22 September 2011

Laptops for all students

Tamilnadu Government is on the move to provide free laptops and cash incentives to all students in government run and government aided schools, according to a recent newspaper report. Though it seems to be very encouraging, if we look a little deep into our school systems, we can easily find that the move is not far sighted because of many reasons, some of which are as follows:

  • All schools do not have facilities (physical infrastructure and teachers)
  • Our school curriculum itself is not designed to be computer compatible
  • Our colleges of education do not train teachers to use computers in teaching all subjects across the curriculum
  • All students are not equipped with knowledge and skills to  use computers in a meaningful manner because of a range of factors such as curriculum, school and assessment methods
Any balanced education manager will know that computer aided learning is not always superior to other effective modes such as activity based learning (unless activities are not advisable to be taken up by students).

Hence, it is better if the govenment spends money in improving physical infrastructure and quality of teachers instead of spending it on laptops and cash incentives. (Otherwise, there is every chance that laptops are also sometimes misused like mobile phones, in the hands of children. The problem can become more pronounced with `cash incentives', as after all it is easier today than ever before for any student to acquire data-cards and other apps in the market without parental guidance).

If we go by educational research, there is absolutely no evidence that kids learn effectively when provided with computers without any technical and pedagogic support. Incidentally, most of our government, government aided and private schools lack in these two core factors.

Once the government achieves success in quality curricula, teacher training and counselling to parents (as to how best they can monitor children's activities when handling computers), it can get to schemes such  as free laptops.

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About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a retired K-12 Education Management Professional. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.