The government of Tamil Nadu in the south of India has started a new educational computing initiative, reviewed in the sadly mistitled article
It is true that there are gaps in the system, especially in educational content and teacher training, but it is not the laptops that have exposed these lacks, and in fact the laptop program is showing remarkable successes given how little preparation was made.
Chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s administration, which assumed charge after the April assembly elections, intends to give away 6.8 million laptops over its five-year term to students of government-aided higher secondary schools and colleges…
Despite the critics, students and teachers at one Chennai school are quite happy with the Tamil Nadu government’s free laptop scheme.
The article unfortunately provides much more space for naysayers with no experience in such programs than it does for teachers and students who are dazzled by the new opportunities just opened up to them.
I am pleased to hear of the good results so far obtained in Tamil Nadu with low-cost education computers. Complete implementation would offer the possibility of ending poverty in Tamil Nadu, and with it a variety of other ills associated with poverty and low social status. At the same time I am saddened that so noble an enterprise is crippled by political considerations that prevent teachers and students from taking advantage of existing teacher training programs from around the world. I will only cite two out of those that I am aware of.
- Uruguay has made OLPC XO laptops the centerpiece of its education strategy, supported by a large government program, Plan CEIBAL, to provide technical support, security services, teacher training in Spanish, and much more that is essential to a successful program.
- Nepal has contracted with Open Learning Exchange to create software, educational content for students, and teacher training materials, all in Nepali.
Tamil Nadu could work with these organizations and many others on properly supporting its initiative. I will just mention a few.
- The UN Development Program has assisted Bangladesh to digitize a complete suite of primary and secondary textbooks in Bangla. Uruguay and South Korea have announced similar plans with different funding sources.
- Many organizations and individuals are creating Open Education Resources. Sugar Labs is creating a library of Open Education Resources integrated with Sugar software, for translation and adaptation to any language. The Sugar education software is already being translated into Tamil and other languages of India, among many others. Many of the Tamil modules in Sugar are complete, but there remains much more to do in other software and in textbooks and other content.
- At the other end of the scale, OERu has proposed to create a completely open university using only Open Education Resources, and UNESCO is supporting this initiative.
- OLPC India will be happy to coordinate with any Indian state government and all of the above.
I am pleased to be able to say that I make gifts for millions of children around the world almost every day, and that I support others in doing so in software, textbooks, content, translation, and other areas. Any of you who would like to join in this effort will find that the effect of what you do is multiplied by the number of children in the programs you support, plus their families. Therefore creating materials for every Tamil-speaking student and teacher will multiply your effort by the entire Tamil-speaking population of the world, in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in India, in Sri Lanka and Singapore and around the world. [Estimated at 65,675,200 people, according to Ethnologue.]