Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas” has uniTed Indians and inspired them to focus on progress, prosperity and harmony. The PM has laid much emphasis on education, especially school education. Schemes to construct more than 400 new Ekalavya Model Residential Schools for tribal children by 2022 are a case in point. Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and the Aatmanirbhar Bharat project are other endeavours to make the country self-reliant.
The country is currently engaged in a fight against the novel coronavirus. Until the pandemic subsides, the face-to-face mode of teaching seems a difficult proposition. The government has rightly placed health and safety above academics. Thanks to the strong foundation in education laid over the last few years, the nation has been able to cope with the challenges and even turn some problems into advantages.
The PM has repeatedly emphasised a holistic system of education that is academically rich and enables students to pursue rewarding careers. The focus on the girl child’s education, modernisation of the educational infrastructure, and improvements in the field of teacher training are some of the notable measures of the government in the realm of education.
When the coronavirus struck, the nation geared itself to saving the academic year and the careers of students. In this, the PM’s initiatives have played a major role. The Ministry of Human Resource Department, under the leadership of Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, a scholar and educationist himself, has played an important part in facilitating several crucial initiatives.
The government has initiated the YUKTI web portal, the Aarogya Setu app has been made available for free and the National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission aims to boost literacy. The National Curriculum and Pedagogical Framework and the Bharat Padhe online campaign are bringing knowledge to the grass roots. The minister’s experience and administrative skills helped the ministry turn a potential disaster into a productive time for 3.3 million students, and others.
The approach to education during the pandemic has relied on short-term and strategic initiatives. The Prime Minister’s e-Vidya scheme synergises and strengthens several distance-education projects — digital, online, and mass media. Benefitting 25-crore school children, it focuses on developing permanent assets for quality education for generations to come. A dedicated channel for every class will ensure easy, customised lessons and study material. Importantly, it focuses on equity in education. This endeavour also individualises the teaching-learning experience to a considerable extent. For the differently-abled, this scheme provides bespoke materials under the Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY). Webinars, podcasts, and online classes enrich the learning experience. It can be said with some confidence that the losses caused by the pandemic have been minimised, if not eliminated completely, at least as far as the education sector is concerned, thanks to the prime minister and the HRD minister.
In line with its comprehensive approach, the government has tried to address the equally important issue of psychological health with Manodarpan, a programme that covers both parents and students at a time when unprecedented challenges and stress have raised mental health issues. Continuously monitored, running along clear guidelines developed by experts, and available round the clock, Manodarpan is a true welfare measure of a government that is responsive to its people.
This writer has initiated a unique concept, University Social Responsibility (USR), under which free online open educational resources in English, Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Spanish have been developed for those interested in learning the basics of these languages. EnglishPro, a free mobile app, is ready for launch to help those around the SSC/Class X level in improving their English pronunciation in the Bharatiya way.
Stepping beyond academics, the English and Foreign Languages University created the University Social Responsibility Endowment Fund. With initial contributions from the staff, the university strengthened the hands of the government in a humble way in spreading awareness about COVID-19 through jingles on FM radio.
The university has made all possible efforts in equipping the faculty and students with e-resources. EFLU is perhaps the first Central University to have completed end-semester examinations online and to have declared their results as well.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought out the nation’s strengths, resilience and innovative spirit. Nowhere is this more evident than in education.
The writer is the Vice Chancellor of the English and Foreign Languages University Hyderabad, Shillong and Lucknow. Views are personal
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