Education is a powerful tool for preparing citizens in the knowledge society. It is the only way to enable children and youth to become world citizens, with their roots deeply embedded in culture and traditions. The focus of proposed New National Policy on Education in India from the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), is on improving the quality of education and building its credibility. It seeks to create conditions to improve the quality of teaching, the overall learning and assessment, and promote transparency in the management of education. Most of the basic infrastructure for education already exists in the country . The Indian child is as resourceful and intelligent as any in the world. New technologies are now being made available. Governments at different levels only need to understand the catalytic role they have to play in fostering an atmosphere that enables students to think, to learn, and contribute to the country’s development.
School an important building block: School is an important building block in the entire education system. In order to understand the ground realities, educational surveys have acquired important status and are a major source of educational statistics for different organisations at national as well as at international levels. As per the seventh All India School Education Survey, conducted with reference date as on 30th September 2002, covered 10.31 lakh schools functioning in 5.87 lakh villages and around 5.3 thousand towns/urban areas . School infrastructure, since then, has climbed up to 1.4 million with 7.72 million teachers. Apart from education survey there are various programs and rich data bases available with the Ministry which are used for planning and decision making. Most of these are in tabular format and follow traditional methods of analysis and require updates to answer the challenges as are faced at grass root level . For example as per one of the reports it is noted that approximately 98% habitations have a primary school (class I-V) within one kilometre and 92% have an upper primary school (class VI-VIII) within three kilometre walking distance. Such analysis has vide scope of improvements with incorporation of challenges as faced due to geographical conditions, communication infrastructure and other vital inputs relating to access to a school. More so, there are different definition of habitations for different programs in the country and in the absence of a standard habitation map in the country the analysis at habitation level may differ with actual scenario. With focus of the education policy to provide “education to all” its important to reorient the systems as per the vision of Digital India.
Education GIS: In order to build location oriented solution in education sector, MHRD initiated development of schools locations with use of GPS technologies across the country at the state level. This appears to be the first of its kind initiative in the country to develop solution as per the principles of digital India and National GIS concept. The location data collated at the ministry level showed interesting variations. A five level accuracy analysis was carried out as per the village map developed by NIC across the country, to ensure accuracy of location within village . A solution developed with integration of the school locations data linked with data from Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), satellite image services from Bhuvan, Google and standard Bharat map from NIC provides an excellent first cut of Web GIS for education sector and can be viewed at http://nicmaps.rsgis.nic.in/ . Each school location in this application can be viewed against the high resolution satellite image backdrop. What is important here to note that entire solution is decentralised and control of the data services exist with the owner agencies. The solution though provides limited queries, it has huge scope to incorporate advance analysis as more data sets and services are incorporated .
Important learnings: The net result of GIS education though provide the valuable output and is an important step towards developing solutions with a paradigm shift, there are number of important learnings. Firstly it indicates that more planning and adoption of standards are required for building location data in any sector. Utmost care needs to be adopted at the grass root level at the time of data acquisition in order to avoid complexity of data at later stages for validation. Secondly, a public audit process in place shall be helpful in validation and bringing the citizen participation. It is also noted that locations codes as adopted for survey in education sector have no correlation with other survey data and hence it is important that there is need to adopt standards in defining location codes across the country. Last but not the least, apart from validation and update of village map, there is an urgent the need for developing a standard habitation map for implementation of programs at national level.