bridge course first. The course will also be conducted through TV channels and Microsoft virtual sessions. We’ve also prepared e-content for classes 1-12 on an app named ‘Gujarat Shala’.
The app also contains a learning management system. This will come in handy for the students to study.”