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Opinion: A GPT To Educate Bharat

During the Covid lockdown, the academic year was saved for many students, thanks to online lectures and classes. However, for students who lacked internet connectivity and computers, access to education was ensured through the nearly 40 free to aid satellite television channels on DD FreeDish operated by the Education Ministry and BISAG, an autonomous body of the Ministry of Electronics and IT. Very little is known about the creators of this content, especially for higher education.

Under the University Grants Commission, UGC, there are more than 20 Electronic Multimedia Research Centres (EMMRCs) in various central and state universities. These are responsible for creating higher education content that finds its way to the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) platform Swayam and to various DTH channels. A recent review of these centres showed the transformative potential of technologies like artificial intelligence and direct-to-mobile broadcasting, in conjunction with the MOOCs platforms, to educate India.

India, with its vast diversity, is faced with the challenge of not only ensuring equity in education but also to deliver it with a consistent degree of excellence. These twin policy priorities are a national imperative as is evident from the goals and objectives of the National Education Policy. Achieving these twin goals of equity and excellence will require a creative application of these emerging technologies in the interest of both democratising access to quality education and to pave the way for a knowledge-based future to India's youth, empowering them to be globally competitive.

Two specific areas emerged during the review of the Educational Multi-Media Research Centres (EMMRCs), which could transform the way online education is being delivered in India. Rather than the current one-size-fits-all approach of the Swayam platform, which is disconnected from the one-way broadcast approach of the DTH channels, a creative convergence of MOOCs and broadcasting could pave the way for personalised and interactive learning.

Today, using AI, it is possible to customise and personalise the MOOC learning journey for each student. AI tools with the ability to analyse learning patterns can both predict learning outcomes, and tailor the interactive content to suit learning abilities. This has the potential to revolutionize the way education is delivered and consumed. Imagine a system where every student receives individual attention, where courses adapt to their learning speed and style, and where teachers are equipped with insights to intervene precisely and effectively. This is not a distant dream but within the realm of possibility.

Direct-to-mobile (D2M) broadcasting is a complementary general purpose technology that can be a game-changer for India with over a billion mobile devices. The ubiquity of mobile devices offers an unprecedented opportunity to bring education to every nook and corner of India. By streaming educational content directly to phones by leveraging broadcast frequencies, we can potentially overcome geographical barriers and enable universal access to education. With Artificial Intelligence combined with Direct to Mobile (D2M) Broadcasting, learning cannot just be flexible, allowing students to learn at their pace and convenience, but can transcend barriers of language. The synergy between MOOCs and traditional broadcasting can create a robust ecosystem of blended learning. MOOCs offer a plethora of courses that can cater to those who prefer learning in their local language or do not have stable internet connectivity. This hybrid model ensures that no learner is left behind, combining the richness of digital content with the reach of broadcast media to enable anytime anywhere learning.

However, the path to digital education is fraught with challenges. The digital divide, varying levels of digital literacy, and infrastructural constraints are real issues that need concerted efforts. The review report emphasizes the need for robust digital infrastructure and skilled professionals to manage these technologies effectively. It calls for governance restructuring within EMMRCs, ensuring they are not just repositories of content but dynamic centres of innovation and excellence. This calls for the need to empower the educators with the skills and tools to innovate course content to be effective within a dynamic learning environment. It also calls for a culture of continuous learning and improvement, leveraging data to close the feedback loop all the way back from learning outcomes to the source i.e. the creation of course content.

The future of education in India, as imagined within the National Education Policy, will have to be inclusive, innovative, and interactive. GPTs like AI and D2M can enable a system where every student, regardless of their background, has access to the best learning resources. This will prepare them not just for the jobs of today, but also for the challenges of tomorrow, shaping them as empowered and enlightened individuals who can compete globally. Given the scale of investment required to harness the power of large language models-based generative AI and to build the broadcast infrastructure required for D2M, it will require public-private partnerships. The government, academia, industry, and civil society must come together to invest in the future of education to realise this vision and create a GPT uniquely suited to educate Bharat.

(Shashi Shekhar Vempati is a technocrat, author, and former CEO, Prasar Bharati)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.