Satellite education — more than song and dance

The satellite education system in India is a three-phased project. The first one, currently under progress uses one of the Insat-3B satellite's Ku-band transponder. In this phase, Visveswaraiah Technological University (VTU) in Karnataka, Y B Chavan State Open University in Maharashtra and the Rajiv Gandhi Technical University in Madhya Pradesh are covered.

In the second phase, once commissioned in orbit, Edusat will be used in a semi-operational mode with at least one uplink in each of the five spot beams . About 100-200 classrooms will be connected in each beam. Coverage will be extended to two more states and one national institution.

In the third phase, the Edusat network is expected to become fully operational. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will provide technical and managerial support in the replication of Edusat ground systems to manufacturers and service providers. End users are expected to provide funds for this.

In this phase, ground infrastructure to meet the country's educational needs will be built and during this period, Edusat will be able to support about 25 to 30 uplinks and about 5,000 remote terminals per uplink.

While ISRO will provide the space segment for Edusat system and demonstrate the efficacy of the satellite system for interactive distance education, content generation is the responsibility of the user agencies.

The extension of quality education to remote and rural regions becomes a Herculean task for a large country like India with a multi-lingual and multi-cultural population separated by vast geographical distances, and, in many instances, inaccessible terrain.

Since independence, India has seen a substantial increase in the number of educational institutions at the primary, secondary and higher levels as well as student enrolments. But the lack of adequate rural educational infrastructure and non-availability of good teachers in sufficient numbers adversely affect the efforts made in education.

It was then decided to establish the connectivity between urban educational institutions with adequate infrastructure imparting quality education and the large number of rural and semi-urban educational institutions lacking the necessary infrastructure via satellite.

Besides supporting formal education, a satellite system can facilitate the dissemination of knowledge to the rural and remote population about important aspects likes health, hygiene and personality development and allows professionals to update their knowledge base as well.

Thus, in spite of limited trained and skilled teachers, the aspirations of the growing student population at all levels can be met through the concept of tele-education.