Education Gets Technology Push: Sanjiwan Sinha

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Sanjiwan Sinha,  Managing Director, Bihar State Education Infrastructure Development Corporation, Government of Bihar

Use of ICT in schools has proved a great help in improving the quality of education being imparted to the pupils in Bihar, says Sanjiwan Sinha, Managing Director, Bihar State Education Infrastructure Development Corporation, Government of Bihar, in an interview with Elets News Network (ENN)

How is Bihar State Education Infrastructure Development Corporation (BSEIDC) helping in the educational development of Bihar?

At present, I am heading two organisations in the State – Bihar State Education Infrastructure Development Corporation (BSEIDC) and Mid-Day Meal programme. The mandate for BSEIDC is to provide infrastructure support to educational institutions, especially in secondary education and higher education, in some cases. We do not cover primary education. The major task in secondary education is two-fold – one is civil infrastructure provisioning to some institutions, and second, some ICT initiatives in the secondary education.

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Under the ICT @ School scheme of the Government of India, the ICT initiatives in Bihar through our organisation are covering 832 secondary schools in the State and in 168 schools, tender process is on. In 832 schools, through different vendors of ICT, we are running the ICT school schemes. In this, we have tried to add another monitoring feature with the help of ICT, called School Computer Access Network (SCAN). We have designed it in such a way that each computer in school is attached to a programme here. The programme tests whether that school server, having specific processor number, is attached to this programme. Every day, the teacher concerned has to send the mail describing the number of hours and activities done in the school. If the programme is generated from different ID, then immediately an SMS is sent to the teacher and the principal of the school. If the same mail is not sent again, the SMS is sent to the people concerned.

This enablement has been achieved here but sometimes, due to connectivity issues, we are not able to receive the mails. To cope with this situation, we have designed some primitive form of reporting added with IT i.e. a single-page report is manually typed by the school teacher stating how many days in the last week and on which computer teaching has been imparted. It is also counter-signed by the principal. He takes a photograph through the mobile and uploads it on the school website. We have developed websites for all the 832 schools and we will give login access to school teachers.

Tell us something about the Mid-Day Meal programme.

The Mid-Day Meal programme is for the students of primary classes, from Class 1 to 8. We are serving 1.30 crore students per day with meals. Around 70,000 schools are there. We have our own MIS system developed by some vendors. In the MIS, we ensure that every school is with at least one month stock of food grains plus sufficient money to run the scheme at any point of time. This is maintained through MIS, which is web-based and every month monthly pension is paid to 534 block resource persons located in different blocks of Bihar, who feed the status of each and every school by the 15th of the following month. So, we are in a position to see the amount of consumption of food grains and the fund status, and accordingly my district office runs the programme.

Another process in operation is Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS). We have a pre-defined queries format which is responded to by the school authorities through IVRS. It is available in public domain. The new initiative that we have undertaken in the last 15 days is creating of individual websites of all 70,000 government primary schools. It gives basic information about every school, its officials, and the grain and fund position in the school.

We have designed the hybrid model of website, and under the first slash, we will get all the schools. So, it is easy to search the schools. On a single domain under the drop-down menu of district schools, we have mapped all the schools. We are going to activate 70,000 websites in a record time. The cost of the project is less than `1 per website and in future it will not cost us more than `2 per website per annum, including hosting and maintenance charges.

What has been the impact of the Mid-Day Meal scheme on the attendance in schools?

Primarily, the aim of the scheme is to enhance attendance of school going children, especially in the rural areas. But importantly, we have also found that class-caste barrier has also disappeared to a great extent following the introduction of the scheme.

As for attendance, it varies in schools due to so many factors. But our motto is: whosoever is coming to the school should not go without food. Based on the Interactive Voice Response System data, until last month, the average feeder for the current year was 67.22 percent attendance.

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How many computers have you provided per school?

Every single school is given 10 computers. However, in our structure, we have designed two basic servers and the rest of the units are attached to them, so total will be 12, with sharing computing system facility. We have designed this with specific reasons, as Bihar is prone to theft of computers. So, the end computing devices are of no use and the number of thefts is reduced.

The aim of the scheme (Mid-Day Meal programme) is to enhance attendance (in schools). The class-caste barrier has also disappeared to a great extent following the introduction of the scheme, which is one of our big achievements

What are the various programmes being run by your department under the ICT @ School scheme?

In Bihar, as a part of the ICT @ School Phase I programme, we have covered some 832 schools and have tried to create a computer lab. The computer lab is kept open every day, which was not the case previously.

The second stage is to ask schools to impart computer education, which is very important, and then the third stage would be to impart computer-aided education. We are at the second stage and will graduate to the third stage soon.

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