Government unveils virtual school to improve access

The Union government officially launched the virtual school concept on Tuesday that will allow millions of eligible students outside the school system to complete their education without physically attending a brick and mortar school.

This will be implemented through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) but will be entirely digital in nature, said Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

The availability of digital education will benefit those outside the existing system, the minister said.

This decision underscores the government’s desire to increase the adoption of technology in the education sector.

“This school is a new model of learning and illustrates how harnessing technology and innovation can facilitate greater inclusion in education,” Pradhan said. “The school is the first initiative of its kind in India, which will provide advanced digital technology learning platforms via live virtual classrooms and labs, etc.”

The school’s education secretary, Anita Karwal, said student assessments and exams will also be done via remote monitoring as part of this initiative. She said that students in grades 9 to 12 will have the opportunity to join a virtual school. At these schools, classes will run virtually but will be activity-based, textbook-based and experiential in nature, she said, adding that the results will also be reported numerically.

According to NIOS, the virtual school is like an online platform “with the mission of enabling access to affordable, world-class education to improve learning outcomes.”

Students “will attend live interactive lessons, watch recorded sessions, submit tutor graded assignments (TMA), assessments and exams.”

The virtual or digital school will also offer certifications to improve student employability and may be offered access to job sites and job portals for career-related matters.

Pradhan also unveiled an alternative academic calendar developed by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to “make it easier for teachers and parents to assess progress in children’s learning.” This initiative contains a weekly plan of “stimulating activities, with reference to learning outcomes, themes and chapters from the program or manual”.

He said that the national education policy has suggested the adoption of digital and physical modes of education and his ministry is trying to build the required infrastructure and the enabling environment to provide education in the three modes – physical, digital and hybrid.

The pandemic has led to an increase in the adoption of technology in education. Granted, only 24% of Indian households have internet connections to access online education, and there is a large rural-urban and gender gap that is likely to widen the learning gap between high, middle and low income families, according to a Unicef ​​report published in August 2020.

The Department of Education also unveiled an initiative to boost early childhood learning from kindergarten to grade 5 to improve the reading and numeracy skills of early childhood students.

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Perry A. Thomasson