India is observing 2010-2020 as the decade of innovation and it is education that will provide impetus to ideas and innovations. Therefore, education is an area which should be the top priority of our government. Education, in fact, is one of the key indicators of a nation’s economic development and a source of prosperity for its people. We often talk about economic sustainability, but sometimes fail to realise that education is the long-run driving force of the overall economic development of a country. Information and communication technology (ICT) is the amalgamation of IT and content technologies to deduce the best from commercial as well as non-commercial activities. ICT in education is going to play a drastic role in the future world, because the fusion of the two in the digital age is ready to redefine both teaching and learning.
Why the US and China are the current leaders of the international economy? While there are plenty of reasons that make them supreme, but the education policies they are following also play a pivotal role in their success. If we compare India’s investment in the education sector with the US’s and China’s, then we will come to know how huge the difference is. The US spent $632 billion in education technology during 2010-11. China spent almost $1.25 trillion during 2008-2012, i.e. $250 billion a year on an average. In contrast, India’s total public expenditure on basic education was $94 billion in the 10-year-long period (2001-2010). Moreover, China has made rigorous efforts to incorporate ICT in the education system for inclusive growth and development, whereas India has curtailed its education expenditure from R82,771 crore to R69,074 crore in the Union Budget 2015-16. Is it due to lack of political will or a shortage of public funds?
Not only developed countries are adopting ICT in the education, even developing countries such as Malaysia and Mexico have started gaining benefits from the fruits of this digital revolution. Two years ago, the Mexican government, in collaboration with IDB, provided training to village teachers via ICT tools. This 50-hour training course brought many desirable changes in their teaching style. A similar initiative was taken by Thailand, where under UNESCO Bangkok’s “Facilitating Effective ICT-Pedagogy Integration Project” primary school teachers and students from Bangladesh, Canada, China, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines availed of project-based learning (PBL) activities via ICT during March-July 2012. During this five-month-long PBL, participants from these six countries exchanged knowledge and thoughts through text, pictures, audio and video clips.
ICT offers a diverse set of technological tools to communicate, develop, disseminate, store and manage information. ICT has become a vital part of current-age businesses; from banking to health and hospitality to aviation all depend on ICT, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. Ten years ago, the National Curriculum Framework 2005 (NCF 2005) had insisted on the importance of ICT at school level, but since then it has been availed of by a handful of elite schools in urban India. A majority of schools are either completely deprived of the concept or it is restricted to mere computer labs, not beyond this.
Another big challenge is the non-availability of customised ICT hardware and software to meet the current needs of India’s education sector. We don’t have enough people to deal with various technical issues involved in the installation and operation of ICT. Even ICT-enabled states such as Gujarat and Karnataka couldn’t produce great outcome, not as expected. According to the Vivek Bharadwaj report 2007, government schools in these two states had low ICT access in cities as well as in remote areas.
Computers debuted in Indian schools as long as 30 years ago, but we are yet to experience the potential benefits of ICT in our education system. The National Policy on ICT in School Education (NPISE) was revised in 2012. The mission of the policy is “to devise, catalyse, support and sustain ICT and ICT-enabled activities and processes in order to improve access, quality and efficiency in the school system.” We hope we move ahead with vigour.
The author is director, Human Capital, Acreaty Management Consulting