Karnataka Integrate Lessons from Pilots into Policy Making Interview with

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L K Atheeq, State Project Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Karnataka

How good is the school system in Karnataka? How much better can it become? How can we get every child in school to learn well? Questions that need answers if the state is to take its  ightful place in the country. And the  ounteractive actions taken now within schools and the education system can reverberate for generations to come. ICT as an important initiative in education, there is little option for all  oncerned but to join the information technology bandwagon given the manner in which it is reshaping the world. Where does the state stand with ICT in the  chool education system? At present, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan of the Government of India pledges to achieve the task of universalisation of primary education by 2010. In Karnataka, the target year accepted by the Department of Public Instruction is 2007. A state that has the objective to ensure that education becomes a means of genuine empowerment of the individual to achieve his/her full potential by 2007, Karnataka has a literacy rate of  7.04%. The literacy among men is 76.29% and among women it is 57.45%. The literacy  ate of the state is 1.66% more than National Literacy Rate. Now where to move from here; and how to move?  


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?What is the vision that the education policy is based upon in   Karnataka?The vision of primary education is to provide quality education useful for life to all the children of the state in the age group of 6-14 with no social  group or  ender differences. 


What are the new strategies thestate has adopted to take SarvaShiksha Abhiyan to a new high? Do you see any remarkable change orprogress in elementary education?
Karnataka state has several initiatives of its own in addition of SSA. The education department and the SSA Mission are jointly working towards consolidation of the gains of our investment in education and improve quality. Community empowerment and  involvement of School Development and Management Committees (SDMC) is the key to implementation  of SSA. Towards quality of education Karnataka, for the first time in the  entire country, SSA has conducted complete assessment of all standard 5  and 7 students and shared the results  with each school. These results are being used for working towards  improving learning levels.

What are the interventions you
have made so far to integrate ICTs inthe educational process, elementaryeducation in particular?
We are working towards a policy for ICT in schools and are planning to implement ICT with a strategy to cover all clusters and strengthen the clusters as resource centre for IT. We are also in the process of evaluating  the software that is available in order to adopt in our schools   

How conducive is the atmosphere
for ICT education in the state? What   is the IT Infrastructure and power scenario in the state?
Atmosphere is very conducive and there is a lot of demand. Under SSA we are not able to cover many schools. The state will have to think  of quickly up-scaling the various experiments in ICT application that are  currently going on in the state. Power in villages is an issue and we  are working out various alternatives including UPS that can be charged  with low voltage and perhaps solar.

?  Is motivating the teachers for their committed performance a challenge?
Motivating teachers is a challenge.  Under the Karnataka State Quality Assessment Programme we are planning to recognise and reward  teachers of schools where the results   f external assessment are good.

While implementing the innovative education programmes do you think    your state ever needs a state specific   vision other than the guidelines   provided by the centre? 
Definitely. States like Karnataka have their own vision and we have started schemes of our own, which now the centre is thinking of introducing in SSA. Central Government prepares guidelines which should suit all states  and justifiably such guidelines prioritise the basic minimum needs  firsts. Education being state subject,  state governments need to take lead and provide over and above what the centre does. Karnataka provides free  textbooks and uniform to all primary  school children. We run the largest network of educational hostels. We  have recently introduced a scheme of giving schools to all poor girls who  are enrolled in 8     

How do you go about partnering
with corporate and NGOs? Can you   put a view on education activities   being carried out through the delivery capabilities of partnershipprogrammes?
How do you monitor your programmes and partners?Partnership with all stakeholders is essential for education. This gains particular significance in the field of  ICT in and for education. Education department in Karnataka is working with various NGOs in different fields of education. There is an opportunity in this field and Government should use the expertise of these organisations. Pilots and  experiments done with the help of NGOs should go in to policy making  and should help the Government quickly upscale the good practices to  all the schools. 


?  How are you working on influencing policies at the state and central government level?
SSA carries out research and studies. As I have already pointed out, we also undertake innovative programmes with the partnership of  NGOs and other organisations. For  example, we learnt from the Learning Guarantee  rogramme of Azim Premji  Foundation and incorporated the lessons in policy making. This and other inputs resulted in Karnataka  Government setting up the Quality  Assessment Organisation. Our practice and lessons from various efforts of SSA and NGOs goes into  policy making and we give feed back to  Government of India too.  ?


What reason do you see for the focus on ICT education? What kind    of competencies do you try to bring in  through ICT?
Parents think that without computer education their children do not have good future. This impression has led  to a demand for ICT education. In order to improve the quality of  teaching, particularly of difficult concepts we think ICT in education is  important. We try to introduce basic elements of ICT to students of upper  primary schools. Under computer assisted learning all children are made  to use educational software to learn curricular concepts.

What are the major hurdles faced while attempting to give SSA a new  imension and what are the challenges ahead?
There are several challenges. Education department is not used to working in project mode and the management capacities at the district, block and village levels are poor. SSA is often seen as a separate  project and the mainstream education  department sometimes likes to stay away. There is therefore the challenge  of integrating SSA into the mainstream of educational management

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