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Promote connectivity and access to ICT in Indian schools

Support education and training workers to acquire and maintain the skills needed to take full advantage of the potential of ICT to transform learning

Support education and training workers to acquire and maintain the skills needed to take full advantage of the potential of ICT to transform learning

New Delhi: August 28, 2016

India has an excellent opportunity to initiate its efforts in re-formulating an education policy in such a way that the following can be the key areas of focus. It is important that the existing economic and digital divide needs to be bridged. Implementation and integration of ICT into the education system should address the following points:

Regardless of gender and financial status of students, education for every student should be the motto of ICT implementation.
Provide cost-efficient delivery of education to build a strong equitable and economically strong knowledge society.
Develop partnerships with government and private agencies for delivery of ICT education.
Create inter-connected clusters of villages with a central hub. Each central hub connected to an urban city with basic health-care facility provided.

ICT implementation has given an excellent opportunity for the Education Policy Implementation specialists to re-visit what we want our future leaders of India to be like. In this way, we get an idea of what needs to be taught, who is our target audience across India, and how to reach all corners of India.

The country’s growth is measured by its economic state, literacy rate and health-care facilities. By 2020, the employment pattern should aim at 44% in agriculture, 21% in manufacturing and 35% in service sectors. Of course, manpower reduction in agriculture has to be met with increased technological input.

School Education

Universities and educational systems should create two cadres of personnel: (1) a global cadre of skilled youth with specific knowledge of specific skills and (2) another global cadre of youth with higher education. These two cadres will not only power the manufacturing and service sectors of India but also fulfill the human resource requirements of various countries. The need therefore can best be defined along the following lines:

Throughput of higher education system should increase from existing 11% to 20% by 2015, 30% by 2020 and 50% by 2040.
Hub-and-spoke model of inter-connected clusters of villages with each hub in these clusters connected to an urban city.
Agriculture-based education to reach the rural schools and colleges, so that the urban movement of rural people can be reduced and technology-supported agriculture can grow and flourish.
Awareness and reach to health-care facilities through the network of clusters. Meaning, rural areas get Internet-based basic health-care help.

Vision
Working backwards from the national 2020 vision we can derive a vision for ICT in schools. The driving factors of the vision are:

Ensure that when students leave school, they should be confident, creative and productive users of new technologies and more importantly understand the impact of those technologies on society.
Prepare students for adult life when nearing the end of their compulsory schooling.
Enable equitable and cost-efficient delivery of education to create a strong equitable, imaginative and economically strong knowledge society that which is globally integrated.
Implement technology education – not as an end in itself – but as a means to promoting creativity, empowerment and equality, producing efficient learners, problem solvers, potential researchers and potential entrepreneurs.
Support education and training workers to acquire and maintain the skills needed to take full advantage of the potential of ICT to transform learning.
Partner across agencies at all levels of various ministries in the government to ensure the development of a policy and regulatory framework to enable acceptance of ICT in education and training.

 Operational Targets and Challenges

All schools in India to be a part of hub and spoke model – defined with-in the clusters of villages/locations within a year, a technology package and a computer lab and an electronic library system. At least 80% of school teachers must be trained in computer skills and computer-aided instruction. All schools’ collection and analysis of key performance measures of ICT-education impact should be automated in three years time. An integrated Human Resources Information Network in three years should be developed in collaboration. This would be an integrated database of skilled manpower, education and training services, job opportunities.

However the challenges would include aspects such as Basic Software Content — language diversity in India will force ICT to have content in multiple languages. Lack of trained teachers and motivation of all concerned authorities, particularly school administration’s mindset to and non-appreciation of value of ICT to transform and improve education will have to be addressed. The language diversity in India does not negate the lack of regional teachers, as the teaching may have to be in regional languages. The advantages that developed countries (or single-language countries) have is absent in India – owing to its language diversity. Other issues such as accessibility, affordability and networking and the annual budget would also be included.

