House panel worried about learning gap, digital divide

A M Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on July 04, 2021

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The learning gap is very high in almost all States and online classes will not be able to bridge that gap due to the non-availability of internet in various parts of the country, representatives of various States told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education.

The States' officials, who appeared before the panel at a meeting held here on Friday, told the panel that they are trying to use Doordarshan's (DD) channels and other DTH options to educate children during the pandemic situation. But these the televisions channels are not sufficient to address the situation.

The officials hailed from different States including Telangana, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh. The members told them that DD and Prasar Bharti alone cannot handle the situation. Channels like Victor in Kerala should be modelled to address this gap. The panel will meet the officials of the others States in the coming days. "In essence, millions of students could not access to education in the last one and a half years. The committee has taken a serious note of this. We will present our view in Parliament soon," a member in the panel said.

The States have also told the panel that unlike internet-based communication applications, DD and channels available in DTH services won't be able to contribute much to help people in hilly regions and remote areas. "We were told that just 26 per cent have smart phones and this give a clear picture of the digital divide. Concentration of these smart phones are in cities and moffusils. Internet based education has increased not just the learning gap, but have created two types of students," another MP said.

A member also suggested establishing a community radio network with higher bandwidth for helping students in hilly regions and far-flung places to access education. They also cited the examples of FM channels in universities situated in Hyderabad and Pondicherry.

States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh said at present they are dependent on Door Darshan and Prasar Bharti. "They didn't answer properly on questions about learning gap in villages and far-flung places," a member complained.

The members had asked the States to take steps to bridge the learning gap. The panel was told that under tele-education programme, States like Andhra Pradesh/Telgana, Kerala, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana and Punjab created autonomous societies to manage the networks with regular funding mechanism. But, in other States, such activities were handled by the concerned ministries. The management of tele-education networks faced many challenges, especially after the change of hands over a period of time.

"We were told that the rollout and operations posed challenges of power, site readiness, availability of coordinators, equipment misplace/theft, funding, regular annual maintenance, etc," the MP said.

The Department of Space is also learnt to have told the panel about the need to enhance the Swayamprabha channels under Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics to provide live transmission of class/contents to schools for all classes. "They suggested measures such as uplinking infrastructure available at BISAG, augmentation to service more channels so that students can watch at home and at school with DTH terminal and TV. They said one Ku band transponder supports 17 channels and the ISRO and Department of Space can arrange upto six transponder capacity based on requirements, in the proximity of currently operational orbital slot," he said, adding that such channels can be aired free by DTH service providers.

Published on July 04, 2021

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