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India finds a silver lining in coronavirus pandemic as ‘Education Television’ becomes a thing

Every day SWAYAM Prabha Channels broadcast new content for at least four hours. The rest of the day, they repeat the previous programs to watch the program as per their convenience. The content on these channels is provided in association with NPTEL, IITs, UGC, CEC, IGNOU, NCERT and NIOS.

When the lockdown was first announced in March 2020, no one thought the crisis would continue even in September. As we are moving towards Unlock 4.0 with a hope that school and colleges will soon open, there is no denying that union and state governments have managed to deliver lessons to the country’s remotest parts using television.

When the lockdown happened for the first time, government, public and private schools eventually felt the need for online classes. It was more comfortable for the private schools to ask students to buy gadgets to attend online classes. On the other hand, asking the same to the students from lower-income families would not have been apt for the government schools. At that time, Doordarshan and Swayam Prabha came to the rescue.

The history of “Education Television” in India

The concept of Educational Television is not new in India. It dates back to 1975 when Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) started transmitting programs to the special satellite-linked TV sets installed in a few villages and towns. Under the program, the common man got access to a range of television programs in different categories, including environment, agriculture and school education. Entertainment was also an important part of the TV programs since the beginning.

Though the response to the set of educational programs was enthusiastic, lack of funding combined with irregular power transmission and lack of proper equipment or trained staff resulted in shelving the project by the end of 1976. TV started to gain popularity among the masses, and eventually, in 1987-88, it reached the peak of popularity at that time due to the telecast of Ramayan serial.

At that time, the demand for education programs rose again. Educational Media Research Centre (EMRC) telecasted educational programs between 1 PM to 2 PM. The programs mainly targeted college students and covered several subjects. These programs were not only loved by the students at home, schools and colleges also held special sessions on their premises where students can watch the programs. Some institutes started to run the programs during break time.

Gyan Darshan channel

Gran Darshan is a joint venture of the Ministry of Education (Previously named as Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD)), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B Ministry) Prasar Bharti, and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). The 24-hour educational channel was launched in 2000. The programs on the channels cater to the needs of pre-school, primary, secondary and higher secondary students, college or university students, youth seeking career opportunities, homemakers and working professionals.

Gyan Darshan channels were telecasted as must-include channels in DTH services, but they were discontinued when the migration from INSAT 3C to GSAT-10 happened in 2014. Later in 2016, Doordarshan and IGNOU signed an agreement to telecast four Gyan Darshan channels. Webcast of Gyan Darshan channel is also available on IGNOU’s website.

Doordarshan not only has channels for school and college students, but DD Kisan is also among the most popular channels for information related to agriculture.

SWAYAM Prabha

Launched on 10th July 2017, SWAYAM Prabha is a Ministry of Education initiative that provides 32 high-quality educational channels via Direct to Home (DTH) services 24×7. The course content of the programs covers diverse disciplines of distance education. The main aim of these channels is to provide quality learning resources across the country’s length and breadth. Though online classes are happening in every corner of the country, some remote areas do not have access to the high speed or even 2G internet.

Every day SWAYAM Prabha Channels broadcast new content for at least four hours. The rest of the day, they repeat the previous programs to watch the program as per their convenience.  The content on these channels is provided in association with NPTEL, IITs, UGC, CEC, IGNOU, NCERT and NIOS.

SWAYAM Prabha channels cover content in various disciplines, including arts, science, commerce, performing arts, humanities, technology, engineering, medicine, agriculture, law, social sciences and more for under-graduate and post-graduate levels. For school education, 9-12 levels of teaching and learning aids for children are available on these channels to better understand the subject. There are specific programs that are aimed to help students on 11-12 levels for competitive examinations.

It should be noted that in the month of May when the Ministry of Finance announced packages for Atmanirbhar Bharat, a special package for 12 new channels were announced to cater to the need of the students. You can access the content of the channels on mobile devices using SWAYAM Prabha app or Jio TV app.

NECRT Official

While the governments are working extensively to create interactive educational content for the students, The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) regularly uploaded educational content that it creates for SWAYAM Prabha on their YouTube channel under the e-pathshala program. The same content premiers on DTH-TV Channel #31.

The state-specific education channels

Doordarshan has regional channels such as DD Uttar Pradesh, DD Chandana (Karnataka), and DD Bihar, among others, that beam educational programs for the children. Some of the channels stream the programs live on YouTube as well so that the students can see them any number of times as per their convenience. These channels are just indictive, and other states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Punjab are doing exceptionally well in providing television-based education to the students.

The future of educational television in India

Though there is always a scope of improving the programs’ quality, the central and state governments’ initiative to provide education using television has made it possible for the students to continue their education amid coronavirus pandemic. The schools and colleges will take time to open. Also, no matter how much you try, it is not always possible to clear all the doubts about different subjects in school. Even if the schools and colleges resume, these channels will go a long way in improving students’ knowledge of different subjects.

The government can add more channels and programs by roping in teachers and educational institutes from both government and private sectors in later stages. In short, the field of Education Television is limitless. Though the history of Education Television goes back to the 1970s in India, the sector’s true potential is still hidden under the pressure of snail-speed babu-dom. Hopefully, the Ministry of Education and state governments will keep on working on improving the Education Television channels and bring more interactive content for the students.

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Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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