A National Policy for ICT in Indian Education!

India today aspires to emerge as front-runner among the knowledge-based societies. Thus, the benefits of ICT revolution in providing education and training of desirable quality can hardly be over emphasised. Focus has been to provide universal access, equity and ensure provision of quality elementary education. Universalisation of access has nearly been achieved. Investment in the sector has resulted in satisfactory outcomes. 94% of our rural populations have a school within one sq. kilometer. The gross enrollment ratio has improved to 108.56 in 2004-05 from 96.30 in 2001-02 at primary level, and to 70.51 from 52.09 at upper primary level during same period. The dropout rate at the primary level has reduced by 10.50% i.e. 28.49 in 2004-05 from 39.03 in 2001-02. Use of technology in the classroom transactions has gained impetus in the form of computer aided learning in many States.

Champak Chatterjee, Secretary of School Education, Ministry of  HRD Government of India, during the eINDIA2007 inaugural speech made a mention of creating a national ICT policy in education soon

The challenge ahead is to provide universal access, equity and quality at the Secondary stage. As educational indicators are not very encouraging at the  moment, the responsibility is now to ensure substantial investment to improve the current scenario at the earliest. Use of technology by students at the Secondary stage pre-supposes their strength in terms of knowledge and skill development. As Internet has become more and more accessible, the world of information and innovations have become more accessible today.

Recognising the importance of ICT in education as early as 1984-85 Computer Literacy And Studies in Schools (CLASS) Project was launched. Today, exclusive Educational Television channel ‘Gyan Darshan’ has been launched to provide satellite based education across the country besides the interactive radio programme. In December, 2004, the ICT in Schools Scheme was launched to open a window of opportunity for secondary stage school students across the country in partnership with states/Union Territories. While the emphasis has been on the computer literacy programme, the advantage is now realised in use of IT tools for development of e-Content in the computer aided learning activities and self learning by students.

Need for a National ICT in Education Policy

While many States have developed their own policy on ICT in School education but at the national level there is a need for putting in place a coherent and enabling policy for use by all stakeholders. It has thus been felt to develop a set of policy objectives, guidelines, practices and knowledge tools to enhance the role of ICT in school education, particularly, by following a consultative and a participatory process with States, academia, NGOs, civil society organisations, practitioners and stakeholders. In this regard, Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative,(GeSCI) has offered its expertise and assistance to the Department of School Education & Literacy (D/SE&L), Ministry of HRD, Government of India in the formulation of the national policy.

GeSCI Initiative
GeSCI was founded by the United Nations ICT Task Force, and is a global organisation that catalyses, supports and convenes national and regional ICT in Education initiatives and provides strategic advice to Ministries of Education on the effective use of ICTs for education. In the recent past, it has facilitated development of ICT policy in education for a few countries, namely, Namibia, and Bolivia with on going work in Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda.

The International event of e-INDIA 2007, provided the right context to start a first level of discussion with the stakeholders and solicit recommendations from them.

The GOI has several National as well as State specific schemes that run concurrent to a large number of privately led ICT initiatives across India. In addition there are several ICT in education initiatives across the country and these account for a large degree of
understanding and awareness about the role that ICTs can play in enhancing the teaching learning process. However, the lack of a concerted, dynamic education policy has continued to hound the ministries of education, increasingly, this new tool – called ICTs and their incorporation has added to the challenge.

A well coordinated and structured policy can lead India to achieve MDGs

Ashish Garg, Programme Co-ordinator India, GeSCI in conversation with Digital Learning

What is the need to integrate ICT in education policy and how will it work for the Indian education system? How is India unique in its issues and concerns for integrating ICTs in education?

Integrating ICTs in Education is a relatively new turf and Ministries of Education across the world are trying to find the right balance to optimise educational outcomes. There is also a need to understand the key issues underlying the problems and to formulate sensible strategies.

Without a purposeful “End to End” policy driven by political will and authority, ICTs may remain a peripheral subject and an enormous opportunity for enhancing learning and subsequently creating an equipped work force and improved living conditions may be lost.

In the Indian context, a purposeful policy assumes greater significance in view of the complex challenges we face as a large nation with divergent requirements. Besides the size and spread of the school education system in the country, which is second only to China, we also have major issues of access, opportunity and gender discrimination. The deployment, and usage of ICT in Indian schools  is also an aberration in many ways.

India has the distinction of being the country with the largest number of ICT in education initiatives, but these are primarily concentrated in six or seven states, where as others have little or no awareness about this new tool in education.

GeSCI works in Bolivia, Namibia, Ghana and Rwanda and we realise that India is unique not only in its challenges, but also in its approach on managing these challenges.

In emerging trends of e-Learning, where do you place GeSCI? What are the innovative e-Learning best practices or policies specific to the organisation, that can impact the education community?

Many developing countries seem to be simply “copying” the developed country approaches. Many Ministries of Education in developing countries are faced with systematic weaknesses and ICTs have not traditionally been their core competence.

If developing countries are to realise the potential and benefits of ICTs in Education in improving access, quality and efficiency in a cost and educational effective manner, then they urgently need to develop a clear understanding of the benefits and potential roles ICTs can play in education; develop, build and enhance  the capacity within Ministries of Education to strategically plan for, set priorities and targets and effectively deploy ICTs for Education; assume clear leadership of and drive the ICT in Education agenda while cooperating with and coordinating the NGO and private sector stakeholders; move beyond “pilot programs” to well
thought out and planned, scalable, cost effective and sustainable national initiatives.

GeSCI was created specifically to respond to these urgent needs of the Ministries of Education in developing countries. GeSCI’s role to help Ministries coordinate the entire process according to its educational objectives is unique and has proven beneficial to its developing country partners.

What are the focus areas identified by GeSCI on the use and integration of ICT in education in India?

GeSCI’s mission, services and activities are defined in direct response to the needs of several developing countries.Designing and implementing policies and plans Building capacities within Ministries of Education;Utilising ICTs cost-effectively to achieve educational objectives.

A well coordinated and structured policy leading to a practical and dynamic implementation plan will enable the country to achieve the Millenium Development Goals faster.

What is your vision of the ‘future classroom’ in Indian schools in the digital age? How do you think the success of ICT use be measured in the school education system?

The Future classroom would be a place where all students have the opportunity to attend school and participate in a meaningful educational process.

As demonstrated by the Indian IT business, effectively using ICTs in Education can reduce the trauma on the socio-economic fabric of India. Education today must be linked to opportunities of economic improvement through better learning, understanding and exposure to a global environment. Success would be measured not simply by achievement scores, but by the level of learning, number of students opting for higher education, research and by the number of students taking up jobs in the knowledge economy, as opposed to an overall increase in the economic conditions of the people of India.

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