June 2008

India Formulating a National Policy on ICT in School Education

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How do teachers, administrators and policy makers feel about their experiences with technology? Is there a balance between teaching about technology as a subject, and as a tool for learning? Has the technology integration proved financially, technically and administratively sustainable over time?

In continuation to our discussions on formulating a National Policy on ICT in School Education in India, and our attempt to make the discussions more wide, open and collaborative, we are producing the discussions that the UN Solution Exchange (www.solutionexchange-un.net.inen) Community members have reflected on the key thematic pillars like ICT Infrastructure, e-Content, Capacity Building, Innovation and Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, Quality in School Education, and Public Private Partnerships in a series. In this issue, we are presenting a part of the discussions happened on the issues of Capacity Building and Innovation and Research. The May issue of Digital Learning has produced the e-Discussions of the UN Solution Exchange Education and Development community on the ICT Infrastructure and Quality issues.

As we know, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (www.education.nic.in), Government of India, has already initiated the process to formulate the 'National Policy on ICT in School Education'. The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (www.gesci.org), a UN ICT Task Force founded organisation, along with Centre for Science, Development, and Media Studies (www.csdms.in) provides strategic assistance to MHRD in the preparation of this policy. 

Capacity Building

Responses were received from both ICTD and Education communities of UN Solution Exchange who have attempted to address the challenges of empowering the educators with ICTs by sharing their valuable thoughts on the issue.

Queries Respondents

What are some of the key capacity gaps facing ICT in school education?  Are there any good examples where these capacity gaps have been addressed?

Can you suggest creative ideas and innovations for building capacity for ICT in school education?
Do you have any insights about the capacity-building process that would be relevant?

10 responses were received on the thematic focus area namely, Capacity Building. Responses were received from both ICTD and Education communities of UN Solution Exchange facilitating the e-Discussion.

  • Rajen Varada, Technology for the People, Bangalor
  • Jitendra Shah, Indictrans, Mumbai
  • Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Government of West Bengal, Kolkata
  • Nisheeth Verma, Learning Links Foundation, New Delhi
  • John Mathew, Business Consultant, Kochi
  • Srinivasan Ramani, International Institute for Information technology, Bangalore
  • Anjela Taneja, ActionAid, Bhopal
  • Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata

Rajen Varada, Technology for the People, Bangalore
'Peer learning as an add-on to capacity building!'

Capacity building is not a one-time exercise and needs to be ongoing especially in government schools where teachers are overloaded, schools short staffed and transfers happen often. The gap is not so much in the capacity building as much as in the lack of developing innovative thinking in the trainers. ICT content needs to be defined in this context.

What really are we saying when we try to define ICT in school? Is it Information & communication or Education? Is it only the digital form of the school curriculum and enhanced rote learning or is it going to bring in an environment of creative exploration of knowledge? Are the schools going to be true centres of learning and information or continue as (e) rote teaching? Karnataka has developed excellent Radio learning material for schools in collaboration with EDC along with capacity building material. A compilation of such initiatives and collation of content in local language will be helpful.

May I suggest Peer learning as an alternative/add-on to capacity building? Create student clubs and include creative tools (software such as Photoshop, adobe insight, illustrator, flash or GIMP and so many other open source software) as part of the schools software library.

Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Government of West Bengal, Kolkata

'Trainers should be screened for IT background'

I think the following reasons may be some of the gaps facing
ICT@SCHOOL.

  1. The School does not have adequate trained manpower to understand what is being taught hence mostly depend on the private partner.
  2. The headmaster/headmistress are not interested to learn the advantages mostly due to ignorance they feel they are too old for the new technology but this very technology can make their retired life better if they can help in automating their own service books. There are other examples of using the same for preparing online tests for the students.
  3. The trainers from Private partners should be screened with their educational and IT background in question. In West Bengal the government had given the criteria for trainer and the quality control mechanism was ensured in this way.

I often meet the trainers in my state and interact with them and am aware of the issues they face while training as the training in this state is not mandatory but optional.
 
I feel there are many methods/ways which will perhaps help the ICTD team to device a fruitful process for Capacity Building for
ICT@SCHOOLS. I would also like to invite suggestions from the team members if we could ask the Private Partners and some Head masters where ICT is in real practice to attend a workshop on brainstorming the process.

