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Policy Brief on ICTs in School Education From IT for Change August 2009

Policy Brief on ICTs in School Education From IT for Change August 2009

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Published by IT for Change
Theme: Education and ICTs
A study of two large scale ‘ICTs in School Education’ programs of two neighboring states of India brings out some interesting insights. The integrated model followed in Kerala state’s IT@Schools program, where the accent is on developing systemic in-house capabilities anchored around the role of school teachers, has shown considerable success.
Year: 2009
Author: IT for Change
Theme: Education and ICTs
A study of two large scale ‘ICTs in School Education’ programs of two neighboring states of India brings out some interesting insights. The integrated model followed in Kerala state’s IT@Schools program, where the accent is on developing systemic in-house capabilities anchored around the role of school teachers, has shown considerable success.
Year: 2009
Author: IT for Change

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Published by: IT for Change on Jun 23, 2010
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1
IT for Change 
Policy Brief 
 A 
study of two large scale ‘ICTs in School Education’ programs of twoneighboring states of India brings out some interesting insights. The integratedmodel followed in Kerala state’s
IT@Schools 
program, where the accent is ondeveloping systemic in-house capabilities anchored around the role of schoolteachers, has shown considerable success. This has been in terms of much higherlevel of teacher engagement, integration of computer learning with regular learning processes, greater per-learner availability of computers, significant cost efficienciesand development of teacher networks and collaborative content creation processes, which support teacher professional development. All of these together have lead tothe overall strengthening of the education system and better learning outcomes. The alternative model of ‘outsourcing’ or ‘BOOT
1
’ employed by the
 Mahiti Sindhu 
program in the state of Karnataka, where private vendors were paid to run theprogram, does not show such positive outcomes. Funds were spent on vendorpayments instead of building in-house capacities and hence the system itself did notbenefit from the program outlays, and is largely unable to meaningfully sustain theprogram beyond the BOOT period. Such outsourcing also seems to build more-or-less permanent dependencies of the public education system on private players, which can significantly distort its pedagogical structures in inimical ways. The implications of this study for policy are critical. The
IT@School 
model hasdemonstrated the advantages of developing comprehensive and end-to-end in-house capabilities in ICT education. However, if due to some contextual reasons, itis at all found necessary to consider some degree of outsourcing, such decisionsneed to clearly distinguish between non-core processes such as procurement,installation and maintenance of hardware, and core activities with direct pedagogicalimplications like content and software, teacher training and learning processes, andlimit outsourcing to the former.
ICTs in School Education - Outsourced versus Integrated Approach
ICTs in School Education – To Outsource or Not 
August 2009Gurumurthy Kasinathan
 This policy brief is based on ourstudy of two large scale ‘ICTs inSchool Education’ programs for highschool students (classes VIII-X) of two neighboring states of India,Karnataka and Kerala. The study specifically addresses the key question of whether to outsourcemajor activities or to invest indeveloping necessary processes andcompetencies within the schoolsystem.
 The Outsourcing Model
 The state of Karnataka, like a few other states in India, has tried theoutsourcing model for its ICTs inschools program, called
 Mahiti Sindhu.
This model relied on private vendors who are primarily in thebusiness of selling computerhardware/software or into computertraining to run the entire program. Typically, students learnt directly onthe computers, facilitated by supportstaff provided by the vendors, withteachers playing a minimal role. Oneconsequence of this was that theteachers themselves had limitedopportunities to learn and hence were not able to guide the learning processes of the students in any meaningful manner.Some methods typically followed insuch models, and their outcomes, are
 
