[Editorial Analysis] Are we hurting learning and teaching by diverting funds from blackboards to digital boards?

Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: AI

Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human resources


• Our classrooms in schools and universities will soon be adorned with “digital boards”.

• These boards “will work on emerging technologies including Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics and provide ‘Intelligent Tutoring’ to students based on their personal requirements.”

Analysing the data

• Over 1.5 lakh schools to get digital boards under scheme.

• The deployment of this technology is expected to improve the quality of teaching-learning and also ensure that graduates are no longer “unsuitable for the requirements of the society and market”.

• “Operation Digital Board” estimated 7,000 to 10,000 crore will be needed over three years, and apparently, all blackboards, in government and government-aided institutions, will be replaced by 2022.

• Is this money well spent? Do these digital boards address some outstanding bottleneck that is affecting teaching and learning in our schools and universities?

• The answer to both questions is a clear no.

Steps taken by the government

• Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central Schools) “decently funded” by the central government will reveal poor quality civil infrastructure computers, a lone projector, a few printers remains persistently pathetic on account of poor or zero maintenance.

• Even internet availability is intermittent and usually of poor quality.

• Then comes the problem of teacher shortage even in these schools in some areas, the shortage is more than 50 per cent of what is sanctioned.

• The state of elementary schools is even more worrisome.

• There are over 1 lakh schools with just one teacher.

• We are still grappling with regulations that should govern digital spaces, data privacy and security what kind of student data will be captured, who will own and regulate it?

• The alleged problems of these institutions, such as outdated curricula, indifferent faculty, poor learning outcomes, lack of meaningful pedagogies, or unemployable graduates have nothing to do with digital technology bottlenecks.

Way forward

• The lack of interest, among students, in academic work arising from a conditioning produced by a combination of poor schooling, aggressive coaching and lack of appropriate jobs cannot be treated with any digital medicine.

• Education is not just about acquiring more and more information. What we need is more teachers and more institutions, everything else is just a supplement.

• “The real question isn’t whether laptop programmes help students, but whether they’re more effective than other programmes competing for the same money.”

Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Consider the following with regard to Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)

1. Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by Virus

2. MDR-TB is a type of tuberculosis which is unresponsive to at least two of the first line of anti-TB drugs
isoniazid and rifampicin

3. Bedaquiline is a medication used in the treatment of MDR-TB
Choose the appropriate code

a) 2 only

b) 2 and 3

c) 1 and 3

d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: B

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Are we, therefore, hurting learning and teaching by diverting funds from blackboards to digital boards? Comment.

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