India Formulating a National Policy on ICT in School Education
June 2008

India Formulating a National Policy on ICT in School Education

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How do teachers, administrators and policy makers feel about their experiences with technology? Is there a balance between teaching about technology as a subject, and as a tool for learning? Has the technology integration proved financially, technically and administratively sustainable over time?

In continuation to our discussions on formulating a National Policy on ICT in School Education in India, and our attempt to make the discussions more wide, open and collaborative, we are producing the discussions that the UN Solution Exchange (www.solutionexchange-un.net.inen) Community members have reflected on the key thematic pillars like ICT Infrastructure, e-Content, Capacity Building, Innovation and Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, Quality in School Education, and Public Private Partnerships in a series. In this issue, we are presenting a part of the discussions happened on the issues of Capacity Building and Innovation and Research. The May issue of Digital Learning has produced the e-Discussions of the UN Solution Exchange Education and Development community on the ICT Infrastructure and Quality issues.

As we know, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (www.education.nic.in), Government of India, has already initiated the process to formulate the ‘National Policy on ICT in School Education’. The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (www.gesci.org), a UN ICT Task Force founded organisation, along with Centre for Science, Development, and Media Studies (www.csdms.in) provides strategic assistance to MHRD in the preparation of this policy.

Capacity Building

Responses were received from both ICTD and Education communities of UN Solution Exchange who have attempted to address the challenges of empowering the educators with ICTs by sharing their valuable thoughts on the issue.

Queries Respondents
What are some of the key capacity gaps facing ICT in school education?  Are there any good examples where these capacity gaps have been addressed?

Can you suggest creative ideas and innovations for building capacity for ICT in school education?
Do you have any insights about the capacity-building process that would be relevant?

10 responses were received on the thematic focus area namely, Capacity Building. Responses were received from both ICTD and Education communities of UN Solution Exchange facilitating the e-Discussion.

  • Rajen Varada, Technology for the People, Bangalor
  • Jitendra Shah, Indictrans, Mumbai
  • Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Government of West Bengal, Kolkata
  • Nisheeth Verma, Learning Links Foundation, New Delhi
  • John Mathew, Business Consultant, Kochi
  • Srinivasan Ramani, International Institute for Information technology, Bangalore
  • Anjela Taneja, ActionAid, Bhopal
  • Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata

 

Rajen Varada, Technology for the People, Bangalore
‘Peer learning as an add-on to capacity building!’

Capacity building is not a one-time exercise and needs to be ongoing especially in government schools where teachers are overloaded, schools short staffed and transfers happen often. The gap is not so much in the capacity building as much as in the lack of developing innovative thinking in the trainers. ICT content needs to be defined in this context.

What really are we saying when we try to define ICT in school? Is it Information & communication or Education? Is it only the digital form of the school curriculum and enhanced rote learning or is it going to bring in an environment of creative exploration of knowledge? Are the schools going to be true centres of learning and information or continue as (e) rote teaching? Karnataka has developed excellent Radio learning material for schools in collaboration with EDC along with capacity building material. A compilation of such initiatives and collation of content in local language will be helpful.

Anindya K Banerjee, Panchayats& Rural Development Department, Govt of West Bengal, Kolkata
‘Innovation, an easy word but difficult to attain’

Innovation is an easy word for all but difficult to attain, yet when you work with students who experiment with the great tool you will probably notice they are more innovative at times and with more and more unemployed youth some open competition on “Innovative Ideas” and you get a lot of ideas to work with.

Research, well, for this there are agencies and NGOs and government agencies or even retired employees from the education department who can be or may be used to do the research to bring in new avenues that will help generate revenues for the private partner and awareness on newer technologies for ICT@School.

In West Bengal I have seen that once the students are able to learn the basic concept they love experimenting and come out with great creative things and thus innovate things

which matter to them the most “learn”. I would ask all members to give one weekend to each student in a month to show his/her creativity in using ICT as a tool to churn out “INNOVATIVE THINGS”. Yes, the student who delivers the best (let the teachers and senior students decide) gets additional 5 marks on the net marks in his home exams/final exams.

How to seed, discover, incubate, and upscale innovation for enhanced effectiveness in the teaching-learning process!

