Country Paper - INDIA
24 September - 3 October, 1997




Professor A.N.Maheshwari

National Council of Educational Research and Training

  1. School Education in India
  2. Information and Communication Technologies in School Education
  3. The CLASS Project
  4. Interactive Video Technology: An Alternative Strategy for Inservice Training of Teachers
  5. Implications of the Experiments
  6. Cyber Resource for School Education
  7. Summary

1. School Education in India

India is a country with an ancient civilisation well known for its system of education. It had evolved an unique system of education called gurukul , which meant teacher's home, as the training of the student took place at the home of the teacher [1]. The system was developed to meet the need of study of the Vedic texts and was elitist, as only a small proportion of young men could be educated in gurukuls. Most boys probably learnt their trade from their fathers. With Buddhism education shifted from the home of the teacher to the monastery. In the Middle Ages some of the monasteries developed into true universities. The most famous was the Buddhist monastery of Nalanda in the 3rd century AD. The 7th century account of Nalanda of Hsuan Tsang reveals that this institution vibrated with intellectual activity and training was imparted not only for the study of Buddhist texts but of Hindu philosophy, logic, grammar, medicine and other disciplines. In monasteries, in addition to oral recitation, teachers used a variety of teaching methods such as exposition, debate, discussion, question-answer, stories and parables. Inductive method was effectively employed for sharpening the intellect of the disciples [2].

More than 10000 students of different faiths from within the country and abroad, who had passed strict oral entrance examination, were provided with free education in Nalanda. Many other monasteries all over the country developed as centres of learning.

With foreign invasions and changes in the political structures, the indigenous educational system also changed. During the medieval period, Mohammedan rulers in India founded schools (Maktabs), colleges (Madrassahs) and libraries in their dominions. The ancient indigenous educational system got increasingly marginalized. The final nail on the coffin was the decision of the British government to promote through education the European literature and science among the natives of India. In 1826, the first normal school was started in Madras. For preparing teachers for an expanding school system new teacher training institutions were established throughout the country. By 1892, 116 training institutions for men, and 16 for women came into existence.

The reach of the school system in India during the colonial period was limited. More persons were out of it than who had access to it. This is clearly revealed by the literacy figures at the time of the independence. According to the census of 1951, only 271 in every 1000 men and 88 in every 1000 women could read and write [3]. There has been a phenomenal expansion of education in the past fifty years. The magnitude of the change can be seen from the table below [3]

School Education 1951 - 1955
Class 1 to Class 121951 1955
schools 230683 837162
enrolment 23.8million 171.7million
teachers 751thousand 4.282million
teacher training institutions 2081125

The initial handicap got compounded with high population growth. It has offset the gains of the expansion of the school system. The goal of achieving universal literacy receded faster than the effort put in to catch up with it. After forty years of independence there were more illiterate persons than the total population of the country at the time of independence. According to the census of 1991, out of every 1000 men 641 and out of every 1000 women 392 could read and write [3].

The quantitative expansion of the school system entailed dilution in the quality of education. Sometimes untrained teachers who did not possess the prescribed level of education had to be appointed. The financial constraints and the lack of required resource support at the grassroots level came in the way of providing quality inservice education of teachers. Even after 50 years of independence the colonial legacy of an impersonal school system, marked mainly by its utility as a passport for employment and for upward social mobility, continues as the driving force for running it.

It may be appreciated that the present school system in India is one of the largest in the world. Therefore, introduction of innovations to cover the system uniformly, if not impossible, poses a daunting task. Because of the size of the system and the financial constraints innovations in school education have generally been first tried at pilot scales, with the hope of scaling up them using advanced communication technologies.

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In the following two case studies, one on the introduction of computers in schools and the other on the use of teleconferencing for inservice education of teachers have been described in detail. In both experiments training of the teachers in new skills was crucial to their success.

2. Information and Communication Technologies in School Education

The CLASS Project

The Indian experiment of taking computers to schools involved participation of a large number of institutions for tasks such as supply of hardware and software, development of Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) packages and the training of teachers. This project called the Computer Literacy and Studies in Schools (CLASS) was a joint initiative of the Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Department of Electronics and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) .

The CLASS is an ongoing pace-setter programme of the Government of India for introducing computer education in schools. It was started in 1984. The initial objectives of this project were [4]

In the first year of the project, 250 schools were selected for the pilot phase of the experiment. Each year the Project was expanded by adding new schools to the programme. At the end of 1990, the total number of schools covered under the CLASS Project was 2582.

