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As part of the Prime Minister’s Digital India programme, the government has launched a new portal for students to download school books and ebooks. According to a release by the ministry of human resources and development, the initiative called e-Basta is a portal where authorized school teachers can access the portal to compile course material and textbooks, and e-books as per a school’s preferences for each class.

The portal was jointly developed with the  Department of Electronics and Information Technology’s Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC). Resources on the portal may be free or priced, and user will be charged for priced resources upon download, the release added . “The e-basta can be made to suit the prescribed books/resources of schools as per the syllabus of their school board or school specific requirements,” the release added.

The portal currently holds 329 textbooks from the NCERT for classes 1 to 12 and the ebooks are available in Hindi, English, Urdu and Sanskrit. It also shows that a few schools have started posting syllabi  and course material on the website for students to download onto tablets.

ebasta

e-basta app: The C-DAC has also developed an application which can run on any Android tablet which can access the syllabi and resources from the portal. The content considered by the app is as defined by the teacher/ school in the eBasta structure, irrespective of what resources are on the SD card.

How it works

For students : Students come to the portal to download a prescribed a syllabus or explore other resources and contents available on the portal, and download them. If the set of contents to be downloaded includes
non-free resources, they will be taken to payment portal to complete the payment. Then they will be given
access to download the contents. In the case of eBastas, they are expected to use the eBasta app to access the
contents.

For publishers:  Publishers can upload content along with metadata covering class, language, subject, price, preview pages, etc. Pre-publication content can also be uploaded for review. Publishers can also view comments and ratings produced by the users of the portal, as well as download-statistics of the various e-contents.

For schools: Authorized teachers can access the portal to compile resources as per the school’s preferences for each class. They can  browse the e-contents uploaded by various publishers, search for contents, and organize them into a set syllabus. Every syllabus has a unique name, which can be given to the students so that they can download the same on their own.

Other initiatives by the HRD ministry

– Earlier in 2012, the National Book Trust India, the autonomous publication house which works under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, created an e-store where e-books are available for purchase by the public.

–  In 2013, the Human Resource Development ministry had launched a new initiative called National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER).  The website’s repository includes concept maps, videos, audio clips, talking books, multimedia, learning objects, photographs, diagrams, charts, articles, wikipages and textbooks for all grades in multiple languages. Users can access the repository to use the resources, comment on them and also contribute to the repository.

– In 2014, the Union HRD Ministry initiated the SWAYAM Programme, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform. On this platform professors of centrally funded institutions like, IITs, IIMs, Central Universities, etc will offer online courses that will be accessible by all Indians free of cost.

– In March 2014, the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) launched e-learning course in association with IIT and IISc. The programme is an initiative by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and it has tied-up with several other companies in the online education field such as btechguru.commyopencourses, and Classle.

Our take: This is a great move by the government and hopefully there is greater adoption. But it also underscores the importance for Internet penetration and adoption in India. Low-cost tablets can be given to students in the hinterlands and content can be accessed through mobile Internet. This should significantly reduce costs for distribution of texts. Perhaps it can also be extended to colleges under the University Grants Commision (UGC) and can also rope in bigger publishers for the same.

But it needs to be pointed out that perhaps it is time for the to consolidate all its education offering under one roof instead of creating multiple websites each with its own resource set. The idea is great on paper and the goals of these projects look good too, but the implementation so far has been sloppy much like Aakash tablets that were supposed to empower students across India.