Ministry of Tribal Affairs MoU With Microsoft to facilitate AI-based bilingual curriculum in Eklavya schools

Microsoft is expected to work with 250 Eklavya Schools to infuse AI technology and design thinking into the curriculum

May 17, 2021

The course material will be developed in Hindi as well as English.

Students and teachers will be introduced to the UN-SDGs and knowledge building through gamification.

The initiative will give a major push to the Government’s ‘Digital India’ campaign.

The tribal education system is faced with teacher absenteeism, parental non-prioritization of education and economic barriers.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Microsoft have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to introduce digital technologies into the tribal schools ecosystem both in curriculum and infrastructure. The plan to include AI-oriented curriculum in 250 of the nation’s ecosystem of 587+ Eklavya Model Residential and 62 Ashram schools was unveiled at the  ‘Empowering Youth For Success’, online event organized by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. 

The initiative will help raise the bar for Digital India endeavors and give children from tribal communities more opportunities to explore the digital domain. The programme will look to acquaint students and teachers with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and nurture design thinking through gamification. Each of the schools will be transformed into a  Microsoft Showcase School wherein students will be trained in accordance with international standards of excellence. Shri Arjun Munda, Minister of Tribal Affairs remarked on the occasion: “This program will prove beneficial in terms of readiness, preparedness of our students at various international forums. Through these programs, our students would get the required skill set through digital transformation and this would open a new chapter with AI and coding being a part of the curriculum,” 

Navtez Bal, Executive Director, Public Sector at Microsoft India added  “The past year in both policy and practice has shown us that the future of learning will be more personalized and driven by technology. Our partnership with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is a step to enable education equity, providing equal opportunity and access for the next generation of learners and educators from schools under the Ministry.” 

The program comes not a day too soon with the pandemic having disrupted schooling for all children. Tribal students in particular have faced many challenges to their continuing education. In a paper, Dr. Kabita Sahu, Lecturer in Economics, North Orissa University Baripada, Odisha, had identified a few key barriers in the Indian tribal education system that needed to be addressed. They are as follows : (i) distance between students’ homes and the Eklavya school, (ii) non-inclusion of tribal languages in the medium of education, (iii) parental attitudes towards education, (iv) prevalence of teacher absenteeism, (v) economic predicament of tribal families. It is imperative that strategies and schemes to increase education among tribal students be complemented by initiatives to economically empower families and reform the educational system at large. Initiatives such as the MoU with Microsoft are a much-needed step in the right direction by the ministry.

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