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NEW DELHI : The Odisha government is taking a leaf out of Delhi’s book to reform government schools and to put them on a par with high-end private schools.

The government aims to upgrade physical-digital infrastructure, adopt technology in teaching learning, promote STEM learning, and capacity building of teachers, including the development of a leadership pipeline.

The education, and science and technology secretaries have been entrusted with the task, which will first target high schools through an impact assessment model.

Education is the new focus area to harness medium- to long-term socioeconomic benefits, according to the state government.

“The education sector was disrupted over the last 18 months and this gives us an opportunity to look at it in a fresh way. The high school reform initiative will have a cascading impact on human development, social and economic growth, and making the youth more enterprising," said Manoj Kumar Mishra, secretary Electronics, IT and Science and Technology, Odisha.

“The government school system needs a reform to compete with high-end private sector schools and give students from rural backgrounds an equal opportunity in access to quality schooling .

“We are targeting high schools (secondary schools) in a phased manner. In the first phase, more than 1,070 schools have been taken up. This will be followed by a few thousand more schools to cover the entire sector. Social welfare schemes have done very well in the state and now our chief minister (Naveen Patnaik) has given a clear direction to reform the school sector," Mishra said.

Reforming the school sector, however, will be a tougher challenge in Odisha than in Delhi, given that the western part of the state is hilly and tribal dominated unlike the relatively developed coastal belt. “There is no problem in saying that we have taken a leaf out of Delhi, but Odisha is not Delhi, and our challenge and the outcome following a successful implementation will perhaps be greater, too," Mishra said.

“The first phase will be completed by 31 March and will give the school education department a fair idea on the challenges, opportunities and the impact it is going to have," said Anupam Shah, state project director of the Odisha School Education Programme Authority. “The shift is happening from pure book-led education to a multi-modal hybrid education system. You will see several sessions each day, each of which will have 20 minutes of explanatory video content and 40 minutes of lecture. The teacher interface is not going away, but it is getting embellished with new content, aided by technology for better understanding," Shah said.

Work on the curriculum, pedagogy, teachers’ capacity building, and the physical infrastructure upgrade to cope with the new challenges has started, Shah said. All government and government-aided high schools of the state can be part of the transformation programme, which is being implemented in phases, he added.

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