A staggering 320 million learners have been adversely impacted due to the coronavirus pandemic and have switched to digital learning, according to the World Economic Forum.
While the educational institutions have been shut to keep a check on the COVID-19 outbreak, prolonged closure of the academies has been negatively impacting the learning process resulting in diminished economic opportunities.
To bridge the digital divide and to close the gap pertaining to a disparity in opportunities, NxtWave Disruptive Technologies, supported by iB hubs, has launched a country-wide initiative called 'India 4.0 - Dr APJ'.
Under this initiative, the organisation aims to provide free 4.0 education which includes automation, cloud computing, and the Internet of things to one crore children from financially backward families across the country.
The organisation's initiative is being mentored by iB Hubs which provides assistance to enterprises and is on a mission to bridge the gap between industry & academia by rapidly building industry-relevant skills in people, and connecting them with 21st-century jobs.
Students will be trained by industry experts and alumni of premier institutions including Stanford, IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management).
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Kavya Dommeti, CEO of iB Hubs, said, "This pandemic has brought the necessity for such a program to the front of our eyes. The need for online classes and training programs to help children learn from home has become quintessential, breaking through all previous arguments against it. Now, of all times, we need to embrace teaching and learning through online methods and this program is a perfect opportunity for children.
With its emphasis on online activities, the pandemic has made this program even more accessible and relevant. It is now possible for a very large scale of children to experience 4.0 education and become 4.0 ready by the time they're 21, irrespective of their background or location."
Kavya stated that the first batch of Project 'India 4.0 - Dr APJ' will be kicking off this October 15th, on the occasion of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam's birthday memorialised as International Student's Day. As part of Phase - 1, the program will be available to 650 districts across India.
A total of 4.5 lakh children will receive free education in Phase 1 in Andhra Pradesh, 3 lakhs in Telangana, 8.5 lakhs in Bihar, 6 lakhs in Madhya Pradesh, and similarly millions of children from other states. She pointed out that this would be the first step towards their long term vision of "Every Child Counts" which seeks to empower as many children as possible from every part of the country.
"Project 'India 4.0 - Dr APJ' is being made possible by a group of organizations spread across various fields. iB Hubs, NxtWave, Make The World Wonderful, CyberEye, and ProYuga, are among the major members of the team working passionately towards breathing this project to life," said the CEO.
On being asked the reason for naming the initiative after one of the country's distinguished scientists, Kavya informed that Dr Kalam has always been a role model for technological developments and innovative excellence. She said that the initiative envisions every Indian child to dream big like Dr APJ and have the ability to think clearly and create impactful solutions.
"Through Project 'India 4.0 - Dr APJ', children can become industry-ready at an early age and get employed. Building 4.0 skills right from an early age open up immense opportunities for children, be it in the job market or to create innovative products. In addition, children are also trained to develop the right mindset, accelerating both their personal and professional growth.
Equipped with the right mindset and 21st-century skills from this program, these children will transform into role models in society. They will be able to improve the financial situation of their families, and furthermore, they will inspire many of their peers to grow similarly. Ultimately, this will create many ripples of transformation across the country.
The slogan, "Every Child Counts" truly captures the project's vision to empower as many children as possible from every part of the country," she said.
Detailing about the program, Kavya said that it would be a pan-India project and currently would be funded entirely by NxtWave Disruptive Technologies and iB Hubs.
"As of now, any child who wants to attend sessions requires a basic smart device, such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop/pc, etc. The team is looking into the process of setting up different processes to make the necessary ecosystem available and accessible to those children who want to learn. The company is also looking at involving various stakeholders in this process, giving everyone a chance to join this revolutionary project.
The training will be conducted completely online so that the child can connect from anywhere and learn. Children will be trained by industry experts and alumni of premier institutions," she added.
Under this project, the children from financially backward families will have access to specifically designed online programs, which includes courses that would accelerate personal and professional growth required for the 21st century and the other on continuous capacity-building programs equipping them with industry-ready skills.
"Project 'India 4.0 - Dr APJ' is designed to take place parallelly, or in addition, to any schooling or formal education, the child may undergo. However, it is not compulsory that the child must go to an academic school to register in this program.
This program starts at level zero. It is available for free to children from financially backward families across India. Children between 5th-10th standards can join the program, wherein they will continue to be supported until the age of 21 years.
Children can register themselves in the program, or a parent/guardian or well-wisher can register a child into the program on their behalf on www.onthegomodel.com/india-apj. Organisations, such as schools, governments, and NGOs, can also register their children for this program," Kavya said.
Calling attention to the challenges, the young changemaker said that the team has been tackling several challenges such as increasing awareness of 4.0 technologies, overcoming language barriers for children in different parts of the country, and identifying the right children.
"However, the team has systems in place that would help solve these problems, and that is their major USP. For example, for solving the vernacular problem, the team is driving the entire platform in English. They would train the children in English also. On the other hand, for increasing the awareness related to the 4.0 technologies, steps taken by the government like introducing diversification in topics through the National Education Program (NEP) has been a contributing factor.
To ensure the right children are benefitting from this program, the team has been reaching out to local NGOs and government schools to identify children from financially backward families.
The project is ambitious, but the team is confident that when good things happen, people come forward to support such causes. The team is taking careful steps at each and every stage to ensure that children across the country will benefit from this 4.0 education, and they are confident that this will transform the country," she added.