Maharashtra BOOTing on to ICT@Schools Programme : Sanjay Kumar, School Education, Government of Maharashtra, India

Teachers are the hardware of education delivery system, we need to invest in them to achieve education goals, says

Sanjay Kumar, Principal Secretary School Education, Government of Maharashtra

Q.  Schools are now envisioned to improve the quality of education delivery through Central scheme ICT@Schools. What is your vision for bringing technology in schools in Maharashtra?

Technology should be used in the social sector such as health and education to accelerate the achievement of education and health objectives for India. Technology as a tool has found its application in all the sectors. In education it can act as an aid for education management of resources such as school information database to deliver informed decisions. It is a powerful tool for bringing access to education direct in your homes through distance learning. It will be key realising our goal for bringing educational opportunities for each child. We had implemented the scheme in 500 schools in Phase-I and plan to cover more than 1000 schools in the next phase. We are also targeting on the drop-out students segment to be included in the education environment through ICT and distance learning by strengthening the informal education programmes. Our vision is to empower the students with knowledge, by going beyond installation of hardware and software peripherals in schools. We are in the process of developing our website to be a one-stop on all information relating to education in the state.

Q.  Have you formed a technical committee for monitoring and implementation of the scheme?

ICT in school education cannot be implemented in isolation, its roll-out needs co-operation and collaboration between Departments within the Government. We, in Maharashtra are planning for bringing ICT in School Education in a planned and holistic environment, we have hence built a Technical Committee comprising of representatives from the Department of IT, Department of Finance and Department of School Education to pool in our expertise and build a robust plan.

Q.  ICT literacy is now becoming a need to survive in the digital age. How does the scheme help in delivering critical skill sets to students and teachers?

ICT literacy includes both understanding and usage of IT for classroom teaching and learning. We have set up computer labs in schools to help students familiarize with technology, along with prescribed curriculum and syllabus for each class. Similarly for teachers we conduct regular training programmes on subject studies and pedagogy to understand and effectively adopt IT in their respective subjects. The prime aim of the training and capacity building programmes is to eliminate the fear of computers and familiarize the teachers with the basic know-how of IT. The reduction in fear factor directly translates into greater adoption and usage of technology-aids in classrooms.

Q.  The scheme is run on a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model. How has the state government implemented the model in Maharashtra schools?

We brought out tender inviting companies for implementing the scheme under the BOOT model in 500 schools, as a pilot test. NIIT bagged the contract and has set up labs with installation of 10 computers in each school including hardware and software for conducting classes, alongwith training programmes for teachers. The pilot is still on-going, and the response is enthusiastic as the students and teachers are learning new tools for teaching and learning. The pilot is still on-going.

Q.  What are the challenges in adopting BOOT model for implementing ICT in schools?

The Challenges in the BOOT model are mainly three, the first and foremost is breaking the psychological fear of technology by the teachers. There scheme needs more investment and focus on teacher training and change management for teachers and schools. As the teachers are the implementers of ICT in classrooms and they need to be well-trained and confident in using technology. The second challenge lies in maintenance and upkeep of IT infrastructure especially when implementing the scheme in rural areas, as there is power shortage and lack of technically skilled staff. We do have provision of generator back-up under the current BOOT model by NIIT in each school under the scheme. Lastly, the biggest challenge lies in implementing the scheme beyond mere installation of IT peripherals and equipments. The state government aims to deliver not only computer literacy but also improving the overall delivery of education system in Maharashtra. We do not see the scheme in isolation to other education initiatives in the state.

Q.  What are the future plans and projects for ICT in schools in Maharashtra?

We are working towards digitization of the entire state school education process. In this we have currently identified, three main focus areas; firstly we aim to bring in technology in recruitment of teachers, we aim to bring in online examination for teachers as done for GRE testing. This would enable candidates to take examination online. Teachers are the hardware of education delivery system, we need to invest in them to achieve education goals. Secondly we are planning for bringing in EDUSAT for teacher training programmes, with a range of subject-specialized programmes for teachers. Lastly we are giving emphasis on informal mode of education delivery through distance education and peer-to-peer learning. IT can bridge the education divide that exist between the urban and rural areas, by providing an opportunity for anyone to learn and be educated.

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