ICT to universalise Primary Education: Premji

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Bangalore, Oct 4: Information and Communication Technology(ICT) was an effective tool that can help strengthen universalising the Primary Education, IT Icon and Wipro Technology CEO Azim Premji said today.

Delivering the Keynote address at a Conference for E-9 Countries on 'ICT for literacy', he said introduction of ICT from Primary Schools would help bring openness, responsiveness and innovation. It could usher in changes in ideas and processes and way of looking at things in the young and was a better than the 'chalk and talk' method of teaching.

The E-9 Countries that include Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan are participating in the two-day Conference to popularise the use of ICT to meet the needs of literacy and education.

The Education For All Global Moniotoring Report 2006 highlighted that literacy was a constitutional right still denied nearly to a fifth of the world's adult population. E-9 countries comprise more than half of the world's population and account for nearly 70 per cent of the world's non-literate.

Mr Premji said, "We need to popularise ICT in schools to effectively bridge the digital divide between rich and the poor and urban and rural population. We have found this from the works of our Foundation (Azim Premji Foundation), which has penetrated into 13,000 villages to reach 35,000 rural schools."

Mr Premji said that the parents in villages were of the opinion that introduction of computers in schools could enhance understanding of their ward and also help them learn English. "Computer can be used as major attraction to draw students to the schools in rural areas," he added. The Wipro chief however stressed the importance of training teachers, especially in rural areas and make them understand the importance of computer aided education.

"We must ensure proper training of the teachers and make them partners to impart training in ICT. More importantly we must make sure that they do not feel that a computer in a class room is an extra burden on them. ICT can enhance the quality of education and competence level of teachers. The challenge before us is to create a motivated teacher," he said.

ICT can enhance self based and self determined education and strengthen early fundamentals through virtual leaning. It was also an effective tool of distance learning, Mr Premji added.

Union Minister for Human Resource Development Arjun Singh in his inaugural address said the zeal of a mother, who taught her children with dedication and a mission, should be adopted to bring down the illiteracy in the third world countries. "Technology like ICT can be used to meet the challenges posed the illiteracy and bridge the digital divide between the rural and urban areas," he added.

Mr Singh said the help of private sector was inevitable as government will not be able to fund all the programmes to impart education in the rural sector.

"The entrepreneurs should cultivate the vision of Mr Premji who through his Foundation which had penetrated into thousands of villages in imparting ICT based education. We need such support and it should come from the private sector," he added.

National Literacy Mission Director General Vandana said that use of ICT technology was the best way to eradicate illiteracy in a time bound manner. "Distant learning and ICT can provide opportunities for non-formal education to illiterate adults. Local produced radio interactions and community radio had been proved as a good medium to promote learning among the rural adults," she added.

Ms Minja Yang, Director of UNESCO, New Delhi, said ICT had a major impact upon different areas of human life - education, livelihood, communication, healthcare and social behaviour. The Beijing declaration of universalisation of education had brought sea of change in China where the literacy rate had been taken up to 90 per cent and Mexico was the other country which was benefitted the most from it.

The E-9 countries shared certain common challenges like large populations and demographic pressures, substantial remote populations, unwieldy education systems and a wide literary gap between men and women. Hence these countries had recognised the critical role of ICT in development, she said.

The need to narrow the digital divide by harnessing the potential of ICT to achieve the goals of EFA as well as to provide adequate learning opportunities for the young to complete primary and secondary education had been seen as a national priority in the E-9 countries, Ms Yang added.


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