‘India Not Ready for Digi Education’: Pitroda Calls for Zero Year

“If we are not ready for digital education, better bite the bullet & say moratorium for a year,” says Pitroda.

2 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

(This story has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark World Students’ Day. It was originally published on 11 September 2020)

“If we can’t expand digital education – which we can’t today – we must bite the bullet and say that this is a void year,” says Sam Pitroda, technocrat and former advisor to ex-Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

In an exclusive conversation with The Quint, Pitroda maintained that India is not digital ready and hence, should not ask parents of school children, especially from economically weaker sections, to pay fees when full-services are not being provided.

Why is India not ready for digital education?

We don't have reliable access to broadband that you need for education, because education is not just about text and voice – it is about graphics, video animation and interaction.

Are teachers equipped to to teach online?

Just because you provide digital devices and access, it doesn't assure that you will be able to deliver education. Because teachers themselves don't know how to operate computers. What are you saying? In village schools, they have never operated digital devices. So, it is a huge task that we are not willing to accept.

Can schools be reopened now?

We can't take risks today to open schools according to me. It is a huge risk. You know we are putting our children, our teachers, our older people, our parents at risk, because children go there, they pick up, they may not get affected this much, but when they come home, their grandparents will get affected. So, on one hand corona crisis is expanding and on the other hand, children need education. We are not prepared to provide digital education, so it's better to bite the bullet and say moratorium for a year. These children are going to live very long, 80-100 years. So, may be a year won't make much of a difference.

How can India improve digital education?

EXPEDITE BHARAT NET - Broadband connectivity to panchayats. It's called Bharat Broadband or NOFN. We must expedite and complete that programme. That programme is delayed by several years. So, every panchayat has broadband with 100 MB of bandwidth.

EXTEND KNOWLEDGE NETWORK TO SCHOOLS - Then we need to look at another programme called the National Knowledge Network, where we have spent billions of dollars in building infrastructure to connect all our universities R&D labs. That infrastructure should be extended to schools also.

FOCUS ON TEACHER TRAINING, CONTENT CREATION - Simultaneously, we need to train our teachers. Along with that we need to create right content. Along with that we need to create right platforms. So, you need to start on multiple fronts right now with huge commitment of financial resources.

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