Resilient to pandemic challenges, India’s education system to take global leadership

The unprecedented advent of the COVID pandemic caught the education system of various countries off guard; however, I am proud to say that our education sector demonstrated remarkable resilience. With 33 crore students, 1000 universities, 45,000 colleges, more than 15 lakhs of schools, and more than one crore of teachers, the Indian education sector is amongst the globe's largest education sector. Some might have considered it a sheer impossible task to synergise such an extensive network in the wake of a global pandemic, but as our Honourable Prime Minister says, 'Bigger challenges means bigger opportunities.' Under the guidance of such an astute visionary, we have been successful in overcoming all the challenges.

As the initial lockdown commenced, board examinations for class 10th and 12th were stalled. Students had either completed all their examinations or could appear in one or two exams. To assess all the students in such odd circumstances, we devised a normalisation formula with AI-enabled tools, which enabled us to deliver the results in a time-bound manner successfully.

Our government gave prime importance to ensure no disruption to our children's education, for which technology became crucial. The entire Indian education system had to be shifted to the online medium while keeping in mind the digital divide across the country. Thus, PM E-Vidyawas launched to provide multi-modal access to education benefitting nearly 25 crores, school-going children, across the country. DIKSHA (one nation-one digital platform), One class-One TV channel of SWAYAM Prabha, SWAYAM MOOC courses and radio broadcasting were used extensively to provide quality education for all.While One nation-One digital platform DIKSHA has20,96,55,37,651 page views since March 2020 to till date, One class-One TV Channel of Swayam Prabha has a total view count of 1,42,65,183. In 2021, for the January semester, SWAYAM had more than 18.15 lakh enrolments and a total view count of 9,45,354. It is heartening to see that these numbers are still increasing.

For ensuring mental health and emotional well-being during the COVID outbreak and beyond, the Ministry of Education undertook the initiative 'MANODARPAN', which covered a wide range of activities to provide psychosocial support to students, teachers, and families. Simultaneously, capacity building initiative for teachers, NISHTHA, was launched under which more than 30 lakh elementary teachers have been trained digitally. Other significant initiatives such as Alternative Academic Calendar, PRAGYATA Guidelines, Digital Education-India Report, and Learning Enhancement guidelines also ensured thateducation continuity was not hampered.

I had been in regular contact with the students through the medium of 'Shiksha Samvad' conducted by the Ministry of Education. While taking up the students' queries related to the JEE Mains and other competitive exams, I could see in the students' responses that our children have been preparing well for these competitive exams. Thus, we decided to conduct the JEE Mains exams while adhering to strict social distancing norms and taking all the precautions. More than 6 lakh candidates across India appeared for the exam and not a single case was reported. This became an ideal example for the whole world and the quintessential based on which the Bihar elections were conducted.

I am proud that our IITs, NITs, IIITs and IIMs worked relentlessly for society's well-being. Indeed, our educational institutions are not just institutions of learning but institutions of nation-building. With the research and innovation undertaken in these institutions, we developed cheap and affordable PPE kits, masks, ventilators, and sanitisers, not only for our people but also exported them to various countries showcasing India's Aatmanirbharta to the whole world.

During the COVID pandemic, we introduced the National Education Policy 2020, which has been accepted as the world's largest educational reform of the COVID era. The policy is aimed at overhauling the entire education system for the greater good of our children. From early childhood to higher education, the policy entails impeccable reforms to transform India into a knowledge superpower. I am glad to share that before the commencement of the next academic session 2021-22, we are going to introduce major provisions of the NEP 2020 such as Academic Bank of Credit, common admission test for Central Universities and Multiple Entry-Exit in our top 100 institutions. We shall also be introducing multi-disciplinary courses in our IoEs. Similarly, the National Education Technology Forum will be established to take education to the country's farthest corner with technology. On the other hand, the establishment of National Research Foundation under the Principal Scientific Advisor will surely transform our country's research landscape. An outlay of Rs 50,000 crore over the next five years has been allocated for the same in the recently introduced Aatmanirbhar Budget 2021.

NEP 2020 is not merely a policy but a vision document that has sent out a strong message that India is rapidly moving ahead to take global leadership in the education sector. I am sure that with the implementation of the NEP 2020, the day is not far when our education system will be second to none, and India shall reclaim the status of Vishwaguru.