Responding to a discussion in Lok Sabha on demands for grants of the education ministry, he said research in higher education institutions has been excellent but India is yet to catch up with filing and bagging patents.
He said so far there was a race to grab the best package but now the race to bag and file patents has begun.
Responding to concerns raised by members, he said the government is trying to bridge the gap of digital divide. “We have started One Class, One Channel to community radio channels initiatives.”
The demands for grants were later passed by the House.
During the debate, members pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed serious digital divide in the country with a section of students not having access either to the internet or even medium of learning aids like tablets and smartphones.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor said as classes shifted online, not only were teachers, who are underpaid, as they were ill-equipped to handle such a significant change and the experience only demonstrated that online learning in its current form is exclusionary and discriminatory.
Highlighting the issues faced by students in his constituency, NCP leader Fazil Mohammed said internet connectivity in the Lakshadweep archipelago was very feeble when students took online classes. He said there were many who were deprived of tablets, smartphones and laptops.
Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said while learning moved from classroom to homes, many had issues with the internet, power connections and non-availability of essential learning aids like phones, laptops and tablets.
Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary said due to the pandemic, digital education has been introduced but children of poor people like rickshaw pullers and labourers do not have laptops and computers.
Apna Dal leader leader Anupriya Patel suggested that the government should ensure that every child in rural areas have access to smartphone so that their education is not impacted.
YSRCP MP Sri Krishna Devarayalu Lavu said that the reduction in education budget is “very worrying” and suggested that all efforts should be made by the government to bridge the digital divide in education.
BSP leader Danish Ali also said the government should look at issues to bridge the digital divide in education while National Conference leader Hasnain Masoodi asked how many students have access to digital education.
Today, there is inadequate infrastructure for the education sector, he said, adding that dropout rates today are increasing and enrolment rate is also coming down.