Digital education and hi-tech schools are not the panacea for saving public education. This is only one among the many prongs in a comprehensive scheme to save general education. Concerns about the digitization drive stem from notions that do not realize this method.
The action plan for the hi-tech school project and the guidelines for the General Education Protection Mission are available online. Anyone who bothers to have a glimpse of these documents will not have any concerns about the stress on digitization.
Critics are missing the woods for the trees when they allege that the government initiative is an attempt to keep up with private schools with a perception that digital illiteracy is the largest problem in the education sector.
45,000 hi-tech class rooms
The creation of 45,000 hi-tech class rooms between 8th and 12th standards in 4,775 schools is part of a project to create infrastructure in various chosen fields. The project involves a comprehensive system including the training for teachers and students, better connectivity, formation of digital content, resources portals and e-monitoring.
The supply of hardware tools is just a part of this project. The 38,000 teachers who were trained in IT in April can vouch for this.
Markets decide most of the digital tools and content available in the IT education sector. This is not a desirable trend. Markets are not qualified to decide school curriculum.
Schools cannot be called hi-tech only because they have bought a few white boards, projectors and laptops and show the students a visually appealing amalgam of videos and graphics. Unless we employ modern and efficient tools in education, digital education will remain just video sessions.
Teachers and students have to be trained in the use of these tools in accordance with the content. Teachers have to use these tools to make teaching more creative. The ICT’s role in the education sector is to create the content and tools and get them approved by educational activists and technical experts.
Suppose this is an atom!
Teachers need tools to convey curriculum to students. Even twigs and nuts were used by teachers a generation ago. Some of them still rely on these tools. The problem with these tools is that they cannot convey most of today’s curriculum.
Avogadro software does a better job than twigs and nuts to help the student understand the atomic structure. The difficult concept may be easier for students to grasp when showed with an appropriate program.
Laptops and projectors will be an integral part of the classroom. The concepts in the books can be presented more clearly with the aid of audio-visual tools.
The study materials will have to be created for the schools in the first phase of the program. Teachers can be partners in the creation of resources once they achieve the knowledge and skills to do so. If we are able to create an online resource library to share resources among classrooms, we will be able to support schools with resources and other materials.
All these resources will be subject to academic scrutiny.
(The writer is the executive director of Kerala government’s IT@School project)