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Indian Government Launches Virtual School to Bolster Educational Access for All

The Indian government has launched a virtual school concept that will allow millions of eligible students outside the school system to complete their studies without having to physically attend. The concept will be implemented through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and will be entirely digital, the Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, announced. The school is the first-of-its-kind initiative in India. It will provide advanced digital learning platforms via virtual live classrooms and labs.

The Minister noted that the availability of digital schooling will benefit those who are out of the existing system. According to a news report, the move underscores the government’s push towards increasing the adoption of technology in the education sector. The school is a new model of learning and is an example of how leveraging technology and innovation can facilitate greater inclusion in education.

School Education Secretary Anita Karwal explained that, under the project, students’ assessments and examinations will also happen via remote proctoring. She said that students in Classes 9 to 12 will have options to join a virtual school. In such schools, classes will be conducted virtually but will be activity-based, textbook-based, and experiential. Examination results will be declared digitally.

According to NIOS, the virtual school is like an online platform “with a mission to enable access to affordable, world-class education to enhance learning outcomes”. Students will attend live interactive classes, watch recorded sessions, and submit tutor-marked assignments (TMAs), assessments, and exams. The school will also offer certifications to enhance student employability and may be offered access to job boards and job portals for career-related issues.

The report said Pradhan also unveiled an alternative academic calendar developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to facilitate teachers and parents to assess students’ learning progress. The initiative contains a week-wise plan of challenging activities, with references to learning outcomes, themes, and chapters taken from the syllabus or textbooks. He said the National Education Policy recommended the adoption of digital and physical modes of education and the Education Ministry is trying to build the required infrastructure and an enabling environment that offers education in all three modes—physical, digital, and hybrid.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education collaborated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and a private chip manufacturing giant to launch an artificial intelligence (AI) skilling programme, AI for All. It aims to provide a basic understanding of AI for all Indian citizens.

As OpenGov Asia reported, the private player launched a special, four-hour-long self-paced learning module that explains AI in a way that is suitable for a novice audience. The course is available in 11 Indian languages and is open to the general public. The course has two parts – AI awareness and AI appreciation. At the end of each stage, participants will be given personalised digital badges that can be shared on social media, the company said. The programme will build a digital-first mindset and expand access to the AI skills needed for current and future jobs. The programme is in line with the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s National Strategy for AI, which focuses on leveraging the technology for inclusive growth and developing large-scale solutions for societal needs. AI For All is one of the largest AI public awareness programmes worldwide and will help “demystify AI in an inclusive manner strengthening India’s position as a global leader for emerging technologies”.

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