Interview

Infrastructure Is A Greater Priority Than ICT : T M Vijay Bhaskar, Secretary (Primary & Secondary Education) Government of Karnataka

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Can you discuss the vision and the major thrust of current education policy in your state, in terms of use and integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs)? What is the current strategy adopted in this direction?

The role of ICT is to help in achieving universal school education with quality for all children.  It is being used for both attracting students to school and thereby improving enrolment rates as well as for providing computer aided education and computer proficiency skills to students. This will enable them to make use of opportunities presented by ICT for further learning as well as in the employment market. Right now our focus is on providing computers through  ICT in schools scheme in all our Govt high schools and higher secondary schools.

We wish to make computer education available to all rural and urban children irrespective of caste, class and gender. The challenge is greater in regard to use of ICT in primary schools in view of the large number of such schools. Obviously there has to be a phased introduction of ICT in primary schools. The use of EDUSAT based video lessons has been evaluated and found to be effective in raising learning levels in higher primary sections. This holds out great promise because of lower cost compared to providing computer labs. Similarly radio is being used for many years to make classroom teaching more enjoyable.

Any remarkable change or development seen in the elementary/primary/secondary level of education?
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has built upon the gains made under Operation Blackboard, DPEP to bring about visible changes in primary schools everywhere. Karnataka State Government has also extended mid-day meal scheme, free uniforms and free textbooks to all children irrespective of caste, class or gender in all Govt schools from Class 1 to Class 10. Funds are also being drawn from RIDF to improve infrastructure in high schools. The new plan scheme of providing bicycles to all children belonging to BPL families who join Class 8 in Government and aided schools has also enabled greater enrolment.

How improved is a teacher-training facility in the state to impart ICT enabled education?
Teachers cannot be replaced by ICT enabled education. They have to be trained to use ICT to good effect. The agencies which have been entrusted with delivery of ICT education services are training /have trained the teachers in all the high schools covered by them. Training is given during vacations to the teachers.

In addition Microsoft has set up Microsoft Academies and Intel is also helping to train many teachers. IBM, America India Foundation and many other NGOs and IT companies are also helping in providing computers in schools.

What are the major hurdles and challenges faced in this direction so far? Do you think an ICT in  School Education policy would help in this line? What are the areas for policy level interventions do you think required in the developing country context like that of India?
Priority in school education is to provide basic amenities and infrastructure. Toilets, desks, libraries, laboratories, sports equipment, playgrounds, compound walls, etc are greater priorities than ICT. There is no need for a separate ICT in School Education policy because ICT is only one of the features of a desirable school. Hence it should be part of the larger requirement of a policy for good effective schools that provide quality education to all children in the school going age group. 

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