Director, Education, microsoft
Microsoft entered India in 1990 and since then has worked closely with the Indian government, IT industry, academia and local developer community for ushering in some of the early successes in the realm of IT.
Digital LEARNING, in conversation with Rajeev Katyal, learns more about the projects and programmes of Microsoft in India
Microsoft, along with NCERT, has now started developing lessons with the help of content developers so that at least one computer can be afforded for one classroom. In multi-point content development, the teacher draws the lessons plan and the content developers convert them into multi-point and give them back to the teachers. This is the concept of a content classroom.
What according to you are the challenges in IT education sector and the activities of Microsoft in that situation.?
Today ICT plays a major role in improving quality and aid the education system. Government has included ICT at schools by setting up IT labs and issuing PCs to the students. These ICT labs are eventually networked through broadband connections. The idea is to make all students IT skilled and to bring in pedagogy in the latest teaching learning processes through ICT.
In the higher education system, the National Mission is to ensure IT setups in each and every college with adequate broadband facilities. The expectation is supposed to be met in the next 3 years and followed by which the government plans to bring in content and virtual universities, virtual classrooms and web based content, and web based delivery of the content in the classrooms. Thus ICT based education improves quality in education and makes a young person skillfully employable. Actually ICT enables vocational content available through seamless access and delivery methods and spreads vocational skills that brings about employability in the process. Having specific programmes in ICT, Microsoft plays an important role in introducing and imparting technology in education, supporting the government initiatives in the process of improving quality and equity in the process of education.
How do you ensure ICT at school level as teaching assistance?
At school level, initiatives are taken more towards setting up ICT labs ensuring that both the teachers and students are getting the desired skills. Down the line the government wants to bring in learning of objects such as Mathematics and Science through ICT in terms of visualising and practice.
So in the coming years ICT will become an unavoidable part of pedagogy in teaching as well as in application of the curricula.
What is the role of Microsoft in the following three years to support government in their initiatives?
We train approximately 80,000 to 1,00,000 teachers every year in government schools in IT. Now these trained teachers will further teach the students in improving the quality of education at every stage. For the IT curriculum, anybody can get it through the Internet as a registered member with Microsoft and can download the files. The registered member also has rights to replicate it. The government schools can apply to us and get the rights to replicate paying the royalty of the curriculum.
In your programme, ‘Partners in Learning’, in association with the Government of Egypt, does the training take place in your area or school premises?
The training takes place in DIETs which are present in every district. DIETs are centres where teachers come for training. Here the teaching infrastructure is provided by the respective government and Microsoft provides the programmes of the course and train the teachers. The programme duration is generally of ten days.
What are the challenges in bringing ICT to schools?
Infrastructure problem is the main challenge that exists at the school level. For example broadband connection might not be available throughout the year and there is a psychological fear associated with the use of technology at the school level. Besides, the teacher’s training in IT is not up to the mark in many places.
To ensure quality in education Microsoft has introduced a feedback process from the teachers where post training they have to prepare lessons for their students and Microsoft scrutinises to meet the level of quality.
What is the way forward for you?
We firmly believe that the Microsoft offers the best of education in ICT across the world in terms of the sheer interactivity, popularity and its wider presence through the interface with the windows software. There is a very strong comfort level between the students and the teachers using Microsoft. We are now into introducing education inclined more towards technology.
Around 50% schools are computerised every year and the digital divide is going to be smaller. Other than accessibility, the challenge before us is to train teachers in IT and also at the same time provide computers in every school. Penetration of IT in school education is a big challenge facing the government as well as the private players in the field of education.
What are the initiatives that Microsoft has taken in collaboration with the government?
The bulk of the schools today in India are run by the government sector where bulk of the students come from economically challenged backgrounds. We tend to make an impact on the government. Out of 1.4 million schools in India, assuming that there are ten classrooms in each school, it is not possible to put computer in the hand of every child or even in each classroom. In such a situation multi-point technology can be of great use where 30 students can have 30 mikes using one computer.
The government is desirous of training more and more teachers because the requirement is much more than the number available. The target before us is of training 20 million teachers in 5 years.
What initiatives have Microsoft taken for the deprived sections of the society?
Microsoft has initiated ‘Project Jyoti’, which is about training students who live below the poverty line. In higher education also we are developing softwares for students at affordable prices so that they can work on projects. Our initiative, IT in academics is to make sure that a school or college can set up an IT academy where they can get access to 30-300 Microsoft courses which are certified.