Each of these schools was given two BBC microcomputers and a software package comprising of computer-assisted learning programs on different school subjects, database, spreadsheet, word processor and LOGO.

The responsibility for the academic planning and the co-ordination of the implementation of the project during the pilot phase of the programme was of the NCERT.

Forty two Resource Centres for the project were located in some of the leading institutions of higher education and technical education. Each Resource Centre was given the responsibility of a cluster of project schools. The tasks entrusted to the Resource Centres were providing initial training to the teachers, maintenance and back-up of hardware, and meeting the continuing academic needs of the teachers.

In 1986 an evaluation of the pilot phase of the project was carried out by the Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahemdabad. The broad findings were

In 1986, the National Policy on Education was announced by the Government of India. The new policy stated that the programme of computer literacy was to be organised on wider scale at the school stage. The Policy also emphasised that in order to avoid structural dualism, modern educational technology must reach out to the most distant areas and the most deprived section of beneficiaries simultaneously with areas of comparative affluence and ready availability [5].

Also, in 1986 the programme objectives and the system specifications were reviewed by an expert group [6]. The experience obtained from the pilot phase of the CLASS project became an important input for this task. Some of the findings of the review committee are given in the following paragraphs.

The CLASS Project was recognised as a pioneering experiment for introducing computers in schools. Its potential for developing innovativeness in teachers and students suggested that progressively it should be made an educational computing programme around simulation, interactive learning, computer interfaced laboratory experiments and use of CAL software.

The shortcomings and weaknesses in the programme could be overcome by bringing in changes in implementation strategy and strengthening support arrangements.

As the students and also their teachers faced difficulty in handling software in English, computers selected for schools should have the capability of using regional language software.

Although the teacher is the key to the effective implementation of this programme support given to the teachers by the Resource Centres wanes with time. This was not unexpected if the Resource Centres did not have natural linkage with the school system. Therefore, Resource Centres should be located preferably in teacher education institutions.

The expectation that teachers will supervise the computer literacy activities after the school hours and on holidays was not always fulfilled .

Teachers' feedback was that though the introductory training enabled them to handle the computer, it did not help in integrating its use into pedagogy. Teachers could not handle with confidence computer-based activities in the classroom. The end result was that CAL software remained underutilised and the effort that was put in their development became infructuous.

The Project reached an asymptotic level basically for reasons given above. Therefore, for scaling up the project and for making it an effective tool for teaching-learning a re-engineering of its implementation strategy was required. A revised strategy for the CLASS Project was adopted in 1993-94 [7] . In the revised scheme the schools already covered in the pre-revised scheme were made to continue with the BBC microcomputers. For the new schools, the selected hardware was a PC-AT(386)DX with 4 dumn-terminals, which was to be used with UNIX based application programs. But the revised scheme also has not been able to bring in the desired improvement in the programme or in its scaling up. The reasons for it are not hard to see. Basically, the major flaw in the revised scheme is that it has not taken note of the recent advancements in computer hardware and software. When computers using Pentium processors are available for the price paid for the BBC microcomputers, persistence with the machines that were supplied to schools in eighties is bound to result in lack of interest in the programme. The BBC microcomputers, which even if they are in running conditions today, are out of time when computers with Windows operating system have gained universal acceptability. With the selection of UNIX based computer education the thrust of the programme has shifted more towards computer science from educational computing. To top it all, in the revised scheme training in computers to students is being given by full time instructors hired from outside the school system. Alienation of teachers from the school computer education is now complete.

The singular lesson that we have learnt is that not only the state-of -the-art computers that are available today be provided for the school computer education programme but all the teachers of the school should be helped in developing the competence for using computers for accessing educational resources and their integration in the teaching - learning. Fortunately, Internet offers itself as an effective mode for providing resource support to teachers and learning material to students. Even when access to computers linked to Internet is made available in schools, training of all the teachers for enabling them to make effective use of resources from the cyberspace will be crucial.

For giving new skills to a large number of teachers, instead of depending on experts alone, alternative strategies for large scale training will be required. Recently, the NCERT used satellite based inservice training of teachers using two-way audio and one-way teleconferencing mode. A state-wide classroom was created for the training of primary school teachers of Karnataka, a State in the Southern India, and the training was given on-line by experts from the studios in New Delhi. As this experiment is a success story of use of a modern information medium for the training of teachers, it is described next.

