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The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the inequities in accessing and benefiting from education, especially for the underprivileged students in India, who are more likely than others to be engaged in remote schooling.
According to the World Economic Forum, nearly 320 million learners in India were adversely affected by the pandemic, and have transitioned to the e-learning industry.
The virtual learning system has its own vulnerabilities, as it increases the risk that instructions would not be close to the classroom contact atmosphere, which could widen the achievement gap.
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Another challenge for the e-learning platforms, given that more than 20 languages are used across the education system in the country, was how to align with various dialects, varied contexts, and different social experiences. Also, the continued closure of schools could potentially have a negative impact on the most vulnerable students.
However, the Central Square Foundation (CSF), a Delhi-based non-profit, believes that leveraging Education Technology (EdTech) solutions is the need of the hour, as it can help ensure continued learning at home.
In partnership with Google, the CSF had created TicTacLearn in April last year, which is a repository of 12,000 learning videos for mathematics and science subjects in six languages e Hindi, English, Telugu, Odia, Gujarati, and Marathi.
Speaking to IANS, Bikkrama Daulet Singh, co-managing director, CSF, said: “Never before did we witness disruption in teaching-learning at this scale. To rise to the challenge, we accelerated the production of videos under TicTacLearn. We wanted to deliver high-quality content in vernacular languages to ensure that children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, benefit from it during school closures.”
This repository of learning videos solves three critical aspects of online learning: Quality content, engagement, and access. The TicTacLearn channel on YouTube is open-source, which has garnered in excess of 52 million views and 110k plus subscribers so far.
According to Atul Bhargava, senior project lead (government projects) at CSF, with more than 20 languages used across the education system, equitable access to quality distance learning resources is more vital than ever.
The content is story-based (especially for grades I-V), pedagogically sound, and byte-sized (4-5 min), which generates interest in the students, keeps them engaged and helps them learn at the same time.
“The landscape of Indian educational content availability in 2018 depicted lack of content in vernacular language. The majority of available content was owned by for-profit players – not affordable by 85-90 percent of Indian students enrolled in government and government-aided schools,” said Bhargava.
The maths topics are broken into hook & knowledge, illustrative examples, and misconceptions. The environmental science (EVS) and science videos follow the storytelling approach. There are 12,000 plus videos and 1,050 plus hours of content for maths (grade I-X); and EVS and science (grade III-X), which has 2,000 videos and 175 hours of content for each language.
These videos are also available on the DIKSHA app, the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s (MHRD) primary initiative to make e-content available to school children. The videos can also be accessed on the app using the QR codes in the textbooks.
Last year, nearly 500 million textbooks were distributed with QR codes on each chapter, which allow students to scan the code and get a video explaining the concept. For example, if a student is willing to learn about photosynthesis, he/she can scan the code and get a video. As many as 9,000 TicTacLearn content pieces have been linked to 50k plus QR codes and 20 states are using TicTacLearn content via DIKSHA and there are already in excess of 5 million views on it.
Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana have started linking the TicTacLearn content to the QR codes in the textbooks.
Would this e-learning methodology succeed in a post-pandemic scenario?
“Going forward, schools are likely to adopt a blended learning approach since it will be a while before they resume operations at full strength. These videos will continue to complement classroom learning,” Singh said. (IANS/KB)
High drama was witnessed in Kanpur Dehat for over an hour when a man, upset over his wife's alleged affair with a local man, climbed the tower with his children and threatened to commit suicide. The incident took place on Monday near Gandhi Nagar in Akbarpur, when the man threatened to commit suicide after throwing his kids down from a height of nearly 40-feet. Chaos prevailed around the area and the locals informed the police that rushed to the spot.
After about half-an-hour of convincing, the police managed to bring him and his children down. The man told the police that his wife's affair was going on with his neighbor. He had complained to the police, but no action was taken. Police said that as per the man, his wife had developed an illicit relationship with a man, living nearby their house. "As per the man, in his absence, his neighbor visited his house often. He said that he had reprimanded his neighbor many times, but to no avail," said the police.
The man had complained to the police, but no action was taken. | Pixabay
The man had also lodged a complaint with the police but no action was taken. On the other hand, Akbarpur police said that on the basis of the complaint, action for breach of peace has been taken against the neighbor accused of luring his wife. Circle officer (CO) Akbarpur Arun Kumar said that the police are trying to sort out the issue. "Whatever action is appropriate will be taken," the official added. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, man, wife, alleged, affair, children, India, police, neighbor, complaint, suicide, accuse, drama.)
