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NEW DELHI : Giving a boost to India’s edtech sector that has grown exponentially over the last two years, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced plans to launch a digital university, to be built on a hub-and-spoke model, to provide education in Indian languages and formats.

“A digital university will be established to provide access to students across the country for world-class quality universal education with personalized learning experience at their doorsteps. The best public universities and institutions in the country will collaborate as a network of hub-spokes," Sitharaman said.

The finance minister also announced the expansion of the PM eVidya one class-one TV Channel’ programme from 12 to 200 TV channels. Sitharaman said expansion of eVidya will enable all states to provide supplementary education in regional languages for classes 1-12.

Further, Sitharaman announced the launch of DESH-Stack e-portal, a digital ecosystem for skilling and livelihood that will skill, reskill and upskill people through online training. It will also give trusted skill certifications based on an application programming interface (API), as well as payment to identify job and business opportunities.

“Opening up of key universities and democratizing access to their research will be a shot in the arm for tertiary education beyond the immediate hinterlands of these top universities. Edtech startups are best positioned to not only provide the infrastructure layer but also co-develop digital content that works and thus act as tech catalysts to facilitate the envisioned hub-spoke network," said Karteek Pulalaka, of Java capital, which has backed edtech firms Codingal and Hoggy.

In 2022-23, 75 skilling e-labs for simulated learning environments will be set up to promote critical thinking skills over 750 virtual labs in science and mathematics, and content in all spoken languages will be developed for delivery via the internet, mobile phones, TV, and radio through digital teachers, the finance minister said.

“The initiatives indicate that the government has put the spotlight on digitization to boost penetration and access to education across Bharat," said Mihir Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Teachmint, a platform that enables teachers to digitize classrooms. Intending to push skill-based education, Sitharman said startups will be promoted to facilitate ‘Drone Shakti’ through different applications and for drone-as-a-service. Select industrial training institutes in all states will offer courses on drones. “Clearly, accessibility and quality education are at the centre of the government’s initiatives, which assures that we are moving in the direction of achieving the United Nations SDGs (sustainable development goals), as a nation. Innovative mechanism for imparting knowledge, teacher’s training programs, and high-quality regional content for e-learning will be the focus areas for us and we are glad to see the national support towards the sector," said Mayank Kumar, co-founder, MD, upGrad.

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