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Interactive Video Technology: An Alternative Strategy for Inservice Training of Teachers

As an alternative training strategy to the cascade approach interactive video technology has been effectively used in some of the developed countries. In the United States and Israel it has become popular to impart education and training programmes at a distance, through the use of a variety of telecommunication technologies. These technologies offer access to learning opportunities to groups and even to individuals who, because of distance and other life circumstances, cannot take advantage of programmes given through face-to-face approach. The teleconferencing approach to education uses one-way video and two-way interactions via satellite, pre-recorded videotaped instruction, computer systems, cable television, telephones, and radio and television broadcasts.

The NCERT Experiment

The NCERT has the responsibility to facilitate the conduct of training of primary school teachers in the 32 States and Union Territories with over 20 language groups. It decided to make use of interactive video technology on an experimental basis for conducting inservice training [8].

In the NCERT experiment interactive video technology and face-to-face support of facilitators were suitably integrated. The training methodology involved using two-way audio and one-way video interactions for imparting training to a large number of teachers of a single language group by creating a 'state-wide classroom'. The interaction between the teachers and experts was co-ordinated by an anchor person. Teachers undergoing the training used Straight Trunk Dialling (STD) on telephone to ask questions to expert panellists. Their answers were transmitted live from the studio of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi, which had an uplink with a transponder on an INSAT satellite operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). This transponder is dedicated to communication and training . The TV Uplink Earth Station basically configured for TV Broadcast Service is ext. C-band. It uses one 6.8m diameter solid antenna, High Power Amplifier (HPA), Up-convector, wideband FM modulator and audio video combiner.

Locale of the Experiment

The State of Karnataka in the Southern India which has 20 revenue districts was chosen for carrying out the experiment as its 20 District Training Institutes (DTIs) had dish-antennas for receiving TV signals directly from satellite transmissions. Each district in Karnataka has a functioning District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) and its faculty were actively involved in conducting training in face-to-face mode. Also, the infrastructure for holding the training was readily available in the DTIs.

Implementation of the Experiment

For the experiment on inservice training using interactive teleconferencing technology the existing training design was suitably changed. Video clippings to be used by experts in their presentations and the activity sheets to be used by the participants were specially prepared. Schedules for monitoring of the training programmes and concurrent evaluation during the period of training were prepared in advance.

The Development & Educational Communication Unit (DECU), Ahmedabad, a constituent unit of ISRO, was one of the collaborating agencies of the experiment. It managed the uplink of signals from the studio of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and ensured that the signals were received by all the centres taking part in the experiment. The other major responsibilities of the experiment, such as preparation of training design, production of software, training of facilitators, conduct of evaluation were with the NCERT and were discharged through synergetic involvement of its various constituents - Department of Teacher Education and Extension (DTE&E), Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), and the Regional Institute of Education, Mysore.

Pre-Training Activities

(a)Training Curriculum and Training Design

A group of about 20 content and media experts planned the content and process of the programme and provided thirteen training sessions with equal number of activity sessions. Each televised presentation session was linked with an interactive question answer session with the experts.

(b)Software Development

A set of 20 Video clippings of 5-10 minutes duration were produced in advance by recording classroom teaching in actual locations of schools. The clippings were on some concepts generally found difficult to teach. These video clippings were used by experts during live transmissions and were suitably integrated in their lesson plans.

(c) Arrangements for Uplink & Receiving Facilities

The uplink facilities of the IGNOU for the programme transmission were booked from January 7-13, 1996. Twenty District Training Institutes (DTIs) were approached through Administrative Training Institute (ATI), Karnataka State for allowing the use of their receiving facilities. These institutions were used as training centres for the experiment.

(d) Selection of Teachers and Facilitators

The State Department of Education, Government of Karnataka was approached to identify 50 primary school teachers for attending training at each of the 20 training centres.

From the District Institutes of Education in Karnataka 60 faculty members were selected for working as facilitators in the training camps. They were given a 2-day orientation in the context of their role in the interactive video training. They were given information about the agencies to be contacted in case of hardware problem, failure of signal, etc.

