July 29, 2006

One-laptop-per-child... Not required!

I consider India's decision to opt out from the OLPC program as a wise one. OLPC is a programme which aims to deliver laptops priced at $100 (about Rs.4500) to school students, according to reports. Here is what is said by Sudeep Banerjee of Indian Human Resource Development...

  1. OLPC is a “pedagogically suspect”. He elaborated on it by mentioning that laptop may actually be detrimental to the growth of creative and analytical abilities of the child.
  2. The ministry cannot visualize a situation for decades when we can go beyond the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools.
  3. If the Planning Commission has the kind of money that would be required for this scheme, it would be appropriate to utilize it for ‘Universalisation of Secondary Education’ for which, a concept paper has been lying with the Planning Commission for approval since November 2005.
  4. We do not think that the idea of Prof Negroponte is mature enough to be taken seriously at this stage and no major country is presently following this. Even inside America, there is no much enthusiasm about this.

If one thinks of it in practical terms, most of the above (except the first point) make sense. Here are my thoughts on it...

I contradict the HRD's reference to laptops as "pedagogically suspect". Laptops actually entertain the expression of creativity in students. It gives them more ways to express, communicate, and sell their ideas. However, I agree with the HRD on all other points. India has taken the mission to fight illiteracy, which is dominantly seen in rural areas. What it desperately need are more schools, teachers, and a basic infrastructure. Laptops need not get into the picture now.... not so soon.

Standalone laptops without an internet connection will prove to be a less powerful tool. But, an internet connection will spice up the cost of maintenance for people in rural areas. Here is yet another strong reason for my argument... The Indian education system did not yet incorporate computers into its normal teaching process. There is no online submission policy or e-notes. So, the use of laptops at schools is pushed further down.

First of all we should make sure that the program works, before investing huge sum of money on it. Its like reading customer-reviews before purchasing a product. Check this article that questions if OLPC is fundamentally flawed. Bottomline is that it is too soon for India to take up OLPC program, and its a wise decision by the HRD to snub it for the time being.

Also check out this blog-post in which the author has stated some of his views on India's decision to against OLPC. Its a good read.

3 Comments:

KoPoS said...

Hey Seshu, thanks for commenting and linking to my post.

Not only does OLPC look flawed in its claims but my much bigger doubt is if the claims of it being $100 is fundamentally suspect. I doubt that the costs will come down to $100 only based on the numbers. If the volumes are not present, i think the laptops will cost much higher.

wayan said...

You are right. Its not $100. At a minimum its $100 MILLION dollars, as you can't buy just one. Then the cost is now at $140, and to hear Negorponte talk, the addition $40 million is just pennies.

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