Nisheeth Verma, Learning Links Foundation, New Delhi
'Need a network of all teacher-training institutions'

The Capacity Building exercise needs to be done at three-tier level which can help in better implementation

At State level:
Experiment and adopt the best practices for the integration of ICT in both formal and non-formal education programs in order to increase access to education, enhance educational quality, and improve learning performance, especially among populations traditionally most excluded from education.

  • Strengthen the training and professional development of teacher trainers, teachers and non-formal education facilitators in the integration of ICT in education.
  • Establish a state Clearing House in order to produce, collect, process, utilize and disseminate local contents and link it to other relevant institutions.

At District/school level

  • Effective use of ICT in improving teaching and learning' project involving training teachers to create project portfolios using Project Based Learning.
  • An online teacher resource base to be developed and implemented and
  • A network of teacher-training institutions to be established so that teachers can share their education courseware and innovative practices.

At Educational institutions level

  • The formulation of plans for the integration of ICT into the curriculum,
  • The creation of a framework for enhancing learning opportunities using ICT across the curriculum,  
  • Designing a flexible curricular model to embrace inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary thinking,
  • Development of attitudes that are value driven, rather than technology-driven.

If worked at these levels, we can ensure transparency, developing effective usage model, and overall implementation.

John Mathew, Business Consultant, Kochi
'There has to be clear guidelines to keep content current and interesting'

Most of the ICT installations in schools that I've been to have been maintained by one faculty member and interested students. All the administration, upgrades, installation and discarding were decided by this local group within each school. The infrastructure and capacity of this group was decided specific to the school and they are only responsible to the school board/ parent teacher committee.
Most other forms of capacity building, with respect to infrastructure, are hinged on funds. The other aspect capacity related issues is that of content. As content increases, maintenance and ownership will become difficult. There has to be clear guidelines as to how content will be kept current and interesting to students.

Jitendra Shah, Indictrans, Mumbai
'Use scholarships!'

To address the issue of Capacity Building, I would recommend, use scholarships for higher education students (Post Graduate and Ph D) to provide support in schools.

Anindya Kumar Banerjee, Panchayats and RD Dept., Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata
'Trainers need to remain aware of the changes in the industry'

I understand that much has been written about the important issue of deciding on our children's future related to education and literacy in ICT, I request all to think more logically and humanely rather than impulsive thinking as it is our own people we are talking about. 
              
I somehow have been close to ICT@School not only in the East but also at Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand by some means or the other and have a lot to share in this forum of learned people who are trying to come to a conclusion for the FUTURE of INDIA. 

I am sure the 7 Thematic Pillars made will stand good enough like the 7 Colors, 7 Wonders, 7 Sur, 7 seas, 7 Continents one day. I strongly feel that this exercise was required for the best understanding of the ICT@School project being thought about by MHRD.

Capacity Building is an ongoing process and needs to be mentored by a national policy. I strongly feel that one session/semester should be kept for the Trainer/School Management so that the trainers are aware of the changes in the industry vis-a-vis the changes in the outflow of the curricula to the students.
  
I am sure these 14 days have been a learning experience for all of us in the forum but it will bear the fruit only when the actual formulation of these policies are implemented with or without us or the stakeholders of the project of ICT@School.

Srinivasan Ramani, International Institute for Information technology, Bangalore
'There is scarcity of effective teachers to handle ICT infrastructure'

A key issue is the scarcity of effective teachers who can handle ICT infrastructure and utilise it for educational purposes. Any training we give such teachers is lost within a couple of years as many of these teachers move out of educational institutions and go to business and industry. We could modify an idea of the SNDT Women's University in Mumbai and use it to solve this problem. SNDT offers a Master of Educational Technology (Computer Applications) (http://www.sndt.ac.in/det/METCA%20Prospectus%202007-08.pdf ). IGNOU could offer a 'Diploma/Degree for ICT Teachers in Schools' to start with, for the benefit of teachers working in schools. This would be a part time course spread over two or three years, giving significant credit for effective performance as a teacher using ICT. Practical work specified to the participants could be teaching assignments, which could be graded by local senior teachers or other administrators. In addition, the participants would be learning in the distance education mode and taking examinations. Those enrolled would serve the school during their education, and get the greatest reward

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