Digital learning should not lead to digital divide: Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu

New Delhi : The Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu today stressed that while Central and State governments are taking measures to promote digital learning, it is important to ensure that there is no digital divide. To ensure this, he called for increased access to the internet especially in rural areas and remote places and to ‘keep inclusivity at the heart of the educational experience’. ‘The mantra should be — embrace, engage, enlighten and empower’, he said.

Addressing the gathering after inaugurating the Sports Centre at the National Institute of Technical Teachers Training & Research (NITTTR) in Chennai today,  Shri Naidu expressed concerns about the impact of the pandemic on education, and said that school closures affected girls, children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those living in rural areas, children with disabilities and children from ethnic minorities more than their peers.

On this occasion, the Vice President also inaugurated the NITTTR Open Educational Resource (OER) today.  Calling it an important step in improving inclusivity through distance education, he observed that it would help the teachers in improving their knowledge base and teaching methodology.

Calling for corrective action from the governments, Shri Naidu suggested that one of the important measures is to upgrade the skills of teachers in e-learning. Emphasising the importance of quality teacher training in India, he said that ‘teachers constitute the intellectual lifeline of a nation and play a critical role in charting its development’.

Shri Naidu further stressed the need to create teachers who are ‘learners and creators of knowledge — teachers who touch lives and seek to uplift the human condition’. ‘We need inspirational, transformational leaders in our classrooms, especially in rural India’, he added.

Talking about India’s demographic dividend, he said that teachers have greater responsibility in moulding India’s huge youth population into responsible citizens. “Education does not mean just degrees,” he said and opined that true purpose of education is enlightenment, empowerment and wisdom. The Vice President also called upon the institutes to focus on developing a constrictive and positive attitude among the students.

The Vice President lauded the role of teachers as ‘COVID warriors’ and doing their best to ensure the academic continuity of their students during the pandemic. He noted that the teaching community explored technology and  showed ‘remarkable flexibility in reinventing their strategies and methodologies to support the learning of students’.

Referring to the National Education Policy 2020 as a visionary document, the Vice President said that it seeks to transform the education ecosystem in our country and underlines the importance of energising and motivating young faculty members. He urged teachers to adopt innovative strategies to address important national and global challenges and opportunities in an intellectually vibrant, collaborative environment.

Stressing the need for de-colonisation of India’s education system, the Vice President called for taking inspiration from India’s ancient knowledge systems and great sages who had made our country a Vishwa Guru – a knowledge giver. Calling for regaining that position, he underscored the need to make society free from the divisions based on the cast, religion, region and language.

Emphasizing the need to promote and preserve Indian languages, Shri Naidu appreciated AICTE for starting technical courses in Indian languages. Reiterating that no languages should be imposed or opposed, he opined that one must learn as many languages as possible but primacy should be given to mother tongue.

Advising teachers to impart ‘experiential learning’ to students, Shri Naidu observed that such a learning methodology helps in promoting creativity and innovative outcomes. He called for taking teaching from a one way mode of communication to a two-way mode where activities need to be connected from content to context.

Calling upon NITTTR to take the lead in producing outstanding teachers through well-structured and scientifically designed training programmes, he appreciated its efforts in training more than 60,000 learners in the past two years. He complimented the institute for training international participants as well under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Expressing his happiness over inauguration of the Sports Centre at NITTTR, Shri Naidu, who himself is a sport enthusiast, exhorted the teachers to keep fit and also encourage their students to regularly practice sports or Yoga. He said that this pandemic has highlighted the importance of physical fitness and healthy food for good immunity against the diseases.

Later on, interacting with the students and faculty members of NITTTR, Shri Naidu stressed the need to transform our teaching methods, especially in technical institutions. In response to a question, he called for creating better facilities such as good hospitals, schools, roads and connectivity in rural areas to bridge rural-urban divide and stem migration to cities. He also urged the state governments to focus on Smart Cities program and create model cities to inspire other urban centers to improve their facilities.

Thiru Ma.Subramanian, Health Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr. V.S.S. Kumar, Chairman, Board of Governors, NITTTR Chennai, Dr. Usha Natesan , Director, NITTTR, Chennai, Dr. G. Kulanthaivel, Professor, NITTTR, and others were present.

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