Monday, 17 September 2012

Plan Provisions for ICT in Education

The Government ICT Scheme

Recognizing that we do not have the formal means to know of, or nurture, the talents of 35.2% of our population - that part of our population that is illiterate - the government has launched several schemes to increase literacy and education levels in India. One such initiative, to bridge the digital divide across geographical and socio–economic barriers, is to bring ICT into learning through computers and mobile technology.

As part of the provisions of the 11th Planning Commission, the Government had allocated Rs. 5000 crore for the ICT @ Schools scheme in order to invest in improving the quality of education. The scheme was launched in 2004. According to the Plan, it has been found that students who often do not perform well in conventional subject examinations demonstrate high success levels in the use of Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled learning. IT could provide new directions in pedagogical practices and students’ achievement. The idea is not merely making children computer literate but also initiating web-based learning. A scheme overview is presented in the box below:

Aim: Universal coverage of ICT in Upper Primary Schools by 2011-2012
Fund Allocation: Rs 5000 crore
Implementation Module: In partnership with states and private providers. Fund sharing between centre and state: 75:25 (90:10 in the North East Region)
Target Description Achieved
1.08K Upper Primary Government and Government Aided Schools 
  • 80,000 connected to the Internet via terrestrial/wireless broadband mode
  • 28,000 connected to the internet via broadband Very Small Aperture Terminals.
  • Each school was to be provided with ICT infrastructure consisting of a networked computer lab with at least ten computers, a server, a printer connected on Local Area Network and broadband Internet connectivity of 2 Mbps
  • Every school would also have a ‘technology classroom’, with audio visual equipment for enhancing the learning.
78,893 schools have been covered for basic computer literacy
Digital Content Creation
  • Educational content on CDs for embellishing classroom teaching was also to be made available
Digitization of NCERT content underway
Teacher Training
  • Training of teachers in the use of computers and teaching through computers
Status Unknown

The scheme is proposed to continue under the 12th Plan, but to be subsumed under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan, the government’s scheme for universal access and quality secondary education, along with few other schemes such as Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage and Vocational Education scheme. This move aims to receive better results as: 
  • Running these schemes in silo mode creates avoidable hurdles in holistic planning and implementation of the schemes. 
  • Separate appraisal and approval mechanism for these schemes is resulting in duplication of efforts at State and National level. 
  • To ensure administrative efficiency and optimal utilisation of resources, it is proposed that these schemes be subsumed under RMSA. 
  •  Teacher training components of in-service teacher training and induction training is provisioned in all schemes. It is proposed that this component be clubbed together and provision be made @ Rs. 500 per teachers per day. Duration of in-service teacher training to be enhanced from five days to 10 days infusing ICT concerns.
  •  Convergence of efforts with other Ministries. 
Financial projection for the scheme made by the Working Group for the 12th Plan is Rs. 11,000 crores.

State Government Initiatives

The Bihar HRD ran the Partners in Learning programme with Microsoft. Teachers were taught to use ICT through computers in classroom
Tamil Nadu
The Tamil Nadu government has gone on a massive campaign to give out laptops to all students of the 10th and 12th class. 6.8 million Laptops are to be given out through this scheme in the next 5 years
The Kerala Governments' IT@Schools program is fully integrated into the existing educational processes. It relies on the elaborate teacher training structures within the public education system in India to train the school teachers on using ICTs, both in terms of computer learning and computer aided learning. The program has created ‘mobile hardware clinic’ teams, which regularly visit schools for inspection, checking hardware and doing most of the required maintenance and repair work.
The Maharashtra government has gone ahead and included ICT as a compulsory subject in the 9th grade, with the syllabus covering concepts of web browsers, e-mails, downloading web content, chatting, video conferencing using Skype, creation of audio visual content, translation software.

Criticism of Government ICT Initiative

What has thus far been criticized about such ICT programs of the Government, is the focus on the technology and not learning. For ICT to be effective and to show results on learning, it is essential to create the environment conducive to such learning. The focus needs to be on content generation and effective teacher training. Though, most teachers complain of not having someone to reach out to. Also, such qualitative aspects as teacher training and quality of content generated are never mentioned as targets or reviewed for progress. We do hope that as the implementation of the Plan progresses, we can see better outcomes in these areas as well.