C20 Summit on education and digital transformation gets under way

Published - May 21, 2023 12:20 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan speaking at the inaugural session of the C20 Summit on Education and Digital Transformation in Thiruvananthapuam on Saturday.

Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan speaking at the inaugural session of the C20 Summit on Education and Digital Transformation in Thiruvananthapuam on Saturday.

Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan has said the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has provided access to quality education for students in the remote corners of the country.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day C20 Summit on Education and Digital Transformation (EDT) that got under way here on Saturday. Several dignitaries from India and abroad attended the programme organised by the official engagement group of C20 on EDT. C20 (or Civil 20), an official engagement group of the G20, is its platform of civil-society organisations (CSOs).

Mr. Muraleedharan, who was the chief of guest, pointed out the Centre ensured the G20 presidency is not limited to just being a routine diplomatic exercise, but a truly “people’s G20”. G20-related meetings have been held in 41 cities in which 12,300 delegates representing 110 countries have taken part.

The country, he said, has been advancing rapidly in the field of digital education. “The Indian government is committed to reducing digital divide and bringing the benefits of technology to all citizens. Upskilling the youth and increasing digitalisation in education are our top priorities. Our seriousness can be gauged by the fact that the education sector has received the highest-ever allocation of USD 13.66 billion in the Union Budget,” Mr. Muraledharan informed the meeting.

Among the various policy initiatives made in the sector, the NEP 2020 has provided a framework for the digitalisation of education by concentrating on digital infrastructure, blended learning, online platforms, open education resources and skill development.

He added the government’s move to allow Indian universities to offer fully online degrees has helped in widening access of students to higher education. Global collaborations for online courses have raised the profile of Indian educational institutions worldwide. Besides, India’s EdTech sector is on the cusp of a phenomenal advancement due to the wide base of internet users which is set to increase to 900 million by 2025.

In a video address, spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, who is the Chair of C20 India, lamented the huge lead in science and technology, along with the misuse of the internet and increasing drug abuse among students, are all contributing to the predicament the society faced today. Advocating the ‘new’ should never be allowed to trample on the ‘old’, she added new discoveries can also mean new hazards. “Before such discoveries become a permanent headache to society, we need to find solutions to their potential negative repercussions and threats that could manifest.”

Shashi Tharoor, MP, who was the guest of honour, said a study conducted among 10,000 students in 400 Indian cities revealed that only 17% had access to laptops, and just 4% had access to smart tablets. Another report highlighted the infrastructural challenges in government schools with only 28% of them having computers and a mere 12% having an Internet connection. This lack of connectivity is particularly prevalent in rural schools, exposing the shortcomings of online education during the COVID-19 pandemic. A study by Oxfam across five Indian States showed that over 80% of respondents believed that digital schooling had failed children during the lockdown. It is a significant challenge that we must confront and address, he pointed out.

Mata Amritanandamayi Math vice chairman and C20 Troika member Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri also spoke. CSO experts and other stakeholders will hold discussions to identify pressing challenges focusing on education and digital transformation and work towards documenting innovative solutions, recommendations and best practices across the two days.

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