BMC charts out digital makeover for Mumbai civic schools

Plans to set up 1,241 digital classrooms, at least one for each of its civic schools in the city, at the cost of Rs37 crore

mumbai Updated: Apr 23, 2018 10:27 IST
Since 2011, BMC has set up virtual training centers in 480 primary and secondary schools.(BHUSHAN KOYANDE/HT PHOTO)

By August 31 this year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to set up 1,241 digital classrooms, at least one for each of its civic schools in the city, at the cost of Rs37 crore.

So far, 90 digital classrooms equipped with smart boards, projectors, e-content, remote-controlled systems and digital attendance have already been set up. Next year, the civic body plans to set up 1,300 more such digital classrooms, for which tendering process is underway.

However, can digitisation address basic issues that civic schools suffer from, such as lack of teachers, basic infrastructure and decrease in the demand from students?

As the civic body sets the ball rolling for digitisation in municipal school classrooms, HT takes a look at the digital initiatives of the civic body to gauge if civic classrooms can really get ‘smart’ and its future.

‘VTCs helpful despite glitches’

After Adnan Faiz Mohammad Shaikh, 14, saw a science experiment video in his virtual training centre (VTC), he was the first of his classmates to go home and recreate the experiment by himself. He said that he could remember the experiment better because of the visual aid at his VTC in Sewri-Wadala school.

Since 2011, BMC has set up VTCs in 480 primary and secondary schools. Audio and visual lectures are transmitted via satellite communication (VSAT) from a VTC studio in Dadar (East). Here, 18 specialised educators deliver 64 lectures in English, Hindi, Marathi and Urdu.

Virtual learning helps when students require guidance from specialised teachers, which BMC teachers sometimes lack. A VTC-installed classroom enables multiple-way communication between the student and teacher. Classrooms of different schools are also connected allowing students to communicate with each other across the city.

BMC-employed teacher Bhopi Sakara said, “There has been a great improvement in students’ grades. When we use interactive media and videos, they are able to pay undivided attention and understand better.”

Vishwas Thombare, a VTC educator, said, “We see more students in classrooms now. When you cannot explain everything through words, videos are helpful.”

However, the number of such classrooms is inadequate. Two or more schools have been sharing one VTC at different times. Since the number of students is high, not all questions are addressed by the VTC educator.

VTCs, however, still grapple with technical glitches such as a dysfunctional mouse, no audio, video flickering, among others.

Teachers said complaints about technical glitches take at least a month or two to get resolved.

BMC plans move from VSAT to an internet-based system

Deputy municipal commissioner (education) Milind Sawant admitted, “There is a relay gap of two to seven seconds in VTCs now. There will be a relay gap of only 300 milliseconds in internet-based transmissions. Two-way interaction is also difficult in VSAT systems.”

BMC has set aside Rs16.8 crore for the project this year. So far, three of its bids have failed to get a response. A bid has been issued for the fourth time with altered conditions but lack of experienced contractors in this field is likely to be a challenge.

Tablets, not a replacement for books yet

In 2015, BMC had provided 30,000 tablets to students of class 8, 9 and 10. Civic officials said about 12,000 more tablets are to be procured this year.

This will cost the BMC Rs18 crore. The ‘tabs’ are being used as reference guides in classrooms by students in classrooms where they can cross-check their answers and can keep track of their syllabus.

Samadhan Shinde and his classmates said they could easily find answers on his tablets and mark them for future reference.

“However, while all the textbook content is on the tab, they are not a replacement for books,” said Sawant.

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 10:27 IST