Activity sheets for the participants to be used during the training were prepared by groups of teacher educators. These sheets specified group activities related to the concepts planned to be covered in the training. As mentioned, the facilitators were expected to supervise the activity of the participants in pre-telecast and post-telecast sessions. The activity sheets were developed keeping in view the various topics transacted during the seven- day training programme.

Pre-telecast tasks were mainly to tune the teachers to the live transmission that followed. Teachers were asked to go through individually the self-instructional written material on the topic to be covered in that session. The activity sheets for pre-telecast work were common for each of the sessions and enabled the participants to identify the key ideas of the module to be covered by the expert and to prepare questions that they might ask during the teleconferencing. The activity sheets for the post-telecast work were around development of specific competencies attempted by the experts and involved group work for writing of lesson plans, preparation of teaching aids, use of science and mathematics kits etc. The facilitators also assisted the teachers in asking questions from the experts by establishing telephone links and sometimes by sending facsimile (FAX) transmissions. In all 850 teachers and 60 facilitators at 20 district centres participated in the training programme.

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3. Implications of the Experiments

Increasing use of satellite communication and information technology in teaching-learning processes and in inservice education of teachers is becoming a reality. The present pilot project has shown that the use of interactive video technology holds far reaching promise for improving classroom processes and inservice education of teachers specially in the context of developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where the number of teachers to be provided recurrent training is very large. It may be added here that once the necessary infrastructures for interactive video technology are set up, the unit training cost using this mode will be favourable in comparison to that of the traditional face-to-face training methodology. In terms of its impact, this alternative strategy can substantially reduce training loss at successive cascades which invariably accompany multiple level training. In addition, the use of interactive video technology is well suited for distance education of remotely located teachers, a situation common in countries like India and Bangladesh. Training is essential for mastering any new skill, whether it is effective use of television in school or using a multimedia programme in a classroom. Experience has shown that teachers after they have been demystified of a new technology can creatively put it to use in improving learning of their pupils. The interactive video technology therefore holds a challenge to countries like India for providing training on common skills to a large group of teachers and for offering learning opportunity in distance education mode.

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During the past decade, there has been a world wide expansion of information in electronic medium. Our experience of 1984 when we introduced computers in schools in India is not relevant today. Computers today instead of being used in isolated stand-alone mode are being increasingly connected with each other through local area networks and global networks. Within a year it is estimated that 50 million users globally will be accessing information on Internet. Information on every conceivable topic of human interest is being put on the Internet by individuals and institutions. With Internet and knowledge-based resource support for K-12 such as CyberLibrary, the world has come into the classrooms of the developed countries. Information on education, specially school education, covering wide spectrum of fields such as early childhood education, lesson plans for teaching of all school subjects at different grade levels, assessment items, tests and tools for educational research, to mention a few, are available on the Internet in an organised and easy to access form.

Accessing and dissemination of educational material is now available globally for near zero cost to all those who want it. However, knowledge of mere existence of information in the World Wide Web will not be enough unless we know how to access it, classify it and process it for solving some problem. The Internet offers itself as an "expert system" which can reduce the dependence on direct training by experts. It is an ideal medium for interactive learning as it allows information to be put up in multimedia format, effective in self-learning. Therefore, a paradigm shift is needed in teaching-learning for making optimal use of educational resources from the Intenet. A crucial ability for taking advantage of the Internet will be learning to learn. The ability of learning to learn can then be used individually for developing the ability of learning to do . This can be acquired by processing information available in the web in solving problems of human interest. In the following paragraphs some recent efforts in creating on the Internet a resource for school education have been given.

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4. Cyber Resource for School Education

It is not surprising that the support for teaching-learning to the school system in which 150 million students study in about 800,000 schools under 4 million teachers has not gone much beyond the availability of the textbooks. As more than 20 regional languages are used as medium of instruction there is a vast diversity of requirements. Teachers' guides and supplementary materials even when available have not reached the target groups. Inexpensively brought out publications are generally not preferred by booksellers.

The Internet, though today is in an infant state in the developing countries like India, is expected to become, before long, widely accessible. Therefore, Internet offers itself as a serious candidate for sharing with teachers resources like lesson plans, test items, demonstration experiments, etc. It can also be used by them as an inexpensive communication medium for interaction with experts and among themselves. The Intenet is user friendly as it can be accessed at any convenient time and the user can inexpensively copy material, without infringement of copyrights.