It is already discussed for
[a].  Trainer/teachers to let the imagination go wild they need Vitamin “M” i.e. Money, believe it or not we all work for it so be it.
[b].  For the student community we should give them free room to innovate and incubate ideas from their mind and the free flow of these as matter/content
[c].  Seek parents to send their innovative ideas in sealed envelopes to the Headmaster to read aloud a few of them each day in the assembly (so if there are 1000 students there will be 1000 ideas) VOILA!! We would get a lot to learn every day. Unless imaginations fly we will not be able to think great things for our own future our kids.

May I suggest Peer learning as an alternative/add-on to capacity building? Create student clubs and include creative tools (software such as Photoshop, adobe insight, illustrator, flash or GIMP and so many other open source software) as part of the schools software library.

Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Government of West Bengal, Kolkata

‘Trainers should be screened for IT background’

I think the following reasons may be some of the gaps facing
ICT@SCHOOL.

  1. The School does not have adequate trained manpower to understand what is being taught hence mostly depend on the private partner.
  2. The headmaster/headmistress are not interested to learn the advantages mostly due to ignorance they feel they are too old for the new technology but this very technology can make their retired life better if they can help in automating their own service books. There are other examples of using the same for preparing online tests for the students.
  3. The trainers from Private partners should be screened with their educational and IT background in question. In West Bengal the government had given the criteria for trainer and the quality control mechanism was ensured in this way.

I often meet the trainers in my state and interact with them and am aware of the issues they face while training as the training in this state is not mandatory but optional.

I feel there are many methods/ways which will perhaps help the ICTD team to device a fruitful process for Capacity Building for ICT@SCHOOLS. I would also like to invite suggestions from the team members if we could ask the Private Partners and some Head masters where ICT is in real practice to attend a workshop on brainstorming the process.

Nisheeth Verma, Learning Links Foundation, New Delhi
‘Need a network of all teacher-training institutions’

The Capacity Building exercise needs to be done at three-tier level which can help in better implementation

At State level:
Experiment and adopt the best practices for the integration of ICT in both formal and non-formal education programs in order to increase access to education, enhance educational quality, and improve learning performance, especially among populations traditionally most excluded from education.

  • Strengthen the training and professional development of teacher trainers, teachers and non-formal education facilitators in the integration of ICT in education.
  • Establish a state Clearing House in order to produce, collect, process, utilize and disseminate local contents and link it to other relevant institutions.

At District/school level

  • Effective use of ICT in improving teaching and learning’ project involving training teachers to create project portfolios using Project Based Learning.
  • An online teacher resource base to be developed and implemented and
  • A network of teacher-training institutions to be established so that teachers can share their education courseware and innovative practices.

At Educational institutions level

  • The formulation of plans for the integration of ICT into the curriculum,
  • The creation of a framework for enhancing learning opportunities using ICT across the curriculum,
  • Designing a flexible curricular model to embrace inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary thinking,
  • Development of attitudes that are value driven, rather than technology-driven.

If worked at these levels, we can ensure transparency, developing effective usage model, and overall implementation.

John Mathew, Business Consultant, Kochi
‘There has to be clear guidelines to keep content current and interesting’

Most of the ICT installations in schools that I’ve been to have been maintained by one faculty member and interested students. All the administration, upgrades, installation and discarding were decided by this local group within each school. The infrastructure and capacity of this group was decided specific to the school and they are only responsible to the school board/ parent teacher committee. Most other forms of capacity building, with respect to infrastructure, are hinged on funds. The other aspect capacity related issues is that of content. As content increases, maintenance and ownership will become difficult. There has to be clear guidelines as to how content will be kept current and interesting to students.

Jitendra Shah, Indictrans, Mumbai
‘Use scholarships!’

To address the issue of Capacity Building, I would recommend, use scholarships for higher education students (Post Graduate and Ph D) to provide support in schools.

Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata
‘Trainers need to remain aware of the changes in the industry’

I somehow have been close to ICT@School not only in the East but also at Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand by some means or the other and have a lot to share in this forum of learned people who are trying to come to a conclusion for the FUTURE of INDIA.
I am sure the 7 Thematic Pillars made will stand good enough like the 7 Colors, 7 Wonders, 7 Sur, 7 seas, 7 Continents one day. I strongly feel that this exercise was required for the best understanding of the ICT@School project being thought about by MHRD.
Capacity Building is an ongoing process and needs to be mentored by a national policy. I strongly feel that one session/semester should be kept for the Trainer/School Management so that the trainers are aware of the changes in the industry vis-a-vis the changes in the outflow of the curricula to the students.
I am sure these 14 days have been a learning experience for all of us in the forum but it will bear the fruit only when the actual formulation of these policies are implemented with or without us or the stakeholders of the project of ICT@School.
I understand that much has been written about the important issue of deciding on our children’s future related to education and literacy in ICT, I request all to think more logically and humanely rather than impulsive thinking as it is our own people we are talking about.

Srinivasan Ramani, International Institute for Information technology, Bangalore
‘There is scarcity of effective teachers to handle ICT infrastructure’

A key issue is the scarcity of effective teachers who can handle ICT infrastructure and utilise it for educational purposes. Any training we give such teachers is lost within a couple of years as many of these teachers move out of educational institutions and go to business and industry. We could modify an idea of the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and use it to solve this problem. SNDT offers a Master of Educational Technology (Computer Applications) (http://www.sndt.ac.in/det/METCA%20Prospectus%202007-08.pdf ). IGNOU could offer a ‘Diploma/Degree for ICT Teachers in Schools’ to start with, for the benefit of teachers working in schools. This would be a part time course spread over two or three years, giving significant credit for effective performance as a teacher using ICT. Practical work specified to the participants could be teaching assignments, which could be graded by local senior teachers or other administrators. In addition, the participants would be learning in the distance education mode and taking examinations. Those enrolled would serve the school during their education, and get the greatest reward – getting better educated. If they leave the school system after qualifying for a Diploma/Degree, that would be fine. The economy needs such people too.

We could announce an award of INR one lakh per author for a hundred authors a year for creating educational content in the form of e-books in Indian languages. This may be any one, not necessarily a teacher; for instance it could be a college teacher writing for school students.  Those whose books are selected for the award should put the e-Book in the public domain, so that anyone can use it. This would be a method of providing inexpensive content for digital libraries at schools. If 50,000 schools use an e-Book and it has a notional value of INR 50 per copy, the value created by the proposed “Indian Language e-Book Award Scheme” would be INR 25 Lakhs. Public libraries should also be able to use public domain content in Indian languages, thereby doubling the utilisation of e-Books created. The scheme should not exclude books in English.

Ministry of HRD’s National Programme for Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) has created thousands of hours of video lectures, covering a lot of the four-year curriculum in four disciplines of engineering at the university level. The valuable experience gained in this project can be used to create video content to cover school curricula in all Indian languages. School-teachers can be trained and invited to create video content in their areas of expertise, and in their own language. The best teachers can provide inspirational lectures and model lectures. This content can also be packaged as short video clips which a local teacher can use in the class, offering his/her own lecture livened and enriched by the video-clips.

Anjela Taneja, ActionAid, Bhopal
‘Introduce computer education in the curriculum’

  1. The shortage of teachers is a huge problem to begin with. My sense is that IT trained teachers would currently be a bit of a luxury for the system. Ensuring PTRs are met would be a starting point. Ensuring that hiring of para-teachers (untrained teachers) stops or they are trained would be a prerequisite for up scaling of computer education.
  2. A suggestion offered previously in the discussion was to introduce computer education in the curriculum. However, let’s not forget that only a fraction of teachers hold professional BEd degrees. A lot of states have done away with the requirement to hold them in the first case. It would, therefore, be an incomplete step in that direction if we rely only on pre-service training
  3. The alternative is in-service training. Only 40% teachers in government schools had received training in the previous year (with the figure going down to 26% for government aided schools). Therefore, one would need to keep in mind the reality of teacher training when planning teacher training processes.
  4. One solution that may come to mind is mobile teachers providing computer education to several schools. This should be feasible, provided a sufficient number is hired and they are given transportation. However, this would involve the risk of adding another layer to the already stratified teacher profession. Ensuring that the teachers already in place are used instead of adding further layers would be a better idea in my opinion.

