Several mobile applications and websites relating to education for school children were launched on 7 November in New Delhi by Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani.
"We are trying to leverage technology not only to bring more transparency in the school education system but also to create new learning opportunities for the children," she said at a national conference on school education called edNEXT.
Irani spoke of a number of educational initiatives like e-Pathshala, Saaransh, Shala Siddhi, Shala Darpan, Ekta Project and MDM-IVRS, all of which she claimed dovetailed into the Digital India campaign, conceptualised and promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) undertakings include e-Pathshala, a web portal created for mobile interfaces only. Saraansh is an evaluative tool which can help parents, teachers, mentors or students themselves, discover areas of improvement. This tool is useful for students from Class 9 to 12.
Shala Darpan, a tool for keeping tabs on timetables and attendance of students, and Shala Siddhi (National Programme on School Standards and Evaluation Framework), an evaluative tool for schools, are dependent completely on the availability of internet to students, teachers and parents. Presently, the internet penetration is less than 20% of India's population.
The HRD Ministry had in 2014 set up a website for online post-graduate courses called e-pgpathshala, under the National Mission on Education through ICT, for which the content is being created by UGC. However, the site lies devoid of educational material in many subject categories like comparative literature, history, etc.
The HRD ministry had earlier also launched initiatives like Swayam, a MOOC project comprising of courses from IITs and IIMs, which provide online courses free of charge to anyone who wishes to access them on the portal edx.
The ministry has also approved and granted Rs. 100 crores to IIT Kharagpur's national e-library project – an attempt to digitize educational materials and accessible to anyone with internet.
While the HRD ministry seeks to improve the quality and method of education there are several roadblocks, primarily in terms of accessibility to the various resources being created. For instance, the lack of internet penetration. Also, the MOOCs, mobile apps, and websites act only as complementary resources to the education received in institutions by enrolled students.
At the conference, Irani, apart from announcing these initiatives, also used the occasion to congratulate state education ministers for fulfilling the Prime Minister's endeavour of having toilets in every government school under the Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya campaign.
However, an Indiaspend report recently suggested that the toilets-for-all in government schools campaign has not been completed and do not meet the guidelines in sharp contrast to HRD ministry's claim that toilets had been provided in all government schools across the nation.