Bengaluru: The Kerala government is expanding the use of computers and internet in state-run schools after scoring early success with a project to introduce technology in schools. If all goes well, roughly 45,000 class rooms will have computers and broadband internet by April, a senior government official said.
Digital learning methods will co-exist with books and pens in schools, allowing students to digitally submit assignments and appear for examinations, K. Anvar Sadath, vice-chairman and executive director of Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) said over the phone. This will also change the perception of government schools as dilapidated, sub-par institutions, he added.
KITE comes under the state education department. As a version of IT@School, a government initiative started in 2000, it has won many national and international awards.
Since 2007, the state, which has near-universal literacy, has provided broadband internet to almost all of its nearly 5,000 higher secondary schools and government test centres. These computers use free software platforms.
The efforts will help familiarize all students with technology before they complete higher education, said Sadath, who had previously led the IT@School project and helped set up, among others, a television channel for education called “ViCTERS" (Virtual Classroom Technology on Edusat for Rural Schools).
On August, KITE issued a Rs300-crore tender to procure 60,250 laptops and 43,750 projectors, the single-largest education tender in Kerala so far. Last November, the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) had allocated Rs493.5 crore for KITE.
KIIFB invests in projects that will develop the state’s social and physical infrastructure, raising money from the market.
“Government-run schools in Kerala were seen as reeling under a state of paralysis, lacking infrastructure and other facilities. Parents lacked the confidence to send the students there and quite a few of them were shutting down every year. So, we devised a programme to convert 1,000 government schools into centres of excellence and 45,000 classrooms into high-tech ones. I’m working on the latter," Sadath said.
The move has already finished its pilot phase in 125 schools in four regions of the state where the back-end team reviewed the pros and cons, he said.
Sadath said he did not want the project to be one for merely showing videos or to make things easy for teachers. “We are thinking how to move beyond familiarization and how it can be used more creatively," said Sadath.
He said the schools started using projectors to stream simple things like school assemblies from a central lab to the classrooms, to more complex tasks like streaming in real-time how some scientific theory is applied in a nearby factory.