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Coming soon, a National Educational Technology Forum to boost digital education

The NETF will provide independent evidence-based advice to central and state government agencies on technology-based interventions. The education ministry has already held a series of meetings with state education boards between October 2020 and April 2021.

May 07, 2021 / 02:37 PM IST

From April 2022, the government would have a new autonomous body to exclusively deal with technology-led education and assessment.

Sources told Moneycontrol that the government will be setting up the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), which will be a one-stop shop to discuss and strategise the use of technology across all levels of education.

“There will be a gradual introduction of technology-led education from the school-level itself. This means that concepts like coding will be taught to students when they are as young as 12-13 years old,” said a government official.

After the forum is launched in 2022, phase two will involve consolidation of all technology-led learning programmes into one single platform.

NETF will consist of members of the education ministry, state governments, institutes, as well as technology experts and IT sector veterans.

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The education ministry has had a series of meetings with education boards and departments of states/Union territories across the country between October 2020 and April 2021.

During these discussions, the state education boards were given the task to ask schools to make a list of technology-enabled programmes (apart from basic computer education), and the funds required for upgradation and teaching resource availability. This data is currently being compiled at the state level.

How will the NETF work?

Once the forum is set up, school-wise information will be sought on how technology is being used for imparting academic content and what steps are being taken to enhance research.

“Most schools, typically, have simple computer education and not much emphasis is placed on real-time learning based on the need for evolving skills. For instance, data analytics and artificial intelligence are in high demand but schools rarely focus on these areas," added another government official.

NETF will meet on a regular basis (every 3-6 months) to review the progress in technology-led learning and also make suggestions to educational institutions, based on market research.

Initially, the NETF will be funded by the government but at a later stage, private funding and support from industry bodies like NASSCOM would be invited.

What will NETF do?

The NETF will provide independent evidence-based advice to central and state government agencies on technology-based interventions. A special focus will be on improving technology access at the grassroot education level.

Schools will be required to have skilled professionals who could manage technology-led learning with the assistance of third-party companies. In addition, schools will have to hire qualified candidates to teach emerging technological skills to students.

Meena Raman, principal at Jeevan Vidya Memorial School in Kolkata, told Moneycontrol that while NETF is a good move, there will also be a requirement to get skilled teachers for technology-related subjects.

“We will need to get teachers who are conversant with the latest technological innovations and the ability to impart these skills to the students. Right now, these niche skilled persons command a hefty salary. So education boards will have to ascertain whether they would be guest teachers of full-time staff," she added.

To support the development of a vibrant body of knowledge and practice, NETF will organise multiple regional and national conferences and workshops to brainstorm on how to make India’s education system more savvy, technologically.

These events will have technology experts from schools, universities, research institutions and other organisations to evaluate these inputs against the current best practices.

For students from economically weaker backgrounds, interventions by the Panchayat members for schools and colleges in their vicinity will be advised. These interventions include setting up smart classrooms, digital tools for schools like laptops and tablets as well as recorded e-learning modules for areas with poor internet connectivity.
M Saraswathy is a business journalist with 10 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, she covers consumer durables, insurance, education and human resources beat for Moneycontrol.
first published: May 7, 2021 02:36 pm

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