When the idea of computer based labs or smart classes or e-learning labs had first come into focus, it was hailed as a big innovation in the education space. As we enter into the 21st century, their usage statistics across government schools unfortunately do not give us the same confidence. As of date in India, about 19.6% government schools have a computer lab. However, 66% of these do not have a functional lab.
When we dug deeper to understand the reasons for such low usage, we realized that they are aplenty.
Let us first look at the role of a teacher in a government school. He or she works day in and night out in a very un-inspiring environment toiling hard with the kids, a majority of whom do not turn up in the school or are not very interested in learning. There is so much pressure on the teacher to focus on finishing the syllabus that the time she can spend with each child is very limited. Also, there are not many interventions, which work towards teacher training or empowerment. On top of it, our tech un-savvy teachers are now expected to use, run and maintain a computer lab.
When we tried to ask the teachers why don’t they use the computers, apart from the fact that they are not very tech savvy, it is the fear of damaging any part of the machine that drives them away. If we move to tier II and tier III towns, our government schools are located so far away from the mainland, that if any part becomes damaged, the time and money it would take to repair far outweighs the cost (the cost of lack of learning) of not using the computers at all. Another key reason why computer based education has failed to take off is that there are not enough dedicated computer teachers in the schools. As a result, the burden of maintaining these machines falls onto the heads of either the principal of the school or the teachers taking other subjects. A case in point is the Mahiti Sindhu project launched in 2001 by Karnataka State government to promote computer education in government schools. As per the article published in 2015 on the New Indian Express, the project is still to take off well and deliver the desired outcomes. Please do refer to the article here:
Back in 2005, computer labs were set up in 1,381 Delhi government schools and the daily operations were outsourced to two private companies. While the project began well, the contract of the two companies was not renewed in 2010. Though 5 years should have been sufficient for the schools to internally build the capacity in terms of maintaining these labs, unfortunately, they failed to do that. Most of the computers worth crores of rupees have been moved to the store room by the schools. The article below highlights this issue in a lot of more detail:
In a number of CSR projects on education, where computer labs have been set up in government schools in the name of digital learning, maintenance of the same has been found to be a big hindrance in its usage by the teachers and therefore by the students. Apart from the cost, it is the complexity of arranging for the repair that hinders their usage the most.
At iDream Education, we have also done a very detailed study on various aspects of computer labs and would request you to refer to link below to understand the same better:
Do share your comments below to tell us what you think on how computer labs can be put to much better usage in our government schools.