The launching of a satellite for purely educational purposes on September 20, 2004 marks a great leap forward in the area of satellite education. It has created a new system of education, which is more simple and interesting. EDUSAT is the first thematic satellite that India has built exclusively for providing educational services. The satellite has multiple regional beams covering different parts of India. The basic objective of launching the satellite is to meet the demand for an interactive satellite-based distance education system by creating virtual classrooms even at remote places in the country. It will provide connectivity to school, college and institutes of higher education. It also gives support to non-formal education including development and communication. It is specially an arrangement made for audio-visual medium, creating digital interactive classroom and multimedia multi-centric system.
The satellite which has transponders for different regions will boost distance education all over the country. Transponders are 0 electronic devices which receive, amplify and re-transmit electro-magnetic waves sent from ground stations. Accordingly, a telecast about the programmes is made as a result of this system. Under this system a teacher can simultaneously teach hundreds of students in different schools in various parts of the country. From a television studio the teacher explains a subject with reception facilities and students can see and listen to him. If schools are equipped with interactive facilities, the students can put questions and receive answers.
Since EDUSAT satellite has regional beams, teachers can conduct classes in various regional languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati and Oriya, besides the national language, Hindi. The schools and the colleges across the country can evolve collaborative projects to reach out to more students.
The Government of India has opened its mind to setup about 1000 terminal stations throughout the country to receive signals from the satellite in interactive mode. This will facilitate virtual classrooms that will enable students to interact with teachers. The number of terminals would be increased upto 10000. The Human Resource and Development Ministry is chalking cut its plan vigorously in this direction in order to complete the task by 2012.
India has succeeded in using space technology and solving one of the pressing problems of good teachers and good teaching material. And when the objective is realized, good education will not be the prerogative of a few rich in urban India. Millions of students in rural India can have the best education the country can offer.
In the field of distance education, Open Universities are playing a significant role. The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) occupies a pre-eminent position in distance education in India. The University seeks to widen higher education to larger segments of the population, organize programmes for continuing education and initiate special programmes of higher education for specific target groups like women, people living in backward regions, hilly area etc.
IGNOU provides an innovative system of university level education. Their system is flexible and open in regard to methods and pace of learning. They keep on announcing about combination of courses, eligibility for enrollment, age of entry, method of evaluation etc. The University has adopted an integrated multi-media instructional strategy comprising printed materials and audio-visual aids, supported by counselling sessions at a network of study centres throughout the country. Thousands and thousands of students are getting benefit out of it. IGNOU has now to its credit several programmes comprising several courses. The University has established an extensive student support services network comprising several regional centres and study centres situated in different parts of the country. IGNOU has also announced plans to spread educational facilities in remote areas of the country very soon through India’s exclusive education satellite.
There are other Open Universities like Bhim Rao Ambedkar University Hyderabad, Kota Open University Rajasthan, Nalanda Open University Bihar, Yashwant Rao Chavan Maharashtra Open University Nashik, Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open University Bhopal, Ambedkar Open University Ahmedabad, Karnataka State Open University Mysore, Netaji Subhash. Open University Kolkata and Rajrishi Tandon Open University Allahabad, which are providing numerous programmes comprising several courses through multi-media instructional strategy.
Distance education through Open Universities can secure greater flexibility and resilience. The major objectives of all kind of education through modern technology is to give education for promoting skill .to work in depth on selected fields. Learning to learn and thereby benefit from the opportunities throughout life, learning to do by acquiring vocational skills, learning to live together, appreciating other cultures and learning to be better for acting with autonomy and absolute sense of personal responsibility, are the important pillars of distance education that attract the people to undergo the courses.
Distance education can be made more attractive and available to a common man if IGNOU and all other open universities come together. This kind of scientific and modern education could prove more useful than that being provided through conventional universities.
India needs to leap forward in the development of the use of satellite communication to spread education. The year 2004 was indeed a turning point for India in tele-education. It is the first time how a vast country like India could be served with television programmes designed to promote education. India has to do much more in this field. If all goes well, EDUSAT will propel India into a leadership role in distance education over satellite in next 8 to 10 years.