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By itself, ICT is not a magic wand: Shashi Tharoor


12 February 2013

Bushra Ahmed/OneWorld South Asia

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At a ministerial session at the South Asia Ministerial Forum, all ministers from South Asian countries agreed that it takes effective policies to effectively bring ICTs into play in education.

By itself ICT is not a magic tool, there needs to be active teaching imparted to teachers and students alike to use it for it to be effective. That was the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Dr Shashi Tharoor's message to the audience at the second day of the South Asian Ministries of Education Forum, being held in India.

The Forum is being held to mull over the state of ICTs in education in the South Asian countries. The ministerial session gave out the general feel that South Asian countries need to complement the spread of ICTs with active training of teachers and the need for effective policies. Dr Asim Ahmed, Minister of Education, Maldives narrated how even though his country is poor, the active involvement of parents in the equipping their children with good education helps. Though he talked about the need for his government to systemise this and help strengthen this. The Himalayan nation, Nepal which has found innovative ways like radio to educate the masses, talked of the need to bridge the generation gap between teachers and students to enable the rapid spread of good education. The Minister of Education of Nepal, Dina Nath Sharma thought his country had paved the way by creating a proper ICT Master Plan. Sri Lanka too is well on its way of incorporating technology into education, by launching its first National e-learning portal.

As discussed on day one of the conference, one of the great stumbling blocks that all South Asian nations face is the paucity of power supply to enable ICTs to work effectively. Like in India, the rural urban divide is often felt, when children from rural areas are deprived of ICT education due to no power supply. As Tharoor explained this problem can be tackled through usage of alternative sources of energy like solar energy. As Debjani Ghosh, Managing Director, Intel South Asia, put it, "when we think of education, we need to think holistically".  Tharoor enlisted a couple of points that are on his ministry's agenda; using ICTs as a lever to enhance quality of education, training teachers to integrate ICTs into their teaching, ICTs as a part of non-formal education, and effective usage of Open schooling and Distance education.

In India's case, policy issues often create issues in the education scenario. As Tharoor stated in the 11th year plan 6000 crore was allocated to education, and only 1650 crore was used by states, showing a basic inability of states to efficiently use resources. There is a need to train teachers the most, to ensure ICTs are used effectively in countries. Through teacher-related intervention, ICTs can be leveraged to effectively impart their benefits to students.

As Tharoor stated, universal education for all remains a high-priority agenda, and countries need get over political hurdles and partner to ensure ICTs are used effectively for education.

 
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