The public education sector in Kerala marked a first in the country as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday declared that the state public education sector had gone completely digital with high-tech classrooms in all government schools.
Making the announcement through a video conference, the chief minister said with the upgradation of all classrooms to international standards and setting up of Hi-Tech IT labs, children in the state will have access to advanced learning systems. Over three lakh digital equipment, including laptops, projectors, webcams and printers have been provided as part of the project, he added.
"Kerala has become the first state to have high-tech classrooms in all public schools", giving a huge boost to the education sector, said Vijayan, adding that his government presented before the world a Left alternative --"a Kerala model of education for our future generations".
"It was the firm decision of the Left government to make education accessible to all sections of society. Now, all the children in the state have access to the opportunity to learn and grow with the help of advanced learning systems. It's a proud achievement for the state," the chief minister said.
The government says it took up the Public Education Rejuvenation Mission aimed at upgrading all classrooms to international standards and to set-up Hi-Tech IT labs. The Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) was assigned the task to carry out the Mission with funding from the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).
As part of the Mission, currently a total of 42,000 classrooms for classes 8 to 12 have been equipped with laptops, projectors, screens and networked with school studios. It has been ensured that all lower primary and upper primary schools have at least one smart classroom with a computer lab, an official release said.
Development in the education sector is part of the government’s 'Pothu Vidyabhyasa Samrakshana Yajnam' (mission to protect public education). The projects under this mission aim to reshape public education in the state by ensuring quality education with skills that equip the state’s students to compete with students around the world.
The mission aims to regain lost public trust in government and state-aided schools, and provide free education to the entire student population of Kerala.
When the Left Democratic Front government came to power in 2016, they had proposed comprehensive educational reforms including upgrading 1,000 government schools to international standards during the first phase. The reforms aimed to focus on improving infrastructural facilities, but also the teaching and learning process, aligning these to present day needs by introducing Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled learning and smart classrooms. A special focus was also given to creating educational programmes for differently-abled students.
Under the mission, each government school with over 1,000 students will get up to Rs 3 crore for basic infrastructure development. State-aided schools will get government support of up to Rs 1 crore for the same, and equal share of money would have to be raised by the management.
The mission also aims to redefine the existing classroom learning process, coordinated resource mobilisation efforts and develop a ‘Janakeeya Vidyabhyasa Mathruka’ which roughly translates to ‘People’s Education Model.’ Through various programmes, the mission brought together parents, politicians and the public on a single platform for developing public educational institutions across the state, the government said.
All 16,030 public schools in the state are now equipped with 3,74,274 IT equipment, including 1,19,055 laptops, 69,944 multimedia projectors, 23,098 projector screens, 4,545 LED TVs, 4,578 DSLR cameras, 4,720 Full HD webcams and 4,611 multi-function printers along with high-speed, broadband Internet connectivity to 12,678 schools, as per government figures.
Vijayan on Monday said the issue of loss of an academic year due to COVID-19 was averted with the help of online classes and schools in the state would open once the conditions become conducive. However, online classes were not an alternative to classroom learning." We were forced to do it due to the pandemic. When the situation returns to normal, schools would reopen," the chief minister said.
"Quality education should be provided to all. But schools cannot reopen now," CM Vijayan said. The state government had on October 4 said that in the light of the severe spread of the virus in the state, schools were not likely to open at this juncture.
Vijayan said the equipment installed in schools has five-year comprehensive onsite warranty and insurance. Further, to address complaints, a web-portal and call centre was also functional. He also informed that at least 1,83,440 teachers were given special training as part of implementing the digitisation mission. The Public Education Rejuvenation Mission was to transform schools into centres of excellence. This had been made possible to a large extent with concerted efforts of peoples representatives, local self-government institutions, parent-teacher associations, former students, and individuals, he added.
Many notable public personalities were part of the online function. During the programme, journalist Rajdeep Sardesai pointed out the chances of a rural-urban divide in the case of digital classrooms. Addressing this concern, the chief minister has said that all the public schools in the state have uncompromised facilities. He also stressed that equal opportunities have been ensured for all irrespective of rural-urban divide.
Through these developments in infrastructure and quality of education, five lakh new students have enrolled in government schools in Kerala in the last three years. In the past, there were discussions in society about the closure of government schools. But now, the schools were being improved and attracting more students, the CM said on October 4 while speaking after dedicating 90 schools as "Centres of Excellence" and laying the foundation stone virtually for 54 school buildings as part of the government's Public Education Rejuvenation Campaign.
A fourth- grade student, Nidhin, who has been popular in the state through his vlog named Sankaran Vlogs, through an online interaction, requested the chief minister to convert his classroom to a smart classroom. Addressing his concern, the chief minister said the government’s aim was to convert all classrooms into smart classrooms.
Commenting about public sector education in the state, Salman, father of a fourth grade student at Manacaud TTI primary school, located in the state capital, said that “the quality of resources in government schools are unparalleled. The teaching quality and infrastructure are way batter than in private schools.”
“The approach to learning itself is different. Rather than the traditional way, the students get a chance to experience what they are being taught using technology. Also, through continuous trainings and workshop, the education department ensures to improve the quality of teachers in government schools,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)