IT Taskforce
Basic Background  Report
9th June 1998



1. SMART Schools

Our competitiveness in the 21st century will critically depend on the skill endowment of our citizens. While considering policies for the education sector in the context of the Information Age, the emphasis has been more on the technology aspects of Information Technology. We find, therfore, references to universal computer literacy and INTERNET access for all schools in the country in documents and discussions relating to Information Technology. While computer literacy and INTERNET access are important, it would be relevant to look at the Malaysian concept of SMART Schools where the emphasis is not only on information technology in schools, but also on a host of skills and values that will be important in the next millennium. SMART schools intend concentrating on a balanced development of students in intellectual, emotional and physical terms, with a view to developing a technologically literate, creative, and critically thinking class of students.

2. Skills for the Information Age

Work in the future will be increasingly collaborative. Students will therefore have to be equipped with attitudinal and interpersonal skills that are useful for teamwork. In addition to computer literacy, a host of other skills in terms of knowledge, values,communication, and thinking will be necessary for the information age. The curriculum for SMART schools can be devised to integrate a wide variety of skills, knowledge, language and value elements. Skills include creative and critical thinking skills, personal, social, scientific, mathematical, and environmental and knowledge acquisition skills.

3. Project ICE-INTERNET Connectivity for Education

Government should also consider developing the relevant infrastructure for extending INTERNET connectivity for schools, colleges and universities in a phased manner. Each State Government should be asked to immediately prepare plans for extending such connectivity. The infrastructure can initially be provided in identified institutions of higher and secondary learning eventually extending the concept to all educational institutions by 2008.

4. Some IT Training Promotional Steps

• An IT Module should be made a compulsory component of all degree courses. This will have the advantage of first ensuring that the entire student community , irrespective of the subject chosen would become computer literate. This will also reduce the burden on the students who have to study computers at their own cost and also pay enormous fees to the private teaching institutions. In other words, IT should be made an integral part of the education system through out the country. This change must be brought out by declaring an education emergency. Otherwise the educational bureaucracy may spend years in implementing the idea. Local languages on computers should be encouraged.

• Specific courses to be launched in association with the software industry and IIMs to provide project management skills.

• In order to develop marketing skills, which are currently lacking in the software industry, the 4 IIMs should be adequately funded to develop specialised courses on software marketing.

• It is recommended that the seven national level institutions (IITs and IISc) should triple their output of students by suitably restructuring the programme. This can be achieved at a marginal cost as it would involve higher utilisation of existing class-room and computing facilities and other infrastructure with marginal hiring of new faculty.

• Support NASSCOM's effort to set up a "National INTERNET Centre of Excellence (NICE)" to standardise and promote Indian content development on INTERNET.

• For the proposed 50 Software cities to be set up in India, it is necessary to supply them with skilled manpower. Therefore, we need to identify engineering colleges/institutions around these cities and then necessary quality upgradation and manpower development programmes need to be launched. A separate national body like Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) must be established to coordinate and manage the manpower programmes at these fifty software cities. Setting up of IIITs regionally has already received approval of Union Cabinet as part of the Computer Software Development, Export and Training Policy of 1986, but could not be implemented because of a Departmental decision. There is now an urgency for its implementation.


National Virtual University

With the increasing popularity of the INTERNET, distance education will gain increasing significance in times to come. Technology will also drive a substantial reinvention and re-engineering of the educational sector. 'Just in Time' training will become more important and the concept of 'Education on Demand' will increasingly become a reality. The INTERNET offers tremendous potential for reducing the cost and increasing productivity in education and training.

Countries like New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa have established a 'National Qualification Framework'. Under this, knowledge is broken down into modules and certified testing authorities make objective assessments of Knowledge acquisition. Many of these assessments are conducted on-line. Korea is experimenting with an 'Educational Credit Bank' where students can accumulate credits from different educational service providers and then use them for award of degree or certificates. Students can 'mix and match' credits obtained from public and private providers, theoretical/academic and practical/vocational knowledge. Such innovations will allow greater flexibility in acquiring education over a lifetime.

A number of companies and educational institutions in advanced countries are using distance education as an effective tool for imparting knowledge and skills. Given India's inherent strength in higher education and its large pool of highly talented academicia, we should make the best use of this window of opportunity. India should aspire for achieving excellence as a global hub for distance education. A National Virtual University should immediately be set up for giving impetus to this process.

6. Indian and Foreign University Linkages:

The quality of our faculty in IT in the Universities, the standards of our attainments (teachers and students alike) and the facilities available are far from satsifactory. We should promote pairing of our Universities (i.e., their ITs) with US and other Universities noted for excellence in IT.

7. National Digital libraries project

Digitisation of libraries and setting up of more and more educational content for INTERNET access, is important for equipping students with relevant knowledge and skills. There is an immediate need therefore for giving an impetus to this area. Digitisation of educational content should be taken up on a large scale in a co-ordinated manner. A national level task force should co-ordinate such digitisation among states in order to avoid duplication and in order to ensure that relevant literature can be digitised as fast as possible.

8. National Council for IT Education

The quality of IT education in the country is an area of serious concern. Last year various institutes ranging from IITs and engineering colleges to polytechnics together produced neary 61,000 software professionals. Of this roughly 16,000 were high quality in the sense that they held degrees from the best universities. Government will have to introduce mechanisms for improving the quality of curriculum and of teachers to address this problem. The existing curricula in educational institutions in respect of computer courses will have to be thoroughly revamped. It would be worthwhile to set up a National Council of IT Education comprising of experts from both the industry and the academicia for defining the courses and their content in the light of developments taking place in Information Technology.

There is a need also to initiate a `teach the teachers’ programme for updating on a regular basis the knowledge and skills of teachers.

9. Industry administered accreditation

A large number of computer training institutions have sprung up in the country offering a bewildering variety of training programmes and courses. As software companies search for better manpower, non-formal educational institutions are rapidly coming up to provide training. In many cases the training imparted is not upto the mark. An Accreditation Body run by a consortium of Industry Associations like NASSCOM, MAIT, CII, FICCI etc. should be set up with Government recognition in addition to the DOE ACC programme of DOE.


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