“Passion is the key that acts as a driving force to your success”, says the well-renowned Indian mathematician, Anand Kumar. Most of us are familiar with the name and his endeavors to bring the underprivileged into the mainstream through the medium of education. His brainchild “Super 30” gets 30 odd deserving candidates from the underprivileged strata of the society enrolled in IITs year after year. But is mere 30 enough for a country of 1.2 billion people? Not really. That is perhaps because he is on a warpath trying to do more by taking his Super30 courseware online and making it easy for more and more students to succeed.
We all agree education builds the very fabric of any society, facilitating learning at every step and shaping the personality of an individual continuously. However, the means of acquiring knowledge in this progressive world seems almost impertinent. For example, a child who attends school everyday can certainly be equated to a child who learns from online sources, be it YouTube videos or websites. With the advent of technology, mankind is slowly advancing towards elevating its standard of living and technology certainly is making things convenient and easy, but many feel the benefits are still not being felt at the grass roots level. It is not uncommon to find illiterate villagers using mobiles even in the remotes parts of this country to do business, keep in touch with near and dear or even to entertain themselves. But even now many of our villages do not even have a primarily school. So how do we bring those unfortunate into the mainstream?
While technology has invaded our lives, access of technology is still a distant dream for the underprivileged. Technological mainstreaming of underprivileged may not be a very viable business model for the big telecom operators. This is majorly because of the huge capital investment required and low returns on investment. However each private telecom operator may be assigned 50 remote villages to be digitally connected. This will also provide a boost to the e-commerce and benefit the overall economy.
The need of the hour is to provide the marginalized sections of the society with these amenities so that they don’t feel alienated and are at par with the rest of the citizenry. This can be achieved through the combined efforts of the Government and the people.
- Beyond just investing on infrastructure such as classrooms/buildings, each school should also be provided with a high Internet access 24×7 to enable them to deliver virtual classrooms where specialist teachers located outside the school premises could take classes for students as if they were present physically in class.
- Online education service providers should receive support and subsidy from the government or its agencies to offer low cost educational services towards underprivileged sections of our society.
- Community level facilities should be created. For instance, set up a small cyber café in the post office/community centre or panchayat office in every village to enable delivery of online classes for students or even grownups.
- Young people may be trained under skill development programs to open/run Internet cafes in their villages and the same may be used to deliver live education to students and community at large.
- NGOs and private education societies should be financially supported by the government or corporate sector to enable online education service delivery to the remotest parts of this country.
To its credit, the Government has launched several appreciable initiatives in this direction like Digital India Initiative and National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) to provide speedier and immediate Internet connectivity in the rural areas. These initiatives aim at connecting around 50,000 village panchayats by the end of 2016. Recently, the Government has also created the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) which proactively seeks to strengthen the economically backward sections of the society, hence making them potential players in the corporate sector. These goals may seem lofty, but are definitely not unattainable.
Besides the government’s efforts, many individuals have made voluntary efforts in this direction to provide Internet access in remote corners of the country so that the children can watch videos and explore the seamless knowledge bank.
Thus, learning – be it classroom or online – is a continuous effort which has to be made and sustained to harvest the benefits of the technological revolution for the economy.
Online learning, delivered through a smart phone, laptop or PC – it seems has finally come of age.