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India rejects idea of One Laptop per Child July 27, 2006

Posted by rajAT in digital divide, india, literacy, mit media, Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC.


India has decided against getting involved in Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child scheme.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit association dedicated to research to develop a $100 laptop—a technology that could revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. This initiative was launched by faculty members at the MIT Media Lab. It was first announced by Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte, now chairman of OLPC, at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 2005.

The reasons given by Sudeep Banerjee of Human Resource Development are –

1. OLPC is a “paedagogically 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.

My views on the above stated reasons –

Reason #1 In the west children get exposed to computers from very early early days. It hasn’t been detrimental to the growth of their creative and analystical abilities. Infact most of the western schools always allowed their students to use calculators for mathematical problems. During my school days we used to mug up all the tables like crazy. I still remember when we used to shout 4 fiveZA 20. 4 sixZA 24… Now if someone ask me how much is 17 sixZA. I can only give a blank look. So all that shouting and mugging really didn’t help me. Does that bother me. Nopes, not all. Mugging of tables really doesn’t increase your analytical ability. If we talk about creative abilities I think they will improve if children gets exposed to the digital media for following reasons.

1. Digital media is cheap to produce. That means students can read more by paying less. Books are costly. Libraries in schools are n’t well stalked anyways.

2. Digital media is more expressive. Thanks to multimedia that makes it easy to grasp some of the fundamentals. Human is visual being. 1000 words cann’t teach you what one video of a physics concept can teach you. Very interesting work is going on in the area of Virtual Immersive Reality at Centre of IT in Education at IIIT Hyderabad. It is so much fun learning physics using the software they have developed. I wished I had access to such tools during my schooling.

I am sure one can come up with more positives .

Reason #2
The reason stated if true can be potentially very dangerous for the development of the country. The only thing that has led to the renewed belief in India is its IT capabilities. If going ahead we cann’t produce more IT engineers than that can be catastrophic. For India to maintain its lead in services space IT has to become the part of social fabric. The statment is saying that the project cann’t be taken ahead even in a single state. I think this is not true. Lets forget Bihar, UP for a second. What about vilages of AP, Karnataka or West Bengal. IT has permeated villages big time and some of the examples are e-choupals, e-sagu to name the few.

Reason #3 Now that can be the real reason. Govt. is not having sufficient funds to back the project and wants to fund the projects which it has been doing since eternity. And none of them had given spectacular results. If that is case what is the harm in trying a new approach. I cann’t understand that.

Reason #4 Come on don’t blame the idea. Is it rocket science ? How can one attack the idea by saying it is not mature enough. The idea cann’t be immature or half baked but the govt. agencies are immature as they cann’t see the bigger benefits of OLPC.

OLPC can help in bridging the so called digital divide. But if the govt. seriouly feel that OLPC is not the correct way then it should come with a more proactive approach. Cellphone seems to be the digital platform of choice in India. Can’t we use them innovatively to tame this monster of illiteracy ? But to distribute teaching lessons to the people via Cellphone we need 3G. And when 3G is going to happen in India. Gosh! that will start another debate. 🙂

It is not a progressive step taken by the govt. Btw Nigeria has ordered 1 million machines.



1. Turbo - July 27, 2006

I think reason 2 stated by Sudeep Banerjee of Human Resource Development is a very important factor and (in my opinion) counters all your points. We need classrooms more than laptops.

2. lolz - July 27, 2006

dude….thr’s lot tht i’ll like to say to ur post…but i’m fuking 2 lazy for tht..so i’ll just ask you as to y american scientific community passed a resolution ( not long time back ) asking for the educational system based on the current indian model to be follow over thr.

n y is thr so much demand for the indian brain over thr? i am talking abt the real brain power n not the cheap labor.

3. DesiPundit » Archives » 100 Dollar laptops: MHRD takes a sane stand - July 28, 2006

[…] Update: Rajat is not entirely sure that the government is making a wise decision in dismissing the OLPC project. OLPC can help in bridging the so called digital divide. But if the govt. seriouly feel that OLPC is not the correct way then it should come with a more proactive approach. Cellphone seems to be the digital platform of choice in India. Can’t we use them innovatively to tame this monster of illiteracy ? […]

4. Poorna Shashank - July 28, 2006
5. MadhoO - July 29, 2006

It is the good quality teachers, we need( I feel, u understand)… I bet laptops can do nothing….actulally, televisions were launched earlier for the same purpose of teaching school children..but, they are occasionally used and, only for watching cricket matches.

6. Chetan - July 29, 2006

Rajat, good points. I’ve been saying something similar [in comments here]. Rejecting is a bad idea. Change its applicability, from children to impoverished outposts, organizations that need tools but, are running low on funds, power teachers instead of giving them to the teachers, et al.

7. krishnakanth - July 29, 2006

@lolz:: the reason for the demand of indian brains in america is that because we work more mechanically and harder for money than americans do.we are more of financial security oriented than americans.
so, many indians are not innovative/creative and hence we dont have many entrepreneurs, as they are more job oriented.

@madhoo:: dont u think by OLPC , even the quality of teacher will increase… i mean the by improving the concepts of teacher inturn improves the quality of 100s of his/her students …. also the experiments of physics can be more/most effectively expressed through digital media.It just improves the imaginative abilities of the child in other subjects also.

8. Rajiv - July 31, 2006

Great to find someone supporting it. I also found the reasons of rejecting it very ridiculous. Its simply stupid to point out that technology can harm the children and can be detrimental to their growth. Going by the same yardstick they should ban the playstaions and nintendos and all those gaming arcades as well!

In my view OLPC’s idea is very novel. Humanity has been grappling with the problem of poverty for ages. Everbody knows that the solution is education. But you need to have a massive infrastructure in place to provide education to children. OLPC simply does away with it. Instead of the infrastructure you give the child a tool to learn.

It is something like wireless revolutionising the telecom.

9. caleb - August 8, 2006

hi i am caleb i love laptops

10. wayan - August 11, 2006

I say there is more to the India rejection backstory than told in the news. One angle: MIT Media Lab Asia was such a disaster that India doesn’t trust MIT anymore: http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/countries/india_rejection_back.html

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