Policy Guidelines for ICT

High-level policy guidelines for ICT are typically derived keeping in
mind the national need of critical thinking, entrepreneurially spirited future leaders. The following key points can key points can help in defining the policy guidelines:

Actualise the role of education and training in the strengthening of an equitable, imaginative and economically strong knowledge society
Improve and increase quality, accessibility and cost-efficiency of the delivery of education
Support education and training specialists to acquire and maintain the skills needed to take advantage of ICT and to transform learning
Create high quality digital content, services and applications
Work with partners and agencies for content, delivery and training and technology
Promote connectivity and access to ICT in schools
Upgrade teacher competencies.
Integrate ICT into curriculum.
Improve quality of teaching and learning
Develop a cadre of citizens who can contribute to the workforce and economy globally

It is important to understand that – in the name of ICT in schools – it is not enough to equip schools with personal computers and train teachers in their use. ICT in itself is not going to radically change education systems. But it does give an opportunity to re-visit what education and its system should
be seeking to achieve. ICT can be a great enabler.

Macro-Economic Impact

To ensure that ICT does not become another source of gender and economic inequality: ICT should be used to bridge that disparity and create a leveling ground for gender and economically disparate society like ours.
To translate the national vision of ICT to the last granular level: This would mean translating the ICT national vision to each and every school’s vision on ICT. It is important to create an ICT master plan according to each and every school’s vision and its socio-cultural setting.
To narrow digital divide by developing ICT education policy complementing other government initiatives viz. public education through ICT, computers donation, Internet access, health-care facilities’ access.

To create a national policymaking, regulatory and implementing agency for systematising collaboration between government agencies, ministries are enabled – this will help in harmonised implementation of ICT in education programmes. The various stakeholders that may have to work together on this common platform could be: Human Resources Development Ministry, Education Division, Health-care Ministry, Information & Broadcasting Ministry, Telecommunication Department, Infrastructure Ministry, Private Sectors (particularly in content and hardware provision), etc.

To ensure transparency of decisions taken or amended by the policy makers to all stakeholders
To formulate an ICT bureau comprising of education policy committee and education performance evaluation committee
– Education policy committee’s responsibility is to consolidate policies based on suggestions from stakeholders and also to work closely with international experience (for e.g. advanced countries. UNESCO also has done some extensive survey and research on ICT in education). Interacting and taking inputs from organisations like UNESCO, PISA, OECD, etc. can greatly enhance the policies and also can hasten the ICT implementation and integration.
– Education performance evaluation committee’s responsibility is to formalise the framework for performance measures, implementation of the same, data collection and analysis of the measures to feed back for policy and performance enhancements.
To develop standard budget based on school size and existing resources

Students & Parents

To establish criteria for partnership with content providers to provide and maintain content for primary, secondary and senior-secondary schools.
To ensure that ICT should create a leveling ground for the disadvantaged and for those with special needs as well.
To establish selection criteria for students to be considered for potential job-providers. Potential job-providers need to be consulted for the same (particularly for the vocational sectors).
To build a platform as a part of ICT master plan, for parents to participate in their wards’ development. This can enhance the value of Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings on an ongoing regular basis – instead of a quarterly hands-off PTA meeting.
To build a platform for peer-learning for students.

School & Teacher Training vision policy
To enhance acceptance of ICT in schools, school leaders to be considered as primary audience. They can help in adopting strategies to integrate ICT into the curriculum.

To appoint an ICT coordinator in each school to ensure administrative and pedagogical support for teachers.
To build a buddy system approach for novice teachers with expert teachers in an ICT classroom.
To define incentive system and motivational strategies for teachers who promote ICT education.
To provide autonomy to schools to select ICT personnel and resources as per their need based on the standards defined.

Curriculum, Content and Pedagogy

To ensure that dichotomy between technologists and educators does not arise – by composing teams with both of them.
To create a knowledge-base on good use of internet and technology.
To bring in to education the safety issues pertaining to Internet an integral part of parenting as well as teaching and learning activities at home and in school.

Software, Hardware & Infrastructure

Establish appropriate firewall and filtering mechanism for preventing access to undesirable websites – which otherwise can be counter-productive to a student’s growth.
To ensure that pilot projects do not take more than two years as they have to battle the obsolescence rate of technologies.
To create a definitive rule-set pertaining to intellectual property rights to educational materials.
To create standards for software, hardware applications for implementation of ICT resources.
To formulate multiple clusters, based on geography and ethnicity, of units (villages and locations) in India. Each of these clusters is strategically connected to an urban city. Create a hub-and-spoke model.

 editor@ictpost.com

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