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Four Indian varsities come together to launch ‘virtual university’ on European model

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Four Indian varsities will launch the project ‘EQUAL’ by the beginning of next year to offer a new concept of ‘online education’ to the Indian students.

The project EQUAL (Enhancing Quality, Access and Governance of Higher Education in India) will be a boon for the poor students who are long deprived from getting the taste of education, said a minister.

As per an official, the project will offer a blended learning platform (online plus face-to-face) for undergraduate students in India.

The four participating universities are, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, Ambedkar University, Delhi, University of Hyderabad and Shiv Nadar University in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.

“For India, the solution can’t be purely classroom nor purely online. It has to be a mix of both. Through EQUAL, students will have the desired mobility. We are planning to launch pilot courses by the end of this year or beginning of next year,” said Supriya Chaudhuri, faculty coordinator and project member from Jadavpur University.

“In addition, since it will be adopted by Indian varsities and colleges as part of their curriculum, it will not have the drawbacks of MOOCs — low completion rates and inadequate certification,” she said, adding the courses, designed in the Moodle software, will be free.

The project is funded by the European Union under its programme ‘Support to Indo-European Interactions in Higher Education,’ and the initiative is supported by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The administrative support is being provided by the British Council India’s division for Internationalising Higher Education.

The four Indian universities are working in collaboration with King’s College London and the University of Bologna, Italy.

The project mainly focused on four interdisciplinary areas-natural resources, environment and sustainable technology, human ecology, cultural studies and critical thinking.

“We urge universities and colleges to adopt this system so that students can have access to the best lectures and courses across India,” said Sugata Hazra, another project coordinator from Jadavpur University.

The university is hosting the project website and creating the e-learning platform to run online courses through virtual classrooms.

“The aim is to create partnerships between Europe and India, and between Indian universities, adapting the ‘Bologna Process’ to the Indian context,” said a professor of Jadavpur University.

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Child Rights Summit: Nations Should Spend More on Education Over Weapons

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Displaced Syrian children look out from their tents at Kelbit refugee camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border, in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 17, 2018. VOA

Countries should spend more on schooling and less on weapons to ensure that children affected by war get an education, a child rights summit heard Monday.

The gathering in Jordan was told that a common thread of war was its devastating impact in keeping children out of school.

Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who founded the summit, said ensuring all children around the world received a primary and secondary education would cost another $40 billion annually — about a week’s worth of global military expenditure.

ALSO READ: Politics and Education: A Relationship that contributes a lot in shaping our Future

child rights summit
Nobel Peace Prize laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai listen to speeches during the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo, Dec. 10, 2014. VOA

“We have to choose whether we have to produce guns and bullets, or we have to produce books and pencils to our children,” he told the second Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit that gathers world leaders and Nobel laureates.

Global military expenditure reached almost $1.7 trillion in 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said last year 27 million children were out of school in conflict zones.

ALSO READ: Exclusive: How is One Woman Army changing the notions of Education in society?

“We want safe schools, we want safe homes, we want safe countries, we want a safe world,” said Satyarthi, who shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for his work with children.

Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein told the summit, which focused on child refugees and migrants affected by war and natural disasters, that education was “key,” especially for “children on the move.”

“Education can be expensive, but never remotely as close to what is being spent on weapons. … They [children] are today’s hope for a better future,” he told the two-day summit.

Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a nonprofit group, described the number of Syrian refugees not in school in the Middle East as “shocking” as the war enters its eighth year.

Kennedy cited a report being released Tuesday by the KidsRights Foundation, an international children’s rights group, which found 40 percent of school-aged Syrian children living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq cannot access education. VOA