Envisioning a National Policy on ICT in Education
Febuary 2008

Envisioning a National Policy on ICT in Education

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Dr. Anjali Prakash

CEO
Learning Links Foundation

If India today aspires to emerge as a front-runner among the knowledge based societies, the usage of ICT in providing education of desirable quality can hardly be over emphasised. While many states have their own ICT policy, it has been felt that a coherent and enabling policy for ICT at the national level would have tremendous benefits for the synergetic growth of our country. There is a need for a National Policy which would need to consist of objectives, guidelines, practices and must clearly articulate the role of ICT in school education.

Globalisation: While recognising the phenomenon of globalisation, The National Curriculum – Framework for School Education – 2006 speaks of the emergence of learning societies due to the multiplication of sources of information and communication, transformation of the nature of work requiring flexibility, necessity of team work and use of technologies. Integration of technology would have several other implications. This in turn would make demands on educational planners. Media production, interactive video and multimedia computer software shall have to be perceived as an integral component of the curriculum development processes, rather than external to it.

Technological Advancements: Unimaginable changes are happening every single day in the realms of technology. These advancements have been brought about due to massive installation of undersea fiber-optic cable and bandwidth that have made it possible to globally transmit and store huge amounts of data for almost nothing. Second, the diffusion of PC’s around the world. Third, the convergence of a variety of software applications – from email, to Google, to Microsoft Office, to specially designed outsourcing programs – that when combined with all those PC’s and Bandwidth, make it possible to create immense technological advancements.

Changing Pedagogical Paradigms of the 21st Century:
Today’s education faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn. Students will spend their lives in a multitasking, multifaceted, technology-driven vibrant world and they must be equipped to handle the challenges of the 21st century effectively. It is obvious that the old pedagogical framework of de-contextualised instructional practices and fixed curriculum is clearly inappropriate. With information having increasingly short shelf life, education must empower learners to learn for themselves, and to continue to do so incessantly. It is important to understand the key learning skills of the future – interpersonal skills, information skills, technology skills, basic skills, thinking skills and learnability.

National Curriculum Framework: The NCF clearly focuses on the child as an active learner. It takes into account the importance of children’s experiences, their voices and their participation. The NCF talks of the need for adults to change their perception of children as passive receivers of knowledge and that children can be an active participant s in the construction of knowledge. The school should recognise the innate ability of each child to construct his/her own knowledge, and the fact that every child comes to school with a fund of pre-knowledge. The NCF recommends significant changes in language – Maths, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences with an overall view to reduce stress, make education more relevant and meaningful. NCF states, ‘Integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
into schooling needs serious consideration. Teachers, educators, curriculum developers, evaluators and others will have to redefine their roles to tackle ICT rich environment and harness its full potential for the benefit of learners.’

Quality of Education: Planning for ICT Policy must definitely keep in mind the quality aspect of education. It is crucial to analyse what quality in education means, how it can be assessed and how it can be measured. Research conducted around the world reveals that using standardized quality standards enable schools to move towards organisational excellence. Quality bench marks in the areas of visionary leadership, strategic planning, student and stakeholder focus, workforce engagement, process management, and diverse results have now been accepted. The criteria are designed to help organisations use an integrated approach that results in delivery of ever-improving value to students and stakeholders, contributing to education quality, organisational stability and personal learning.

An overview of the policy framework as envisaged

The ICT in Education Policy is a blueprint for the integration of Information Technology (IT) in education as a strategy to equip our children to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The ICT in Education Policy must continually anticipate the future needs of society, and work towards fulfilling those needs, develop appropriate ICT skills required for the future based on 21st century skills, address the issues of Relevance, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Access, and Equity.Operational dimensions of any policy enable vision to be translated
into reality.

Curriculum, pedagogy and content development

We have to prepare for a future in which information will be increasingly accessible and the renewal of knowledge in many fields increasingly rapid. The school curriculum will have to evolve a better balance between the learning of factual knowledge and the mastering of concepts and processes. Learning would shift from information receiving towards an emphasis on finding relevant information, learning to apply information to solve problems and communicating ideas effectively.

Integrating technology into the curriculum and assessment

 

  • ICT should be integrated into the schools to meet the curricula goals.
  • Effective integration of ICT in schools must consider integration issues into both the curriculum and assessment.
  • When ICT is introduced into the assessment process, there is a need to reconsider the assessment approaches. There may be a greater role for formative assessment when ICT is integrated into the assessment process.

Shift in pedagogy, redesign of curriculum and assessment, and greater school autonomy

 

  • In order to optimise the potential of ICT, there should be a change in pedagogies, redesign of the curriculum and assessment, and more autonomy for schools. When ICT enters the school environment, everything in the environment has to change to take up the opportunities and address the limitations of ICT.
  • The shift in pedagogical approaches should be consistent with the goals and underlying principles of the education system.

Content development that supports the curriculum

 

  • Local development of ICT-based resources is crucial to  support the curriculum. It increases the relevance and enhances the authenticity of the resources for the students and teachers.
  • In order to develop high quality ICT-based resources, the Ministry of HRD should attract well-established education software developers to work with pedagogues. This will also promote the transfer of skills and technologies.
  • The ICT-based resources should be customisable so that they will meet the needs of the teachers and students based on their context.

Professional Development (Pre-service and In-service)

Teacher training is a key element to education reform, particularly training that focuses on classroom practices and engages teachers in a community of professional practice and development.

Policy in teacher training on ICT

  • The ICT professional development program for teachers must plan for the continuous training of teachers – from pre-service teacher education to induction to in-service professional development. the existing training model with regard to objectives, methods, costs, and effectiveness.

Need for ICT competencies and standards before training

  • The application of ICT competency standards allows teachers and students to seamlessly integrate learning materials from a wide range of sources.
  • The ICT competency standards should avoid software or product specific skills. Instead, the standards should focus on generic skills of particular applications.

Content focus of capacity building for pre-service teachers

  • The ICT professional development program of teachers should be planned based on the vision of the ICT Policy of the government.
  • The foundation course on ICT integration in the pre-service education program should focus on applying ICT skills to achieve pedagogical objectives, rather than teaching ICT skills in isolation. That is, ICT skills should be learnt within the context of classroom objectives and activities.
  • The pre-service teacher education institution should collaborate with private or public ICT training agencies to equip trainee teachers with the basic ICT skills. These agencies are specialists in ICT training and may be more competent and effective in the training. The teacher education institution can work closely with these agencies to develop the curriculum of the workshops, and leave the training to the latter.

Technology infrastructure and connectivity

  • Operational policies must include a provision and budget allocation for technical resources that are needed to accomplish the nation’s strategic goal.
  • This is typically a policy emphasis in the early stages of a country’s use of ICT in education.
  • Such plans often include the amounts and type of computer and multimedia hardware that will be purchased but they may also refer to resources related to television and radio, especially in developing countries.
  • Increasingly, the Internet and local networking resources are also included, along with a budget for educational software.
  • Technical support – Another important operational component is ongoing technical assistance, which teachers need not only in early phases of ICT use but as hardware and networking technologies become more sophisticated and educational applications become more complex.
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