Procedure for setting up on the Internet an Electronic Educational Institution is fairly straight forward. What is required is space on a server-computer connected to the Internet. The size of the electronic space required will be determined by the amount of information that is planned to be put up on the server. In addition to text and graphics, information can be in the form of audio and video clippings. Unlike a book which is a physical object and is read by its owner by turning pages after browsing the content and index pages, the "electronic book" cannot be held in one's hands and can be read only through a computer by using software called browsers. This apparent disadvantage is more than offset by the new feature that the same resource can be accessed simultaneously by a vast number of persons from any part of the world or at a time of one's choice, and unlike the restriction of the print medium the material can be in multimedia. More than one hundred million persons from all over the world each day visited the NASA site on the Pathfinder landing on Mars. This experience of global sharing of an information resource is unprecedented. Another advantage is that information on the world wide web is arranged in "three" dimensions instead of two for printed text. It enables the user to "jump" from one location to another location on the same file, to jump to some other file placed in the directory of the same electronic institution , and to information on any of the millions of electronic institutions on the Internet. Accessing of information from Internet resources through search by following directions available on the information superhighway is called navigation or surfing the cyberspace.

How is information prepared in a form suitable for placing on a server on the Internet? The procedure for converting materials produced using standard computer tools such as wordprocessor or authoring system to a form suitable for the Internet, though initially unfamiliar, is straight forward. It is done by converting the information as HTML files. HTML is an acronym for Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). Facility in HTML is easy to acquire as it is a set of codes which are affixed in a file as tags. What is more challenging than learning HTML is the preparation of material in a self instructional mode using the multimedia features of the computer. This calls for collective involvement of subject experts, teachers, experts in cognition, media experts and information technologists for preparation of information to be made available to the target group from an electronic educational institution on the Internet. A rudimentary exercise carried out by the author to experience different steps required for creation of an electronic educational resource on the Internet can be seen by opening the site whose URL is .

The impact of Internet on the mankind as a global resource of information will be to not only shrink the world in space and time but to democratise the human knowledge.

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5. Summary

Information technology and communication technology in their integrated form such as Internet are expected to play crucial role in enhancing access to educational resources and in improving the quality of learning. Teachers in spite of their academic isolation can update themselves using Internet with the latest learning resource put up by institutions from all over the world. This approach, though intimidating unless experienced first-hand, is extremely user friendly. As of now, in developing countries of Asia access to it might be limited to a few institutions and persons, but considering its cost effectiveness as a learning resource, specially when compared with the cost of expansion of schools and colleges, this technology will gradually be preferred for providing access to resources for developing new skills and competencies.

Even when access to Intenet has been arranged in schools it may not get fully used unless teachers are trained on how to use such a resource in teaching-learning. This will require inservice training in information technology skills and in new pedagogy, for which the required expertise might not be available at the grassroots. The NCERT's experiment is a pointer that advanced communication technology such as teleconferencing can be used by experts in conducting interactive training at the location of the teachers. Training will have to be arranged periodically to update teachers on changes in the resources and on how to use effectively the support of the Internet for the attainment of curricular objectives.

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6. References

  1. Basham, A.L.(1954): The Wonder that was INDIA, Grove Press, Inc., New York.
  2. Altekar,A.S.(1951): Education in Ancient India, Nand Kishore Brothers, Banaras.
  3. . Ministry of Human Resource Development(1995): Annual Report 1994-95 Part - 1, Department of Education, Government of India.
  4. National Council of Educational Research and Training(1984): CLASS Computer Literacy and Studies in Schools, Publication Department NCERT, New Delhi.
  5. Ministry of Human Resource Development: National Policy on Education-1986, Department of Education, Government of India.
  6. Ministry of Human Resource Development(1988): Report of the Working Group Constituted to Specify Programme Objectives for Computer Education in Schools and Devise Systems Specifications from Users Point of View keeping in mind the Experience Obtained in the Implementation of the CLASS PROJECT, Department of Education, Government of India.
  7. Ministry of Human Resource Development(1994): Centrally Sponsred Scheme of Computer Literacy and Studies in Schools, No. F.11-3/94-Sch.5, Department of Education, Government of India.
  8. Maheshwari, A.N. and Raina, V.K.( to be published in 1998): Inservice Training of Primary Teachers Through Interactive Video Technology: An Indian Experience, International Review of Education, Kluwer Publishers, Amsterdam.