Astrong basic foundation in primary education is the need of the hour for the children. Primary education plays a major role in shaping the lives of children. This education is the stepping stone in pursuing higher education and achieving future goals.
Developing countries in the world face several difficulties in offering quality education to the children. Children staying in remote parts of these countries are the worst hit one, as they lack even basic facilities such as infrastructure. And where educational facilities are available, they are more of exam oriented rather than knowledge oriented.
Another major factor is non availability of faculty. In several schools, the teacher student ratio is very disappointing. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (World Education Indicators Program), it is 1:40 or even more in some areas. This gives little chance for the teachers to concentrate on each student and impart education.
In-addition, several children are dropping out of the schools due to various reasons such as poverty, poor understanding of the subjects and difficulty in learning the things and so on. According to UNESCO, “Twenty percent of young people in developing countries fail to complete primary school and lack skills for work”.
All these things have given to a new thought of One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC). One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) is an ambitious international educational project aimed at providing quality education through informal and game based learning activities in developing countries. OLPC Inc is trying hard to improve the education standards in children through literacy, connectivity as well as learning through doing.
Children can learn a lot on their own. As generally children are more curious than elders, they tend to learn easily. Discovering things, making and sharing things are essential keys of learning. It is better for the children to discover, reinvent and learn by doing on their own rather than going to massive libraries which have all those textbooks and encyclopedias.
OLPC is supported by foundations, businesses and individuals and is headquartered at One Cambridge Center, Cambridge Massachusetts. Nicholas Negroponte, the head of the OLPC foundation says that children are curious and are inventive. And once provided with a laptop, they can explore the world and learn on their own.
The project was started with an aim of providing laptop for every child to improve the standards in education. The mission of OLPC Inc is to empower, engage and educate the children. The project was proposed in the year 2006 with an aim to provide low-cost laptops to the government of respective developing countries, across the world. These OLPCs are distributed to the children from the respective ministries.
The goal of OLPC is to provide education to the poorest children in the developing countries by providing low-cost, rugged and, low-power laptops. These laptops have content and specially designed software that is easy to use and learn in a joyful way. Although, children are by default curious and willing to learn, several countries are not able to provide computers required to impart technological education to them.
The laptops provided by OLPC are popularly called as XO-9 and are created exclusively for the children living in the remote environments of developing countries. These XOs enable the children to develop interest about the world and to come up with interesting ideas. Tools for composing, writing, simulating, constructing, expressing, designing, imagining, modeling, creating, debugging, critiquing and collaborating makes the children to learn and grow and also to contribute to the communities.
XOs are not just meant for mere word processing and web browsing. The laptops (XO) are being made compatible to work in local languages, so that children can learn easily. The XOs will give them abundant opportunities which they never had. Especially tools such as e-book reader, rich media player and Web browser give a chance to gain knowledge in an interesting manner.
As the laptops software is designed in a user friendly manner, children can use it to learning and to play games. It not only open ups the window to the world, but also gives a chance to discover and learn.
The concept of OLPC is not just to make the children to score good marks. The idea is to motivate the students to discover and to learn on their own. According to OLPC website, the best preparation is not preparing for tests. Instead, developing the passion and interest for learning and encouraging the children’s ability to learn how to learn”, is the important factor.
OLPC never believes that the test scores in mathematics and science doesn’t reflect the concept of “the ability to learn how to learn”. However, often we think that these scores are the benchmarks for learning capability. The study of Inter-American Development Bank conducted on 300 primary schools in rural Peru has found that the cognitive skill of the students has improved drastically with the help of OLPC. OLPC strongly supports connectivity, learning and literacy through technology.
Venezuela has launched this OLPC program in the year 2009 and has provided nearly 750,000 laptops till date. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has stated, “I plan to issue 3 million laptops by 2012.”
The government of Venezuela believes that the natural curiosity of the children will motivate them to learn new things. A laptop with an internet connection will provide unlimited learning resources.
However OLPC has some disadvantages too. OLPC is being considered as unsupportive to the teachers and also learners. The major hurdle in this ambitious project is lack of training to the teachers. Only 70% of teachers got trained in the usage of these XOs for around 40 hours. Regular hardware issues and technical glitches are posing challenges to this project.
Gayle Laakmann McDowell, the CEO and founder of CareerCup.com has expressed her dissatisfaction over the OLPC program. While on a visit to Mayange, a rural and tiny village in Rwanda, she observed that lack of proper internet connectivity is posing a major problem to use laptops as a learning tool.
According to her, providing a laptop to the child’s family or establishing a computer lab in an educational institution will do more good than just distributing laptops to the children.
After giving away 25 million laptops, Mashable, Mashable Inc., a Scottish-American news website and Internet news blog founded by Pete Cashmore) opined that the project has not yielded the desired results. The project also did not impact the scores of the children positively.
The Economist newspaper has quoted the project as “Error Message” in its headlines dated 09-04-2012. In-fact, the paper has said that it’s a disappointing return after huge investments in computing.
Some of the advantages and disadvantages of OLPC program are mentioned below:
Pros of One Laptop Per Child
Cons of One Laptop Per Child
Regardless of a laptop, one-to-one, shared computing or a desktop are secondary for the Information Communications Technology (ICT) education. They are not magic boxes to solve the education problem. Proper guidance and methodology to the teachers and the children is very much needed to achieve the best results through OLPC.
And therefore, the ambitious OLPC project will not solve the problem of illiteracy, just by distributing these laptops. Things are not going to change dramatically with it. Apart from it, solid foundation should be laid and background work should be done to bring ICT adaptation into the fold of education. It’s also essential to consider that attending classes by children is essential for better understanding of the concepts and also for their overall growth. Let’s hope that things will fall in place and this huge project will become successful in due course of time by crossing all the hurdles.
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