My Meeting With PM Modi

We live in an age where everything is divided into the availability of something and its application. We are a nation with countless people trying to make it through an education system that needs a general overhaul to match with our needs and time; we are also a population that has great talent and knowledge, and yet yearns to get jobs where that talent and knowledge would be put to use and well-recognized.

At the same time, we also are struggling to ensure access to a vast resource of technology beyond the barriers of caste and creed, followed by its effective usage.

We need to bridge the gap between technology and education, if we have to look at a future that is bright and in sync with our needs.

When I met on August 1 with the Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, along with a delegation of Members of Parliament of the Shiv Sena, I had two clear things on the agenda - the Education Tab and Virtual Classrooms.

With Modi ji's push for Digital India, and the NDA government being keen on education being ensured to each and every child, I was very keen to meet the Prime Minister with these two initiatives taken up by Shiv Sena President Shri Uddhav Thackeray.

The Virtual Classroom project is an initiative, perhaps the first in our nation by a municipal corporation, initiated four years ago. 10th standard classrooms in almost 400 schools have been linked to a studio via the satellite. These classes, held almost once a week, have a teacher interacting with students and vice versa. The results are seen with grades of the students improving.

Even as the school infrastructure and basics of BMC schools are being renovated and overhauled each year, the infusion of this technology has made education an attraction to the students who would further go on to do greater things in life.

This technology was brought to BMC schools, by an entrepreneur who himself, as a student, studied in a BMC school.

The other initiative led by Uddhav Thackeray ji is that of the educational tablet. Initially a few questions were raised, in terms of its practicality and purpose. "So what are these educational tabs? What are the benefits? Is it for all? Haven't laptops to students not been practical in the past? Why doesn't it have connectivity and cameras?"

It's all simple and interesting, at least for those students using it.

The educational tab is fully loaded with the entire educational content of the Maharashtra State Board syllabus (and possibly could be with any other State Board/CBSE) of the 8th, 9th and 10th standard in the form of audio-visual, notes, mind maps and self-assessment tests.

To explain what has it achieved is of great satisfaction.

We all are of the strong belief that writing with our own hands is a must for every child, and thus notebooks are important; however if textbooks can be condensed with such technology, the problems of heavy schoolbags faced by students could be largely solved.

As of today, the tabs are available in the languages that are used in Maharashtra schools i.e. Marathi, Hindi, English, Gujarati, Urdu etc. but they could be used for any regional language needed by any state.

Some questions were raised over why the tabs do not have connectivity and cameras like mobile phones. As educationists would agree, we do not allow mobile phones in a classroom, primarily because we don't encourage the drifting of attention from education to surfing the Internet.

What is most important today is the primary agenda of reducing the weight of school bags and that is how we must view the initiative, not as a way to hand over election freebies like mobile phones.

These tabs aren't to serve the purpose of connectivity, but that of a digital interactive serious textbook.

What is most important today is to blend technology with our conventional knowledge taught in schools in India. With our talent pool in Information Technology, there could be greater advancements in such tabs. However, to begin with, we are sure that this is a necessary revolution in education with the coming of technology.

This will only make further education reforms easier and give scope to our students to make useful technology a part of their everyday lives, and such revolutions are the need of the hour!

(Aaditya Thackeray is the president of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena)

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