Odisha Govt Schools Join ICT Bandwagon: Ratnakar Rout

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Ratnakar Rout State Project Director, Odisha Madhyamik Siksha Mission, Government of Odisha

The use of ICT in schools to cater to the growing needs of education is gaining momentum in various states. This is evident from the fact that the state-run schools in Odisha are successfully employing these tools with the implementation of the ICT labs

Highlighting details of this ongoing project, Ratnakar Rout, State Project Director, Odisha Madhyamik Siksha Mission, Government of Odisha, talks about the challenges in implementing it in an interview with Namita Panda of Elets News Network (ENN)

The ICT-enabled labs have been set up in most state-run schools with the rest supposed to be covered in the next phase. Can you brief us about this ongoing project?

So far, we have set up one ICT lab each in 4000 State Government schools with another 2000 in the pipeline. The state-owned Odisha Knowledge Corporation Limited has engaged two vendors – IL&FS and TCIL. While IL&FS has been assigned the ICT installation in 3401 schools, TCIL is taking care of 591 schools now. These vendors together will ensure the setting up of ICT labs in the rest of 2000 schools.

What is the significance and role of ICT in schools in your opinion?

Today, it is very essential to equip children with technology-based knowledge including the exposure to usage of computers. ICT is already a part of their lives considering the widespread use of mobiles and gadgets. Also, children get attracted to education imparted through computer more than other modes of teaching. This calls for the need of preparing e-content by competent teachers keeping in mind the requisite syllabus. This paves way for better learning since there is a dearth of good teachers.

What were the challenges faced while setting up ICT in schools in interior areas and how did you overcome them?

There were issues of broadband connectivity, unavailability of continuous electricity supply and the lack of skilled co-ordinators to manage the ICT labs. But now all these issues have been duly managed. We have facilitated generator sets and dongles keeping in mind the issue of electricity. Computer co-ordinators have also been deployed in each of the schools to manage the ICT labs in terms of imparting computer education to students and to train teachers in IT skills.

There were several challenges in setting up of ICT in schools in the interior areas such as broadband connectivity, unavailability of continuous electricity supply and the lack of skilled co-ordinators to manage the ICT labs

What budget has been allocated to the ICT project for schools and what are the future plans in this respect?

The funds that were allocated for the first 4000 schools amounted to Rs 784 crores. Now, we will begin the work for the next 2000 schools for which Ricoh India Ltd., a global printing and document solutions and IT services provider, has been given the task for this five-year BOOT (build, own, operate, transfer) model project under IC School scheme.

Also, we had floated an expression of interest for bidders to conduct a third-party evaluation of the work so far. The last date for this was July 12 and the evaluation should be done within the next few months so that the next phase of ICT labs can begin after considering the shortcomings.

Will the newly set up model schools or Adarsh Vidyalayas be included in the next phase of ICT labs?

Among the 2000 schools that will be covered in the next phase, all the 100 model schools will be a part of it. That apart, 214 more model schools will be coming up soon which will be covered for ICT in the subsequent phases. Our target is to cover 8000 schools over the entire five years of the project.

Can you brief us about the vocational education introduced in the schools of Odisha last year.

We had given approval for 30 schools to impart vocational education last year. In this regard, the students of Class IX are being trained in the IT and ITeS domains. This year, as many as 178 schools have been approved for this training along with core trade subjects like retail, travel and tourism and banking services. The schools have been selected by the authorities of the Central Government based on Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE) data.

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