School teachers in India may soon get new incentives to utilize technology and make teaching in classrooms more interesting. The incentives are to include national recognition, a chance to chat with the President as well as the Prime Minister, and a personal laptop. Half a century after instituting national awards for teachers, India is preparing a 21st-century avatar for educators rated best in the use of information and communication technology in class. The human resource development ministry has proposed new National Awards for Teachers in ICT, which for the first time will recognise teachers who best use modern technology to liven up classes.
The cabinet is yet to decide upon clearance of the proposal. The ministry is keen to launch the new awards on National Education Day on November 11th, starting this year. Later, the awards will be repeated annually on the same day. The ministry's move signals the government's intentions to increasingly focus on promoting technology as a teaching tool, both in school and higher education, in a shift from the past. The most comprehensive government study on the use of ICT in schools, conducted in 2006 by ministry officials, showed that even in technologically developed centres like Ahmedabad, each school on an average had six computers. On an average, 78 students had to share a computer and hardly any teacher used technology as an aid to teaching. Under former minister Arjun Singh, the HRD ministry often viewed technology with suspicion, recognising its utility but arguing that the education system had more pressing needs. A proposal to provide one laptop per child was dismissed in 2006 with arguments that the technology may prove unhealthy and that the government couldn't afford such an investment. The traditional National Awards will continue as usual with the winners felicitated for two days, including a dinner with the President and lunch with the Prime Minister. The winners receive a medal, a certificate and a cheque for INR 25,000. The new awards will also see teachers felicitated by the Prime Minister and the President. The award winners will receive a certificate and a medal, but instead of the cheque the traditional awardees receive, the ICT teachers will receive a laptop under the HRD ministry's proposal. On an average, two awardees will be selected from each state each year. They will be nominated by the state government from its schools and those run privately in its territory. In addition, the Centre will select two awardees each from the Kendriya Vidyalayas, the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations and the Central Tibetan Schools Authority.