The US forces continued their bombardment of buildings and institutions in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province, as part of their alleged manhunt of Islamic State (IS) fugitives, state news agency SANA reported. The US forces are shelling buildings and public institutions on Tuesday in the vicinity of the Sina'a prison in the Gweiran neighborhood in Hasakah "on the pretext of hunting down IS militants who fled the prison," said SANA.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. | Wikimedia Commons
The shelling came in tandem with waves of raids by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to homes in the surrounding areas, rounding up many civilians and taking them to unknown locations, the state news agency added. On January 20, IS inmates inside the Sina'a prison, which is controlled by the SDF, started a riot that was coordinated with IS militants from outside, who detonated the prison's gates with two booby-trapped vehicles, succeeding to free some prisoners.
The incident triggered clashes between IS and the SDF as well as US airstrikes on the areas, where the IS fugitives could have sought shelter in, Xinhua news agency reported. The clashes and airstrikes are still ongoing as the SDF has so far failed to contain the situation and storm the prison. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. Hasakah province is largely controlled by the US-backed SDF, while certain areas, particularly in the city of Qamishli, are still under the control of the Syrian government. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: US forces, shelling, bombarding, syria, islamic state, civilian casualties, qamishli, tandem, syrian democratic forces)
The circulating avian influenza outbreaks, including in India, do not seem to pose the 'high' risk but surveillance and biosecurity measures are necessary to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds, a UN-backed scientific task force said. Throughout the past autumn and current winter in the northern hemisphere, multiple avian influenza outbreaks, caused predominantly by the H5N1 HPAI virus, plus other subtypes, including H5N8, have occurred in India, the UK, the Netherlands and Israel with the ever recorded mortality of the Svalbard barnacle geese in Solway Coast.
The Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds, co-convened by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on Monday recommended that surveillance and biosecurity measures are reinforced to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds. The Task Force has convened and produced recommendations and guidance for authorities and managers of countries affected or at risk. Wild birds, including globally threatened species, are victims of HPAI viruses causing avian influenza. Affected sites also include areas of international relevance for conservation such as protected wetlands.
More than 2,400 migratory water birds died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal last year because of avian influenza. | Unsplash
It is essential that authorities with responsibility for animal health apply the One Health approach for communicating and addressing avian influenza. That means recognising the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment and acting with a coordinated and unified approach. The Task Force reminds authorities of their international obligations to ensure their response to the pathogenic virus does not include the culling of wild birds, nor actions that would cause damage to natural ecosystems, especially wetlands.
Ruth Cromie, who coordinated the work of the Task Force and the production of the statement, said: "Avian influenza represents a One Health issue threatening health across the board. The highly pathogenic viruses are still relatively new in wild birds and this winter's high levels of mortality remind us of their vulnerability and that working to promote healthy wildlife benefits us all." H5N1 is currently the avian influenza lineage most found in Africa and Eurasia in both poultry and wild birds. The wide range of wild birds affected include wildfowl, waders, gulls, cranes, grebes, herons, pelicans, gamebirds, corvids and raptors (diurnal and nocturnal), in addition to sporadic cases in mammals such as red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and harbor Phoca vitulina and grey seal Halichoerus grypus.
Consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations. | Unsplash
In terms of human health, the currently circulating H5N1 HPAI viruses do not seem to pose the same zoonotic risk as the 'original' Asian lineage H5N1 (clade 2.2 and their derivatives plus clade 126.96.36.199b H5N6 viruses currently in China). In general, the risk can be considered low, recognising that some agencies now consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations, as low or moderate. In India, several instances of bird flu were reported in 2021. More than 2,400 migratory water birds, and almost half of them being endangered bar-headed goose, died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal Pradesh last year and that avian influenza (H5N1) was the cause.
Besides the bar-headed goose, the other species that died were the shoveler, the river tern, the pochard and the common teal. An 11-year-old boy died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi last year due to avian influenza, country's first fatality. India reported the first outbreak of avian influenza in 2006. RSPB Scotland is calling for an emergency local moratorium restricting shooting on the Solway for the rest of the wildfowling season. It calls for urgent action to reduce the devastating impacts of avian influenza. New statistics from the most recent counts show that the UK is this winter experiencing the worst outbreak of this deadly disease on record, with migratory geese which 'over winter' on the Solway being the hardest hit.
According to RSPB Scotland, the latest population counts of the Svalbard barnacle goose show a drop in numbers from 43,703 in November last year to 27,133 in this month's count. This represents a decline of 38 per cent in the Svalbard breeding population of this species from winter 2020-21. CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel said: "Through late 2021 and early 2022 there have been numerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, with severe impacts on migratory birds. "The CMS Secretariat responded by convening the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds together with the FAO. We are pleased to share its advice and key recommendations for countries affected or at risk, and look forward to continuing our collaborative work to minimize risks to humans, poultry and wild populations of migratory birds." (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : avian, influenza, surveillance, United Nation, scientists, breeding, population, birds, affected, countries, poultry, migratory, health, issue, virus, responsibility, international, ecosystem.)