The OLPC Arrives
After weathering multiple rebuffs, Nicholas Negroponte’s much touted One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has finally found a foothold in India, in the form of ADAG (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group). The Digital Bridge Foundation, part of ADAG, is providing the technology backbone and logistics for installation of OLPC’s white and green laptops in primary schools. Dubbed as XO, the laptop is finally being mass-produced in China.
I have been following the OLPC story for a while on this blog. I think that technology — especially information and communications technology — presents tools that are going to transform how education is done and what it achieves. It will really be appropriate to call it a revolution and it is just a matter of “when”, not “if.” Tools transform; they change processes, and eventually they change the product. The process of education which has essentially remained unchanged for at least a hundred years is ripe for change, whether or not the current bosses of the system are willing or not. But I don’t think that the XO is the answer to any of the basic problems that Indian education system faces. Some people just don’t get it: that something can be quite useful and good, and at the same time inappropriate for a given situation. I have no reason to doubt the glowing reviews that the XO has received. I have no difficulty believing that all else being equal, a child with an XO is better off than one without one. All else being equal, a person with a BMW is better off than a person without a BMW. Negroponte speaks very eloquently about how children gifted an XO get terribly excited about going to school and learning. So would I. So would the child get excited about going to school if he gets the promise of a much-need mid-day meal. Incentives matter. But eventually we have to face the fact that if children are not excited about going to school and have to be enticed by promises of goodies, then we have a problem whose genesis lies deep within the system and superficially dealing with the symptoms are bound to be in vain.
Picture uploaded by Wayan Vota