The Indian government has announced the release of Swayam, an initiative geared toward offering affordable and quality education for free to all of its citizens.
Study Webs of Active-learning for Young Aspiring Minds (Swayam) offers MOOCs, an open access system that allows unlimited participation on the web. While some wonder if the courses are considered equivalent to formal education, it does allow users access to quality courses.
The new program comes as part of an initiative by the ministry of Human Resource Department (HRD) in its first 100 days in office. The department hopes to help 10 million students and to creatr a national e-library while providing Internet access to classrooms across the country.
“MOOCs have the potential to become a teaching/learning platform, with universities certifying the competence (degrees) and providing the opportunity for networking and developing other skills. In this scenario MOOCs are like textbooks,” T.V. Prabhakar, professor, department of computer science and engineering at IIT-Kanpur, told IANS.
Pushkar, a professor in the department of humanities and social sciences at BITS Pilani, said the system allows individuals in the country the opportunity to gain an education, “despite the nation’s failed higher education system”.
However, he added that many students and their parents care more about obtaining a degree than receiving an actual education.
“So as long as one can get a degree after doing some MOOCs, it is all good,” Pushkar told IANS.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani said that select colleges and universities across the country will offer the MOOCs as graduate level, undergraduate and post-graduate courses all free of cost to Indian students. Those students who would like a degree or certification can do so by taking an exam for a small fee at the corresponding institution.
The first phase of the program will see MOOCs offered in the areas of management, social sciences, basic sciences, engineering education and energy.
Another measure in the country, Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyaan, hopes to induce interest in math and science in its rollout next year.
“This will ensure in primary and secondary education, we can inculcate the desire for inquiry-based learning and a desire to possibly oscillate towards the field of mathematics and science as a profession, rather than take it as a part of their academics,” said Smriti Irani, Union minister for human resource development.
She continued to say that the measure will ensure that students who have innovative ideas will be able to obtain the funding necessary to turn those ideas into viable business models, allowing the students to stay in the country to see their dreams become reality.