Recently, the Government of India passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which guarantees every child the right to full time free elementary education. While there are different opinions about the pros and cons of such legislation, we must recognize that the Act is here to stay. So it is prudent to look instead at solutions to ensure that the RTE is effective and well managed.
One of the ideas we had was to develop an Android tablet-based application for this purpose. Features supported on an Android tablet, such as GPRS/3G, GPS, camera, touch screen and adequate programming power (dual core processors, 1Ghz), coupled with a big screen (10.1 inch), sufficient RAM (1GB), flash (16GB+) etc makes the tablet convenient to use and allows for field level data entry. The local database provision in the tablet helps in offline storage and easy synchronization with the server when connectivity is available.
Let me examine some situations where tablet-based ICT intervention could be useful. Take the case of Cluster Resource Persons (CRPs), who are staff personnel from the Education Department who visit the government schools in a particular zone. They collect data and monitor the progress of various government programs and schemes such as Sarva Sikshan Abhiyaan (a program by the Government of India aimed at the universalization of elementary education by strengthening the existing school infrastructure).
An Android tablet-based application can strengthen the role of the CRPs and inject effectiveness into their routines. For instance, during their school visits, they can update data pertaining to various programs like the Midday Meal Scheme, the Nali Kali program, etc. onto the tablet, and upload the data to the server so that it may be viewed by the stakeholders. The CRPs can also view the past inspection data on the tablet and then review the current status against the former, thereby ensuring an effective measurement of progress and monitoring. We have developed such an application – for mid day meals and nail kali programs and had CRP’s use it and provide their feedback on such an ICT intervention pertaining to education scenario in rural domain.
In the case of RTE too, eventually, I envisage that a portal will be set up for monitoring the progress. Field level personnel would collect inspection data of various hues and submit it to the server along with geo-stamping. While the academicians and administrators will provide the fields and formats for data collection, technologists will develop applications that can easily adapt to different form requirements. Server side programs can then help in the generation of different kinds of reports that help the stakeholders make the right decisions. GIS-enabled software can further enhance the stakeholder experience of viewing information on map canvases so that a quick geo-related impression can be provided.
I have given just one example of how the strengths of ICT can be leveraged to achieve the mission of 100% literacy envisaged under the RTE Act. Effective monitoring of the RTE implementation through tablet-based applications is but one way to ensure that the benefit of RTE reaches the poorest of the poor living in remote areas, and help them be part of the success story that is India.