Policy Brief 
IT for Change 
 
2
IT for Change 
Policy Brief 
discussed below.
Computer learning seen as a stand-alone activity 
Computer learning is not integratedinto the regular learning processes of the school student. The teachers of the school are not sufficiently involved with the computer learning processes and largely treat the entireprogram as something external to theschool system. Teachers themselvesmostly do not acquire basic computerliteracy, though there are computersin their own schools. They aretherefore neither motivated nor ableto integrate possibilities of computeraided education in their teaching.
ICT Curriculum not linked to regular curriculum
 With private vendors (who are mostly attuned to business contexts and usesof computers) driving the contentand the processes, students learnapplications that are often of limiteduse to them in their own contexts(office applications are themselvesundoubtedly useful, but they requirelittle time to learn, whereby it may notbe justified to make these the majorcomponent of the ICT curriculum).
Limited competencies of staff  provided by the vendor 
 The outsourced staff is also typically poorly paid
3
, which affects theprofile of people who apply forthese positions. They are treated asoutsiders by the school, which candemotivate them greatly. As a result,in most schools, the real possibilitiesof learning and experimenting withICTs are quite limited, both for thestudents and the teachers.
Dependencies on external vendors for core educational  processes
 A long term dependency gets builton private vendors for software,educational processes, content etc which, as ICTs become more andmore central to the educationalsystem, can cripple the latter’sindependence as well as its broadpublic and community orientations. Itshould be remembered that in India,there are a number of high-levelpublic institutions that meticulously  work on every aspect of content/curriculum, processes etc of thepublic education system. Their rolemay largely get superseded by large-scale private sector dependenciesthat will get built through theoutsourcing model. Many eminenteducationists in India have beenhighly critical of this process of privatising core educational processesof curriculum/content design andteacher professional development
4
.
 An Integrated Model of ICTs in School Education
 The Kerala state’s
IT@Schools 
model which integrates the ICT componentfrom the start into the mainstreamteaching-learning processes, appearsto have been successful in building agood platform for leveraging thebest opportunities that ICTs may have to offer in furthering variouseducational objectives. Some key elements of the
IT@Schools 
modelthat are seen as responsible for itsrelative success are briefly describedbelow.
Complete integration withexisting structures and processes
 The
IT@Schools 
program is fully integrated into the existing educational processes. It relies on theelaborate teacher training structures within the public education system inIndia to train the school teachers onusing ICTs, both in terms of computer learning and computeraided learning. There are a set of master trainers who first acquiresufficient expertise in using computers. Since these trainers arethemselves teacher educators, whohave also taught in schools, they aremuch more likely to bring up thebest possibilities of using computersfor learning different subjects. Someexamples include using specificeducational software that is availablefor different topics, say electricalcircuits (physics), or circles(geometry), or simply through accessto the Internet for information ondifferent areas etc. The procurement of hardware, andits installation and maintenance, isalso managed within the system. Thisallows significant cost advantagesarising due to great quantities of hardware purchased. The programhas created
‘mobile hardware clinic’ 
teams, which regularly visit schoolsfor inspection, checking hardwareand doing most of the requiredmaintenance and repair work. Apolicy of cannibalising computersthat cannot be repaired has twobenefits; it substantially lowers costsof maintenance while ensuring higher uptime. Teachers are trainedto install software and also doroutine software upgrades. Theprogram disproves a commonly heldbelief that school teachers in India’spublic education system are notcapable of, and/or are unlikely to beinterested in, engaging with ICTsbeyond being simple users.
High investment in teacher capacity building 
 The trainers provide intensivetraining to teachers as a part of theregular teacher training, plannedevery year. The training iscomprehensive in its coverage; every teacher receives an initial ten day training in the first year, and 2-5 daysevery following year, which refreshesand builds on the learnings of theprevious years. While the initial
 
3
IT for Change 
Policy Brief 
foundational training covers basicoperating system and applicationsrelating to the Internet, email, imageediting etc, as well as ‘officeautomation’ applications, laterprograms focus on specific areassuch as hardware troubleshooting,software installation and upgrading,content management systems forpublishing and sharing contentcreated by schools, as well as specificeducational software/ applicationsfor different subjects.Such high investment in teachertraining is reflected in the high levelsof confidence and self-esteem thatteachers display. This confidence isreflected in their interactions withstudents and it has considerablepositive impact on student learning.
Focus on computer aided learning and not just computer literacy 
 The
IT@Schools 
program team isquite clear that computer literacy though foundational is really arelatively trivial issue and the realbenefit of ICTs in education comefrom learning to apply ICTs in theregular learning processes
5
. Theprogram focuses on access to theInternet for supporting regularlearning activities, and also specialprojects that students work on. Theprogram has ensured availability of broadband Internet to all schools, which allows the schools to connectto the web
6
. Many teachers alsospend time on the Internet toidentify learning materials that they can use in their own lessons. Severaleducational software and applicationsare provided by the program. Theidea is to have a large set of suchapplications, from which teacherscan choose what they find relevantand useful to their teaching.Computer aided learning alsofocuses on the teachers, many of  who are now learning how to setupand manage ‘content managementsystems’ that can provide spaces forteacher collaboration in curriculumand content development, as well asfor teachers’ own writings andreflections
7
. These spaces areintended to provide meaningfulopportunities of engagement andexploration for teachers’ professionaldevelopment.
Constructivist educational approaches through use of free and open source software 
 The
IT@Schools 
program initially began with proprietary softwareplatforms but soon realized that forICTs programs to be really effectivein school education, moving to freeand open source software (FOSS)platforms was necessary. Thefollowing advantages were found inusing FOSS:
FOSS applications can be freely modified and customized to suitlocal needs. The program createda custom package of the DebianGNU/Linux distribution,containing several educationalsoftware applications, as well aslocal language (Malayalam)features that made it valuable tothe schools.
FOSS being freely shareable,there were huge savings inimplementing the program in thethousands of schools that arepart of the state’s publiceducation system. Kerala hasmore than 15,000 schools, eachhaving anywhere between 5 to50 computers, and using FOSSsoftware enabled scarce publicfunds to be used for hardwareand peripherals rather than onsoftware. This has enabled100% coverage of schools by the program
8
. Instead of restricting software to a few proprietary applications, theprogram has very large numberof FOSS applications for a rangeof application areas including image, audio, video editing, photoediting, creating and editing documents in a variety of document formats including PDF etc. More importantly,several educational softwareapplications, written specifically for different subjects are made
Kerala
IT@Schools 
Program

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