Virtual classrooms” – a form of distance education in which a student and a teacher from anywhere in the world hold video discussions online — will debut in West Bengal soon. The state has allocatedRs. 100 crore for the purpose in this year’s budget that was presented in the assembly today.
Two virtual classrooms will be opened for 2,000 schools and 732 colleges, which are already equipped with high-speed internet and video facilities, the government said.Calling the move a “revolution”, state finance minister Amit Mitra said, “The whole world will be accessible to students in distant villages. They can get knowledge from Harvard in the US, the London School of Economics and from the Ecoles of France at high speed.”
Virtual classrooms are expected to bridge the gap in the quality of education between main university campuses and their affiliated colleges. It also makes it convenient for the working class and housewives to further their education.
The classrooms will have state-of-the-art features, like interactive white board, a digital podium, Internet-enabled touchscreen Android TV, document cameras to project live experiments and 3D diagrams.
The allocation the state made is exactly the amount Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had allotted for a similar countrywide project in his 2014 budget.
The Opposition, however, is asking why the focus on virtual education, when many schools are non-functional because there are no teachers.
Two days ago, education minister Partha Chatterjee told the Assembly that the government would hire retired teachers as guest faculty on contract as a stop-gap arrangement.
There has been a freeze in teacher recruitment since 2014, because of a court case over eligibility exams and a dispute with the Centre over using improperly trained candidates.