Can IT transform Indian education system ?

Education is one of the most important factors in the growth and development of any country. When it comes to India, it has world’s third largest education system, after China and US. With such large education system, it becomes more important as well as difficult to implement new and modern changes into the system. One such change is the integration of Information Technology with the Indian education system.
 
Within the last 2 decades, processing power of computers has increased to a great extent and the cost has considerable gone down. Because of this reason information technology finds use in many fields including education. Till recently, the teachers had no options but to write/draw on blackboards. This not only made the task of teaching tedious but also the learning process slow and boring. But with IT enabled education, the learning as well as teaching process becomes better and faster. IT enabled education involves the usage of multimedia, audio-visual, animations, digital devices, online media, etc which encourages the students to think in a creative and innovative manner.

India is known all around the world for its IT services and is a major contributor to country’s GDP. Despite this fact, not much has been done in regard with the integration of information technology with education system. Though there have been initiatives and efforts from corporate sector and state government in this direction in order to improve the education system in India but much needs to be done.
 
GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND INITIATIVES
Edusat, launched in 2004, is a communication satellite which is exclusively for the education sector. This was meant for distant learning in the country. It also made possible to watch educational programs on television sets at home and at very low cost which was something like making best teachers available to all students.
 
In the Tenth Five-Year Plan, 2002-2007, government paid stress on the inclusion of information technology with the education. Government also started a Rs. 100-crore project – “Vidhya Vahini” in association with a non-profit organization, Shiksha India, to focus on Information Technology in schools.
 
Headstart is another IT initiative by the government which provides IT enabled education along with basic computer knowledge to the students in around 6000 ‘Jan Shiksha Kendra’ in Madhya Pradesh.Ministry of Human Resource Development has also ordered for the implementation of broadband connectivity in all secondary schools in the country.
 
CORPORATE INITIATIVES
Smartclass by Educomp is the first major initiative from corporate sector which is an online portal which provides with material, tests, multimedia and other relevant digital content. They work closely with more than 10,000 schools to provide quality education across all schools. It acts like a virtual school which enables you to download notes, presentations and assignments in relation to your academic topics.
 
A chemistry teacher who has been making use of SmartClass for more than five years claim that the process of teaching and learning has become much more easier as compared to the traditional way.
 
Educomp has also partnered with 14 State Governments to provide benefits to more than 7 million students in government school using its Public-Private-Partnership project called Edureach. This has helped in making computer education available in remote areas of the country and also provided contents in the local languages to the region to enhance the learning curve of students.
 
The Indian business tycoon, Azim Premji, in collaboration with the government of Karnataka set up Community Learning Centre(CLC), 2003. This initiative was focused on use of IT in education in the rural areas. Since the establishment of CLC, the output has been positive.
 
Tata Classedge is another innovative initiative in the same line. It helps teachers in providing efficient and effective teaching methods. With the access to multimedia, it is easier for students to understand with lesser effort from teachers.
 
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Then there was introduction to DigiClass by Pearson Education which also provides digital content online like Educomp. They make use of a multimedia tool called ‘DigitALly’ which has been accepted by more than 3000 schools all over India. It comes with thousands of preloaded animations, quizzed, ebooks and experiments.
 
TABLETS
With the reduction in the cost of digital gadgets, there has been tremendous increase in their use. The education system was not going to remain untouched. In October 2011, Kapil Sibal (Communication and Information Technology minister) launched a low-cost tablet computer in order to facilitate e-learning in schools and colleges. This android-based device by British company, DataWind had its upgraded version released in April 2012.
 
Following DataWind, HCL launched its two tablets in April 2012 in India. These android-based devices were launched in order to cater to the educational needs across schools and colleges which would help in improving the education system. To make this device available to large number of people, it was also sold at affordable price. It was provided with pre-loaded with educational material such as ebooks.
 
One of India’s largest handset manufacturer, Micromax, launched its Funbook in 2012. Micromax provided relevant educational contents with the tablet by partnering with Everonn and Pearson.
 
There have been continuous efforts to improve the learning process for disabled students as well. In this regard, software for screen reading called Screen Access For All (SAFA) has been developed. It supports Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Marathi languages. Further development in this software is underway.
 
An Indian NGO, Insight, launched the first ever ICT lab for disabled students in September 2009. They provided with educational software to improve the learning and communication skills of the students. Apart from these, one can find multiple websites which are available on internet providing free online educational material. Most prominent websites of these are Math Forum and Khan Academy.
 
A lot of initiatives and innovations are in progress to include information technology into the Indian education system but still there is a long way to go. One of the biggest problems being faced is the poor infrastructure. To make information technology available to all schools, proper planning and execution is a must. With continuous efforts, IT enabled education to all children in India could become possible.
 
[The article has been written by Munesh Verma. He is presently pursuing his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, prior to which he did his graduation from IIIT Allahabad and worked in Amazon for about 10 months.]
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Can IT transform Indian education system ?

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