The presentation to the 15th Finance Commission was projected by the HRD Ministry to discuss ‘education during the pandemic’.
The meeting was chaired by chairman NK Singh and attended by the union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
The HRD Ministry has proposed an expenditure of Rs 60,000 crore to provide digital devices to four crore students in higher education over a span of 5 years with the Covid-19 outbreak exposing a digital divide in education. This projection was made in a presentation to the 15th Finance Commission on Monday. The Commission had called the meeting to grapple with the challenges of ‘online’ education “in the time of Covid-19”.
Almost 40% of the students enrolled in colleges and universities will be provided with devices such as laptops, computers, tablets, smartphones, and even television sets by 2025-26, according to the higher education department. The Department has also proposed to extend the services of the Midday Meal scheme to junior classes for a period of 5 years.
Currently, there are about 3.75 crore students enrolled in higher education institutions. It plans to cover 1.5 crore students in the first year, that is 2021-22, followed by 55 lakhs in 2022-23, 61 lakhs in 2023-24, 67 lakhs in 2024-25 and 73 lakhs in 2025-26. The ministry has evaluated an average cost of Rs 15,000 for each digital device.
According to the Ministry’s presentation, out of the total Rs 60,000 crore, the supposed share of the union government’s will be Rs 36,473 crore over five years. The remaining amount is marked for the state governments. The proposal came amidst the challenges of conducting Online examinations and classes which has left a major chunk of students in a hiatus due to inaccessibility to digital devices.
The Ministry has also allotted funds to develop more content for online learning. An additional Rs 2,306 crore has been allocated to develop courses for the Ministry’s educational channel (SWAYAM Prabha) and MOOCs platform till 2025-26.