Online schooling took off in a big way during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman who presented the Economic Survey 2020-21 in the Parliament on Friday.
The Survey states that the percentage of enrolled children from government and private schools owning a smartphone increased enormously from 36.5 per cent in 2018 to 61.8 per cent in 2020 in rural India. It recommends that if utilized well, the resultant reduction in the digital divide between rural and urban, gender, age and income groups is likely to reduce inequalities in educational outcomes.
The Government, to facilitate learning during the ongoing pandemic, is implementing several initiatives to make education accessible to children. An important initiative in this direction is PM eVIDYA which is a comprehensive initiative to unify all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education to enable multi-mode and equitable access to education for students and teachers.
It has to be pointed out that about 92 courses have started and 1.5 crore students are enrolled under Swayam MOOC’s which are online courses related to NIOS. To mitigate the effect of COVID-19, Rs 818.17 crore is allotted to States/UTs to promote online learning through digital initiatives and Rs 267.86 crore for online teacher training under Samagra Shiksha Scheme. PRAGYATA guidelines on digital education have been developed with a focus on online/blended/digital education for students who are presently at home due to closure of schools.
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The Survey observes that India will have the highest population of young people in the world over the next decade. The nation’s ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities to them will determine the future of the country. Moreover, as per the Survey, India has attained a literacy level of almost 96 per cent at the elementary school level. The National Sample Survey states that the literacy rate of persons of age seven years and above at the All India level stood at 77.7 per cent.
To provide quality education in schools and institutions of the government in affordable and competitive manner, the Centre announced the new National Education Policy 2020, replacing the 34 year old National Policy on Education, 1986. The new policy aims to pave the way for transformational reforms in school and higher education systems in the country.