How ISRO is Strengthening India's COVID hit Education System?

ISRO structuring India's Educational System
General
January 29, 2023

One of the most concerning impacts of covid in India is the effect that it has had on our education system. The advent of online education is a new challenge for students and teachers alike. This challenge becomes even bigger when we talk about rural areas that lack the technological infrastructure to implement these new academic guidelines efficiently.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has now stepped in with a potential solution to this problem by agreeing to provide the necessary technological support for the setting up of satellite TV classrooms across the country wherein students can view education-based content on their television sets.

Request made by the parliamentary panel

A parliamentary panel led by Vinay Sahasrabuddhe (MP, Rajya Sabha) had approached the top ISRO officials in early June this year requesting technical assistance in setting up satellite TV classrooms. The objective of this request was to minimize the educational gap that has rapidly been widening since the lockdown due to significant differences in the technological resources available with the students in rural and urban areas.

The satellite TV coverage in India is far more widespread than the availability of uninterrupted internet connection, thus giving a fair opportunity to as many students as possible.

ISRO, in its response, has agreed to provide satellite rights to states for the setting up of satellite TV classrooms, given that the "states will be willing to use the technology."

Implementation

The efficiency of implementing a new proposal or a policy determines the success of that particular idea.

While there is no official communication on how or when this set-up will be ready for use, the committee has explored forming cluster classrooms to organize, monitor, and streamline the process. A cluster classroom traditionally has about four to six students in one class.

The use of satellite TV can also boost the informal education sector as it allows students who are not enrolled with any educational institutes to obtain a basic knowledge of how the world works and can potentially use that knowledge to gain access to better career opportunities later in their lives.

Challenges

The lack of clarity on implementing this concept leaves big unanswered questions that can prove to be challenging if not addressed in time. Some of these concerns include:

Content Creation

  • The content to be aired has to be more or less uniform for the students in a particular region. This means that the classes should be easy to understand so that even the academically weaker students can comprehend the subject matter without any difficulty. Yet, the difficulty level must not be so low that the curiosity of the students who have the aptitude to understand more is left unserved. Thus the content must be well-balanced and curated very carefully.
  • Apart from aptitude, the barriers of language, curriculum, and the medium of education must also be taken care of.
  • Popular doubts that arise when students are taught a particular concept in class must also be incorporated and explicitly addressed.

 

Appointment of staff for cluster classrooms

  • If cluster classrooms were to be set up, it would require the necessary staff members to run them efficiently. This is a resource-intensive task that needs to be efficiently organized while keeping the covid protocols in mind.
  • This includes finding additional spaces for conducting cluster classrooms in the most remote areas of India where there may not exist a sufficient number of government schools.

ISRO 2

 

Evaluation criteria

  • Satellite TV classrooms are a great way to provide one-way communication i.e., from teachers to the students, but they do not offer any scope for student evaluation. Hence, a parallel examination procedure also needs to be devised for the successful formalization of this process.
  • The exams need to be standardized for students coming from different backgrounds.
  • Conducting exams in online mode is not an option since the whole idea of satellite TV classrooms is to help students who do not have access to online resources.
  • Conducting exams in offline mode is again a very resource-intensive practice and needs to be meticulously planned and organized while keeping the covid restrictions in mind.

 

Credibility of education

  • Even if we successfully overcome all of the above challenges, there will always remain a question mark over the credibility of education that a student has received and whether this batch of students is at par with the previous batches that have come out of formal offline education.
  • Therefore, private institutions and employers might reject or avoid this batch of students for higher education and employment purposes, thereby leaving them at a significant disadvantage.

Impact on the students

Provided that we can overcome the challenges mentioned above, this could be a massive opportunity for our country to change the dynamics of our entire education system.

It gives us a chance to restructure the content that is currently being taught and thereby could make the entire process of education more interesting, engaging, and relevant for the students. A more holistic curriculum could also enable the students to gain some clarity about the fields they enjoy, thereby turning them into confident individuals who know what they want from life and have clear, focused goals in mind.

And assuming this effort turns out to be a huge success, many students who have gained access to a quality education because of this initiative would be in awe and appreciation of this campaign made possible by the technical team at ISRO.

They potentially could get inspired to do something similar to help the society and may thus explore the possibility of research in India by themselves going on to become a part of organizations like ISRO. This could strengthen the country's economy and establish a more science-based culture in the country, thus encouraging the future generation of Indians to explore the fields of astronomy and aeronautics, among others.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that significant challenges lie ahead of us. It remains to be seen how the responsible stakeholders deal with these challenges to provide optimal educational opportunities for all students.

What is worth appreciating, however, is the initiative taken by the parliamentary panel, the prompt response by our ISRO scientists in extending their full support towards this initiative, and the potential this holds for a brighter future for Indian students.

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