Based on its experiences from research, curriculum design and field projects over the last decade, IT for Change made a submission to the National Education Policy 2017 Committee, on ICT integration in school education.
As general purpose technologies that affect basic processes of knowledge and communication, digital technologies (Information and Communication Technologies or ICTs) have had far-reaching impact, making today’s society an ‘information society’. There is general agreement that ICTs can play an important role in strengthening and reforming the education system in India.
However, the design of ICT programs in education, their objectives and priorities will determine whether ICT can benefit or harm education. The submission emphasizes that design of ICT programs in education should be founded on accepted educational principles and aims. The policy should draw lessons from our experiences in implementing ICT programs in schools, including the BOOT model and integrated model and be cognizant of the dangers from Big Data models.
The policy should promote a 'public and decentralized' design for ICT programs and discourage privatised and / or centralized models. The submission specifically seeks that the policy should include the following elements:
- The Policy must persuade education systems to move towards the 'public and decentralised” spectrum in ICT architecture and implementation, privileging participation in creation, sharing and use, over passive consumption of ICT. ICT infrastructure must be owned and managed by the school. Digital educational processes must be owned and managed by the teachers. Business role must be limited to basic infrastructure maintenance and support and not enter core educational processes of curriculum/content, pedagogy and assessment.
- Use of Free and Open technologies, including Open Educational Resources and FOSS is critical to ensuring public ownership and control over vital ICT resources. Private / proprietary control over ICT resources used in education is inimical to educational aims and should be prohibited.
- Teachers and schools should have autonomy in the choice of technology implementation - hardware, software and content, in a manner appropriate to their contexts, to further educational aims.
- Choice of educational content and platforms used in school programs must be subjected to evaluation by the public institutions entrusted with the task of developing curriculum.
- Safeguards must be put on collection and utilisation of student data, including academic performance as well as technology habits, such that these are used without any prejudice to learner agency. Clear norms need to be established to ensure the public nature of school data and its use, to avoid its proprietisation and promote public interest.
Gurumurthy participated in a consultation on NEP in December 2017 and contributed to discussions on teacher professional development, equity in education, financing of education and language policy. He emphasized the need to invest in a a strong public system to ensure universal education of an equitable quality. The growing privatization of education is leading to greater stratification of the school system, which is inequitable. A narrow focus on skills or jobs should not take away from the need for education to achieve its larger normative goals of building a just and equitable society.