When they reopen in the post-Covid world, around 600 schools run by the Central government in rural areas may equip themselves with the ability to hold “smart classes” powered by high-speed broadband, tablets in the hands of students and interactive screens.
RailTel, the telecom PSU of Indian Railways, has pitched this ambitious proposal to the Ministry of Education to impact around 3.5 lakh students who are enrolled in these schools, which are run by the Central government predominantly for meritorious students in rural India.
Currently, with the pandemic forcing these schools to remain shut, the students are studying from home with means such as personal mobile phones and computers.
The plan is to create end-to-end e-learning solutions for the schools, riding on the solid Optical Fibre Cable network, which is the backbone of Indian Railways telecom operations. They run along railway tracks, and so as far as reach is concerned, there is the capability to impact rural schools anywhere in India, including the remotest locations which otherwise may not get reliable Internet. Sources said that is one of the USPs of the proposal.
“We have proposed this plan to the Ministry of Education. We are in discussions with them right now,” Puneet Chawla, RailTel Chairman and Managing Director, told The Indian Express.
Sources said behind the idea is the education sector’s thrust on leveraging the gains of e-learning as a mode of instruction, at a time when the pandemic has forced teachers and students to migrate to virtual platforms and adopt IT-enabled interactive means for teaching. The proposal to power remote government schools with high-speed broadband and create an “Internet of Things” environment for learning is an extension of those gains, the sources said.
RailTel, whose services power Indian Railways, has already provided such connectivity to 723 institutions of higher learning under the Centre’s National Knowledge Network programme, with broadband speed of up to 10 gigabytes per second.
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