At the eINDIA2007, Ministry of Human Resource Development announced the need for a National Policy on ICT in School Education, for which it initiated a consultative process along with Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative to address the 21st century challenges in teaching and learning using technology tools. A draft document was developed under the guidance of Ministry of HRD, Department of School Education & Literacy through a series of consultations with major stakeholders in the ICT in Education domain; including national consultations, workshops and a series of e-discussions pertaining to integration of ICTs in school education.
As part of efforts to take this dialogue forward with the government functionaries and experts on methods of effective implementation of ICT in school education, a panel discussion was organised at eINDIA2008 on July 30, 2008. The broader objective was to create opportunity for discussion on three vital issues concerning effective implementation of ICTs in schools, namely,
- Should there be a national vision for integrating ICTs in school education? Is effective implementation of ICTs in schools impeded by lack of a guiding document portraying a national focus.
- States bear the onus of effective implementation of ICTs in schools. What should the policy document prescribe to aid the process of its implementation in states?
- What are the challenges faced during its implementation and possible ways to combat these challenges?
We present you the report of the Policy session in Digital Learning India 2008 'Perspective of States as Implementers' The learnings and recommendations derived from the panel discussion have been collated and presented to the Ministry of HRD to enable a participatory and informed policy formulation with strategic guidelines to all stakeholders.
Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, along with Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), founded by the UN ICT Task Force, and CSDMS has initiated a consultative process to formulate 'National Policy on ICT in School Education' to address the needs and challenges for teaching and learning in the 21st century using technology tools.
A draft document was developed under the guidance of Ministry of HRD's Department of School Education & Literacy through a series of consultations with major stakeholders in the ICT in Education domain; including national consultations, workshops and a series of e-discussions pertaining to integration of ICTs in school education.
To take this dialogue forward with the government functionaries from the Centre and States and experts in the field of education on effective implementation of ICTs in school education, a panel discussion was organised at eINDIA2008 on July 30, 2008.
The consultation provided an opportunity to gather regional knowledge on the experiences and challenges involved in implementing ICTs in schools, especially in rural schools.
The State representatives shared their perspective on the challenges/ impediments that they have faced while implementing and integrating ICT programmes in the school education system. The panel experts thereafter provided a deeper understanding of the policy process and responded to concerns and issues raised by State representatives and participants in the session.
The broad objective of the panel discussion was to create opportunities for discussion on three crucial and vital concerns which need to be addressed for effective implementation of ICTs in schools. These concerns are:
- Should there be a National Vision for integrating ICTs in School Education? Is effective implementation of ICTs in Schools impeded by the lack of a guiding document portraying a National focus?
- States bear the onus of effective implementation of ICTs in Schools. What should the policy document prescribe to aid the process of implementation in schools to ensure maximum learning advantage for students?
- What are the challenges faced during implementation and possible ways to combat these challenges?
Secretary, School Education & Literacy, Ministry of HRD, Arun Kumar Rath was the Chief Guest and key note speaker. The session was chaired by Joint Secretary, School Education & Literacy, Ministry of HRD, Subhash C Khuntia and moderated by GeSCI Country Director, India, Ashish Garg.
In his key note address, Arun Kumar Rath highlighted the aggressive investments and actions on the part of Government of India to provide quality education to all children of the country. The universalisation of primary education has been nearly achieved with about 97% children and habitats covered at primary school level. This coverage is about 90% at upper primary school level. The Government has ensured provision of at least one primary school within 1 km. and upper primary school within 3 km.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the flagship programme of the Government to achieve Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE). SSA in partnership with State governments seeks to provide quality elementary education, including life skills and also computer education to bridge the digital divide.
Rath announced the launch of Rashtriya Madhyamik Abhiyan (RMA) in near future to show the Government's determination and commitment to address the needs, challenges and priorities of education at secondary level. RMA will be the new educational flagship programme of the Government at the secondary level on the lines of SSA. The Government will provide necessary funds, resources and capacity building to upgrade 40,000 secondary schools in the country to become good quality schools. The goal would be to have one best school in every block and especially every backward block.
Rath expressed concerns over the deficient level of knowledge among the students, especially in Science and Maths and highlighted the role that ICTs could play in improving reach and quality of education. Most government schools lack good science, mathematics and technology teachers. Despite the fact that country has a dedicated satellite for education (EDUSAT) and hardware has been provided in schools, these are grossly under-utilised.
There is a need for capacity building of teachers in using ICTs in education. Quality educational content and in contextualised format are required for the schools. ICTs could reach education to every village and block in the country.
The Secretary, Education also discussed about involvement of IITs and other institutions in improving the quality of teaching and learning in schools. IITs are now being pursuaded to join school education and IIT Kharagpur has launched a Virtual Academy to support teachers in collaboration with MHRD. A virtual education group will be available for consultation to secondary school students and teachers. 20 more academies of this nature will be started if the experiment succeeds.
Rath also dwelved upon the questions that need to be reflected upon:
- What is the value of ICT in school education?
- Is there a need for a National Vision?
- What should the National Policy prescribe?
- What are the challenges which the states face while implementing ICTs?
At the outset of her address, Ashish Garg presented the Compendium on National Policy on ICT in School Education: A Multi-Stakeholder Perspective to the Secretary, Education, Chair and panelists.
She briefly discussed the consultative process initiated last year to enable an informed discourse and perspective sharing among all stakeholders in order to identify the needs, challenges and priorities to be addressed in the proposed National Policy of ICT in School Education. She highlighted the objectives and expected outcomes from the panel discussion, which revolved around three questions mentioned above in the report.
S C Khuntia, who chaired the session, called for bringing uniformity and clarity amongst the States on implementation of ICTs in education. A set of coherent implementing guidelines giving a broad direction to the States are required. The document would be a reference point for all levels. He emphasised the need for consultations in evolving a robust and dynamic policy which would make ICT integration at schools easier. A dynamic and flexible policy would help the States in leveraging ICTs in school education.
Khuntia pointed out three key challenges in education, viz., access, equity and quality, especially at secondary level. ICTs may play a major role in addressing them. The proposed ICT policy is expected to further the educational objectives. He stressed on addressing issues related to infrastructure, connectivity, content, teachers training, best practices, M&E and PPP. He also called for reflections on targets and timelines for implementation. The policy may also provide standards and norms for procurement and other areas, which States require.
In conclusion, Khuntia invited all the stakeholders, including teachers, students, NGOs etc. to come forward and contribute in the process. 'We have to move from ICT labs to ICT enabled classes in our schools,' he added.
The second part of the session saw two presentations by State representatives from Gujarat and Jharkhand. Secretary, Primary Education, Gujarat, Anita Karwal presented State's perspective on proposed ICT policy and shared the State's experience with Computer Aided Learning in schools. Gujarat has covered 5,371 schools till date through BOOT model. Remaining 14,885 schools will be covered in current year with the same model. 23 Multimedia based CD have been developed for Maths, EVS and Co-curricular activities in collaboration with Azim Premji Foundation for classes 3 to 7. Teachers have been trained with the help of INTEL, she added.
Some of the challenges faced by Gujarat in implementation of ICTs in schools include procurement, capacity limitations, scale, remoteness, language, quickly changing technology, software, connectivity and operating systems. Karwal made following suggestions for the National Policy on ICT in School Education:
- Standardise procurements – should we procure hardware, software or services
- Connectivity options
- Research based benchmarking of expected outcomes- accreditation of schools for CAL
- Constant review of policy to ensure availability of latest technology
- ICT policy for standardising database for creating national grid for enabling child tracking/mapping, monitoring drop out, retention