HRD min rolls out 'digital board' but no funds for plan

HRD min rolls out 'digital board' but no funds for plan

Human resource development (HRD) ministry on Wednesday launched a scheme to replace blackboards in seven lakh classrooms across the country with digital boards in next three years without any immediate allocation of funds required to implement the move.

HRD minister Prakash Javadekar rolled out the scheme to equip five lakh classrooms of the higher secondary and senior secondary schools (classes IX to XII) of the government schools as well as two lakh classrooms of the public-funded higher education institutions from this year.

While the ministry aims to cover nearly 1.5 lakh secondary and senior secondary schools under the scheme by 2022, the university grants commission (UGC) has proposed to cover 300 universities and 10,000 colleges under the scheme in three years, starting 2019.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had proposed for the rollout of the scheme last year while presenting the Union Budget in Parliament for fiscal 2018-19.

Javadekar had mooted the scheme as “Operation Digital Board' in 2017 to provide interactive smart boards (digital boards) to 15 lakh classroom of public funded schools and higher education institutions to improve quality of education.

India has nearly 15 lakh schools across the country and close to 50,000 higher education institutions. About 10% of the schools and higher education institutions are already equipped with digital boards.

“We will come out with detail scheme. But, we have already started preparations. We are also discussing as to what is the status state-wise,” the HRD minister told reporters, announcing the launch of the scheme.

The implementation of the scheme would cost about Rs 7000 crore to 10,000 crore.

When asked about the availability of funds for the scheme, the minister said there was no need to “worry” about it.

“We usually provide a budget of 700 to 800 crore for ICT programmes of the schools and colleges. This (funding) will be enhanced. We will do it. Why are you worried?” the minister said while replying to a volley of questions from the reporters on funding of the project.

While the Finance Ministry has not allocated any fund to the ministry's school education department on the head of 'Digital India e-learning,' a central sector scheme to cater to the digital initiative of the department, for the fiscal 2019-20, it has earmarked just Rs 579 crore for the 'Digital India e-learning' programmes to be implemented in higher education sector.

Sources in the ministry said that the funds could be made available for implementation of the 'operation digital board' in schools from Rs 36472.40 crore allocated to the school education department on the head of Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Sixty percent of the cost will be born by the ministry while states will bear the remaining 40% of the total cost.

The higher education department of the ministry, which plans to provide funds to universities and colleges institutions as interest-free loan from the higher education financing agency (HEFA), will have to seek cabinet approval before going ahead with the plan, sources said.

“All technicalities will be resolved in two-three months. The Model Code of Conduct (to be enforced by the Election Commission with announcement of Lok Sabha polls next month) is applicable to political parties only, not the administration. The administration will continue with its work and implement the scheme from the new academic session this year,” Javadekar said.

Installation of digital boards will allow schools to adopt the “flipped classroom model” of teaching-learning.

A flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which short video lectures and other contents are viewed by the students at home and in school during their classes. The time in classes in such cases are more dedicated to various exercises, projects, and discussions pertaining to the topic to be taught.