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Digitised credits to AI: Tech-related provisions in National Education Policy 2020

The National Education Policy 2020, which was released on July 29, had a number of tech-related proposals, including promoting artificial intelligence, starting from including it in the education curriculum, to making funds available for research in the area. The policy also proposed to create an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) to digitally store academic credits earned by students from various recognised institutes of higher education, so that these institutes can award degrees to students after taking into account credits earned by them.

“New technologies involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, block chains, smart boards, handheld computing devices, adaptive computer testing for student development, and other forms of educational software and hardware will not just change what students learn in the classroom but how they learn, and thus these areas and beyond will require extensive research both on the technological as well as educational fronts,” the policy stated. 

The tech in the National Education Policy 2020

Digitised credits: While proposing a new four year long Bachelor’s program, which includes multidisciplinary education, the policy proposed to create an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC), “which could digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognised HEIs [higher educational institutes] so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned”.

An autonomous body, NEAT, to create a platform for use of tech: The policy said that the use and integration of technology will be promoted as long as “these interventions are rigorously and transparently evaluated in relevant contexts before they are scaled up”. It proposed the creation of an autonomous body, the National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT), “to provide a platform for use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, and so on, both for school and higher education”. The aim of NEAT, per the policy, will be to provide various ed-tech solutions on a single portal, with a special focus on the needs of the students with disabilities.

An expert body within NEAT will help educational institutions, state and central governments, and other stakeholders, with the “latest knowledge and research as well as the opportunity to consult and share best practices with each other”. NEAT, through its expert body, will have to maintain a “regular inflow” of “authentic data” from multiple sources including educational technology innovators and practitioners, particularly at the grass-root level, and engage with a diverse set of researchers to analyse this data. It will have the following roles:

  • Provide best educational technology to the students using a portal
  • Build intellectual and institutional capacities in educational technology
  • Provide independent evidence-based advice to central and state government agencies on technology-based interventions, through its expert body
  • Envision strategic thrust areas in this domain
  • Articulate new directions for research and innovation.

The policy doesn’t specify the composition of NEAT’s expert body, nor does it clarify how people will be appointed to that body. It is also worth noting that the government had first announced NEAT in September 2019.

Funding research related to AI/ML: The government proposed a National Research Foundation, which among other things will aid research efforts in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. The policy said that in the context of AI, the Foundation “may” consider a three-pronged approach:

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  • Advance core AI research
  • Develop and deploy application- based research
  • Establish international research efforts to address global challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, and climate change using AI.

The policy also mandated all universities to offer doctorate and and Masters programmes in core areas such as machine learning, as well as multidisciplinary fields (AI + X), among other things. Higher educational institutions can also develop courses related to AI/ML and make them available on online platforms like SWAYAM.

“Colleges may also offer targeted training in low-expertise tasks for supporting the AI value chain such as data annotation, image classification, and speech transcription. Efforts to teach languages to school students will be dovetailed with efforts to enhance Natural Language Processing for India’s diverse languages.,” the policy said.

AI in curriculum: The policy said that students at all levels should be exposed to contemporary subjects such as artificial intelligence. Apart from that, topics such as AI, 3D machining, big data analysis, and machine learning, among others must be woven into undergraduate education “at the earliest”.

Software development: Educational software will be developed and made available for students and teachers at “all levels”, the policy said. These software will be available in all major Indian languages, and be accessible to a wide range of users including students in remote areas and with disabilities, it claimed.

Smart classrooms: Every classroom will be developed into a smart classroom in a phased manner, with online resources and collaborations, the policy said. It didn’t specify what the timeline is for this phased approach. “Once internet-connected smart phones or tablets are available in all homes and/or schools, online apps with quizzes, competitions, assessments, enrichment materials, and online communities for shared interests will be developed, and will work to enhance all the aforementioned initiatives (as group activities for students, with appropriate supervision of parents and teachers),” it added.

National Teachers Portal, digital libraries: A national repository of resources on foundational literacy and numeracy will be made available on the National Teacher’s Portal, the policy said. Digital libraries will also be “encouraged” to be set up in all public and school libraries. The policy also said that higher education institutes “must” have “modern digital enabled classrooms”, and “technology tools” will be developed for “better participation and learning outcomes”.

Teaching-learning e-content developed by state governments and NCERT, CBSE, and other educational bodies will be uploaded to the National Teacher’s Portal. This platform “may” also be utilised for e-content related to teacher’s professional development. Devices to watch video content on will also be made available to teachers at all schools.

National Scholarship Portal will be expanded: The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded, and cover costs for stipends, boarding, and lodging, and not just waivers of tuition fees. Private higher education institutes will offer scholarships ranging from 100% to 25% for at least half of their students.

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Online distance learning: Online distance learnings will be “renewed”, and norms, standards, and guidelines for systemic development, regulation, and accreditation of online distance learning will be prepared by the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA). A framework for the quality of online distance learning, which will be recommended to all higher education institutes, will be prepared by a new General Education Council (GEC). The possibility of offering vocational courses through ODL mode will also be explored in programmes, wherever possible.

Smartphones, DTH channels to train Anganwadi teachers: Current Anganwadi workers or teachers will be trained through a curricular framework developed by NCERT. These workers/teachers will have to take different types of certificate program based on their educational qualifications, and these programs “may” be run through DTH channels as well as smart phones.

Access to downloadable PDF printable version of all textbooks will be provided by all states/UTs and NCERT.

It is worth noting according to a tweet by Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Union Minister of Food Processing, preparing a holistic report card, which uses artificial intelligence to ascertain the aptitude of a child is also a part of the policy. However, the version of the policy uploaded by the newly rechristened Education Ministry on its website doesn’t contain this provision.

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