In conclusion, I am not an ICT expert, but a manager of education programs from within the NGO sector who has some understanding of how the system operates in the most interior areas. If the government is to come up with a policy for its citizens, it should be a policy that reaches out to all of them- and that means also reaching out to the most excluded and marginalised. The real challenge in my opinion is how to find the resources to reach out to these areas and the solution for this may not come from the few isolated small scale NGO experiments backed with plentiful funds, but in the overall processes of strengthening the public school system. Consequently, the need for ICT infrastructure in government schools cannot be seen in isolation from the overall questions of quality and I hope the policy would recognise the actual reality of  abyssmal infrastructure overall and doesn’to result in computers at the expense of books, blackboards and charts, but rather in both being present in all schools (not just a few elite rural schools).

 

Research Innovation
Queries Respondents
Suggestions on the role and types of research in understanding untapped user needs in schools.

Suggestions on how to seed, discover, incubate, and upscale innovation for enhanced effectiveness in the teaching-learning process.

  • Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Department, Government of West Bengal, Kolkata
  • M V Ananthakrishnan, Developmental Infomatics Lab, KReSIT, IIT Bombay, Mumbai

 

Anindya K Banerjee, Panchayats& Rural Development Department, Govt of West Bengal, Kolkata
‘Innovation, an easy word but difficult to attain’

Innovation is an easy word for all but difficult to attain, yet when you work with students who experiment with the great tool you will probably notice they are more innovative at times and with more and more unemployed youth some open competition on “Innovative Ideas” and you get a lot of ideas to work with.

Research, well, for this there are agencies and NGOs and government agencies or even retired employees from the education department who can be or may be used to do the research to bring in new avenues that will help generate revenues for the private partner and awareness on newer technologies for ICT@School.

In West Bengal I have seen that once the students are able to learn the basic concept they love experimenting and come out with great creative things and thus innovate things
which matter to them the most “learn”. I would ask all members to give one weekend to each student in a month to show his/her creativity in using ICT as a tool to churn out “INNOVATIVE THINGS”. Yes, the student who delivers the best (let the teachers and senior students decide) gets additional 5 marks on the net marks in his home exams/final exams.

How to seed, discover, incubate, and upscale innovation for enhanced effectiveness in the teaching-learning process!
It is already discussed for
[a].  Trainer/teachers to let the imagination go wild they need Vitamin “M” i.e. Money, believe it or not we all work for it so be it.
[b].  For the student community we should give them free room to innovate and incubate ideas from their mind and the free flow of these as matter/content
[c].  Seek parents to send their innovative ideas in sealed envelopes to the Headmaster to read aloud a few of them each day in the assembly (so if there are 1000 students there will be 1000 ideas) VOILA!! We would get a lot to learn every day. Unless imaginations fly we will not be able to think great things for our own future our kids.

 

M V Ananthakrishnan, Developmental Infomatics Lab, KReSIT, IIT Bombay, Mumbai

‘Throw-away prototyping to be adopted as one goes on improving and adding value’

The research areas that need to be explored are:

(a) An important factor to remember that the student is the customer for education.
(b) A thorough understanding of the learning process of children in terms of approach that are most effective.
(c) Development of prototype lessons and their field testing with children. A number of cycles with students from different scenarios would add value to the approach.
(d) Throw-away prototyping to be adopted as one goes on improving and adding value.
(e) School teachers should be involved in developing school curricula and instructional resources. School principals/headmasters should play a supporting role (and not a dictatorial one) to the teachers and students.
(f) The role of students in the selection of courseware (either in-house or vendor-supplied).
(g) Thrust must be on adding value to concepts/principles through localisation of content.
(h) Researchers must go on to the field to get data and not work on data collected through questionnaires. They must interview all the stakeholders I education (students, parents, teachers, headmasters, trustees, administrators, end-users both from industry and academics).
(i) Research projects should be such that their results are verifiable and sustainable. Teams should visit the end-users at regular intervals (for at least three years) even after the projects are completed.

IIT Bombay can provide examples of how the end-user (the student) was actively involved in the development of an ICT-based solution to educate the children of nomadic tribes. In fact this work has been awarded the FIRST PRIZE by UNESCO in the non-formal education category of 2007.

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