We don’t have a new syllabus, schools or books but you want to give us iPads?

Published: December 18, 2013
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In an energy-crisis hit country, where load-shedding extends to as many as 20 hours per day, how would the students charge their gadgets?PHOTO: AFP

Recently, I came across a piece of news about the Punjab government’s decision to replace traditional course books with iPads next year. Adopting advanced technology in education is a really good idea and it has already been successfully implemented by the United States, the United Kingdom, China, India, Australia and a host of other countries.

These nations have the potential advantages of reducing expenses on books, saving trees, student-centric learning, greater collaboration with other students and access to wider resources of education. However, there are a number of underlying issues — some fairly obvious — that rule out the idea of introducing e-learning in our government schools.

Technology awareness and limited expertise

Resourcing adequate expertise is a big challenge. Teachers need to be trained in using iPads effectively and have sound knowledge about all the teacher-student resources available.

Teachers, who are not tech-savvy, will find it difficult to switch to new technologies and in the absence of a standardised plan for creating, storing, researching, assessing, managing and using teaching materials, the real benefits of e-learning will not be utilised to the fullest.

Energy related problems

In an energy-crisis hit country, where load-shedding extends to as many as 20 hours a day, how would students charge their gadgets?

The average battery life of a tablet is 7.26 hours while the average normal school day is of eight hours, which means the iPads need to be charged during school hours and, in the frequently extended and irregular load-shedding hours, this may not be possible.

Infrastructure issues

Most schools in rural areas of Pakistan lack buildings, electricity and other basic facilities. Would it be sane to think of providing additional power outlets and wifi facilities without having a building?

It would be like having lots of cars but no road to drive them on.

Internet connectivity

Those countries that have adopted this system of education are relying on high-speed, low cost 3G and 4G networks of communication, while the cost of accessing the internet in Pakistan is still on the high side.

How would the government address this issue?

The affordability factor

Would this system be an affordable one for the common man? One who sends his children to government schools rather than high profile private schools?

Wouldn’t it make it even more difficult for the common man to realise his dreams of a good education for his child? Affording the latest gadget for his children and getting it fixed, in case of any malfunction, would be a great challenge for a low income person, let alone those who have no income at all.

Such technology would do more harm to our literacy rate than good.

Finances and budgets

If the gadgets are to be provided by the government, how would it manage to allocate its limited educational funds to cover the hardware, software and license costs for educational content and applications? Moreover, the implementation costs for e-textbooks on tablets are much higher than printed textbooks.

Digital divide

How would the government ensure that all the schools have equal and timely access to this new system of learning and how would it bridge the gap between the technology-equipped schools and the non-technology-equipped schools in the mean time?

Home internet bandwidth would be needed for students to connect to the central library resources and with other fellow students, the absence of which would mean that students lacking this facility may not be able to complete their home assignments.

Designing the curriculum

Which syllabus will be chosen to be replaced by e-learning? The Urdu-medium syllabus, the English-medium syllabus or the Oxford syllabus?

Educational technology is a vehicle, not a solution. How the curriculum is designed is the key. Before moving on to any educational technology, it would be worthwhile to consider the uniformity of the syllabi.

The content matters more than the medium used to deliver it.

To conclude: expecting educational technology to bring a change to our literacy rates, without addressing these issues would be like expecting a toddler to run before he has learned to walk with firm feet.

Do you think the initiative can be a success without paying heed to the aforementioned issues?

Arooj Ahmed

Arooj Ahmed

A student of business having an interest in linguistics, literature, photography and politics. She tweets as @aroojahmed123 (twitter.com/aroojahmed123)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • naveed

    good speach miss arooj govt should think about all the points that you pointed outRecommend

  • http://www.yahoo.com/ AMINA AMEIN

    Well illustrated!!! Indeed such policies by government at this crucial time is just the waste of already scarce resources!!! Instead of Gaining political objectives Government should work to solve basic issues,i.e poverty,unemployment,law and order,etc,etc..Recommend

  • Sami

    Madam with due respect your grossly misinterpreted the news. Punjab government never ever announced to give anyone any IPads, rather it announced to give ebook readers and low cost tablets like Akash to be distributed among the school going kids.
    Punjab government never ever used the word IPad and i think you are confusing IPads with general tablets and ebook readers that is not the case actually. Also where in Pakistan right now is 20 hours load shedding is another nut to crack for me.?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Absolutely brilliant write up…………every word makes complete sense.
    You have so correctly pointed out that we must first learn to walk before we can run.
    Education has never been a priority and schemes like this will ensure money down the drain ( and into pockets ) and messing up of a system that is already pretty messed up………but then that just might be the actual objective.Recommend

  • Naveed Razzaq

    let the system be introduced. further modification and improvement will take place with the passage of time. it’s an inspiration for many in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ayaz Ahmad

    A very balanced and unbiased article. You have highlighted very valid issues in detail

    IMO, government is taking this initiative ONLY with political motive. There is need to strengthen basic education in the country to improve literacy rate in the country.Recommend

  • Arooj Ahmed

    Thank you.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Now, this should be inside the ET Op-Ed section.Recommend

  • Arooj Ahmed

    Thank you for your generous appreciation and input.Recommend

  • Arooj Ahmed

    The news piece appeared in one of the most esteemed media groups of Pakistan. For your reference, here is the link.

    http://www.express.pk/story/203807/

    “EXTENDS to as many as 20 hours per day” is what is mentioned.Recommend

  • Erum

    Yeah! that’s true. Our govt. should focus on our syllabus and solving basic issues of a common man.Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    a state government also distributed free laptops in village schools and colleges
    the children simply sold them offRecommend

  • Haris Javed

    Aptly put !!Recommend

  • Usman Babu

    it is again show piece stunt like Laptops by Punjab Govt.Recommend