Mumbai, 21st March 2023.  The International Conference on Blended Learning Ecosystem for Higher Education in Agriculture 2023, hosted jointly by The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the World Bank from March 21-23 as a part of the National Agricultural Higher Education Project’s (NAHEP) Resilient Agricultural Education System (RAES) development initiative has more than ten academic partners from around the world representing over ten countries deliberating  on the best strategies in blended teaching and learning in agricultural education. A Blended Learning Platform focused on improving Digital Infrastructure across Agricultural Higher Education Institutions (A-HEIs) was unveiled by ICAR and World Bank to strengthen deployment of immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) Experiences and Virtual Classrooms.

Undertaken to strengthen the National Agricultural Education System in the country, NAHEP is a five-year project initiated in 2018 with equal contribution of $82.5 million (about Rs 600 crore) each from the World Bank and the central government. The World Bank loan is to be repaid over 19 years after a grace period of five years, The purpose of NAHEP is to transform agricultural higher education. The Blended Learning Platform is part of the project.

About 1,000 students and 450 faculty members from 20 agricultural universities have completed international training at 89 institutes in 27 countries in 160 subjects under NAHEP till date. More than 900 experiential learning units where students can get hands-on experience for six months and become proficient in subjects as diverse as genomics and tea processing have been set up at various universities. The digital content repository has more than 160 digitised courses and faculty members have uploaded more than 10,000 videos.

Addressing the Conference, Chief Guest and Hon'ble Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar stated, “Since the past five years, the ICAR has reached a new height. When we launched Krishi Megh nobody knew it would act as a gamechanger during the pandemic as it did not let India’s education system be as adversely affected as other countries. I believe even in the future; it will help us in achieving many new accolades. Blended learning and agricultural sector will help India in becoming a developed nation status by 2047. Agriculture, which is the backbone of India’s economy, can thrive with limited funding due to technology and knowledge. In line with ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ we make policies to ensure that people at the grassroot level benefit from them.”

“Dr Himanshu Pathak, Secretary Department of Agriculture Research and Education (DARE) and Director General (ICAR) said, I would like to thank the World Bank for being a committed partner to the Government of India. I believe it will further promote research and education. By 2047, India will become a developed nation as per our Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi's vision. To address the challenges of climate change and low productivity, education will play a crucial role. Our young students as well as scientists need to be equipped to combat all problems and experiment to learn new things which can be done through a blended learning ecosystem.’’

Dr RC Agrawal, Deputy Director General (Agricultural Education) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), “It has been our endeavour to enhance agricultural higher education in alignment with guidance from NEP 2020 and the UN-SDGs. All agricultural universities have access to e-learning and e-governance applications; they all have smart classrooms, video conferencing facilities and virtual reality experience labs. Eighty-six percent of agricultural universities have academic management systems; 90 percent have wi-fi on campus and 92 percent have high-speed internet connectivity. The e-content, using virtual and augmented reality, is highly immersive.  Assessments, including short and long answer type questions have been digitised.’’

The National Agriculture Higher Education Project (NAHEP) has achieved “almost all targets” and significantly exceeded more than half of them. The quality of students coming in is better, in that they have higher cut-off scores, the graduates have higher placement rates and the research is more effective,’’ said Dr. Bekzod Shamsiev, Senior Agriculture Economist, The World Bank. The next challenge is to transform digital learning into digital agriculture. Agricultural Universities have an important role to play in promoting precision farming, environmental monitoring and automation of agricultural processes. It should lead to better trading systems and market information, efficient supply chain logistics and provide information for better policy making and regulation,’’ Dr. Shamsiev added.

The 3-day conference is being organized around the below-mentioned thematic areas to identify the best strategies in blended teaching and learning:

  • Strategies for Blended Teaching – Learning
  • Technologies for Blended Learning
  • Sustainability in the Blended Learning Ecosystem
  • Building Stakeholder Capacities to Navigate in a Blended Teaching – Learning Ecosystem
  • Contemporary Curriculum for Agricultural Education

About Indian Council for Agricultural Research:

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. The Council is the apex body for co-ordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries, and animal sciences in the entire country. With 111 ICAR institutes and 71 agricultural universities spread across the country, it is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world. The ICAR has played a pioneering role in ushering Green Revolution and subsequent developments in agriculture in India through its research and technology development.

About World Bank:

The World Bank is like a cooperative, made up of 189 member countries. These member countries, or shareholders, are represented by a Board of Governors, who are the ultimate policymakers at the World Bank. Founded in 1944, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development—soon called the World Bank—has expanded to a closely associated group of five development institutions. The Bank Group works with country governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, regional development banks, think tanks, and other international institutions on issues ranging from climate change, conflict, and food security to education, agriculture, finance, and trade.