How OLPC is helping spread education?

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How OLPC is helping spread education? Powered By Docstoc
					How OLPC is helping spread education?
A strong basic foundation in primary education is the need of the hour for the children. Primary
education plays a major role in shaping the lives of children. This education is the stepping stone
in pursuing higher education and achieving future goals.

Developing countries in the world face several difficulties in offering quality education to the
children. Children staying in remote parts of these countries are the worst hit one, as they lack
even basic facilities such as infrastructure. And where educational facilities are available, they
are more of exam oriented rather than knowledge oriented.

Another major factor is non availability of faculty. In several schools, the teacher student ratio is
very disappointing. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (World Education Indicators
Program), it is 1:40 or even more in some areas. This gives little chance for the teachers to
concentrate on each student and impart education.

In-addition, several children are dropping out of the schools due to various reasons such as
poverty, poor understanding of the subjects and difficulty in learning the things and so on.
According to UNESCO, “Twenty percent of young people in developing countries fail to
complete primary school and lack skills for work”.

All these things have given to a new thought of One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC). One-Laptop-
Per-Child (OLPC) is an ambitious international educational project aimed at providing quality
education through informal and game based learning activities in developing countries. OLPC
Inc is trying hard to improve the education standards in children through literacy, connectivity as
well as learning through doing.

Children can learn a lot on their own. As generally children are more curious than elders, they
tend to learn easily. Discovering things, making and sharing things are essential keys of learning.
It is better for the children to discover, reinvent and learn by doing on their own rather than
going to massive libraries which have all those textbooks and encyclopedias.
OLPC is supported by foundations, businesses and individuals and is headquartered at One
Cambridge Center, Cambridge Massachusetts. Nicholas Negroponte, the head of the OLPC
foundation says that children are curious and are inventive. And once provided with a laptop,
they can explore the world and learn on their own.

The project was started with an aim of providing laptop for every child to improve the standards
in education. The mission of OLPC Inc is to empower, engage and educate the children. The
project was proposed in the year 2006 with an aim to provide low-cost laptops to the government
of respective developing countries, across the world. These OLPCs are distributed to the children
from the respective ministries.

The goal of OLPC is to provide education to the poorest children in the developing countries by
providing low-cost, rugged and, low-power laptops. These laptops have content and specially
designed software that is easy to use and learn in a joyful way. Although, children are by default
curious and willing to learn, several countries are not able to provide computers required to
impart technological education to them.

The laptops provided by OLPC are popularly called as XO-9 and are created exclusively for the
children living in the remote environments of developing countries. These XOs enable the
children to develop interest about the world and to come up with interesting ideas. Tools for
composing, writing, simulating, constructing, expressing, designing, imagining, modeling,
creating, debugging, critiquing and collaborating makes the children to learn and grow and also
to contribute to the communities.

XOs are not just meant for mere word processing and web browsing. The laptops (XO) are being
made compatible to work in local languages, so that children can learn easily. The XOs will give
them abundant opportunities which they never had. Especially tools such as e-book reader, rich
media player and Web browser give a chance to gain knowledge in an interesting manner.

As the laptops software is designed in a user friendly manner, children can use it to learning and
to play games. It not only open ups the window to the world, but also gives a chance to discover
and learn.

The concept of OLPC is not just to make the children to score good marks. The idea is to
motivate the students to discover and to learn on their own. According to OLPC website, the best
preparation is not preparing for tests. Instead, developing the passion and interest for learning
and encouraging the children’s ability to learn how to learn”, is the important factor.

OLPC never believes that the test scores in mathematics and science doesn’t reflect the concept
of “the ability to learn how to learn”. However, often we think that these scores are the
benchmarks for learning capability. The study of Inter-American Development Bank conducted
on 300 primary schools in rural Peru has found that the cognitive skill of the students has
improved drastically with the help of OLPC. OLPC strongly supports connectivity, learning and
literacy through technology.
Venezuela has launched this OLPC program in the year 2009 and has provided nearly 750,000
laptops till date. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has stated, “I plan to issue 3 million
laptops by 2012.”

The government of Venezuela believes that the natural curiosity of the children will motivate
them to learn new things. A laptop with an internet connection will provide unlimited learning

However OLPC has some disadvantages too. OLPC is being considered as unsupportive to the
teachers and also learners. The major hurdle in this ambitious project is lack of training to the
teachers. Only 70% of teachers got trained in the usage of these XOs for around 40 hours.
Regular hardware issues and technical glitches are posing challenges to this project.

Gayle Laakmann McDowell, the CEO and founder of has expressed her
dissatisfaction over the OLPC program. While on a visit to Mayange, a rural and tiny village in
Rwanda, she observed that lack of proper internet connectivity is posing a major problem to use
laptops as a learning tool.

According to her, providing a laptop to the child’s family or establishing a computer lab in an
educational institution will do more good than just distributing laptops to the children.

After giving away 25 million laptops, Mashable, Mashable Inc., a Scottish-American news
website and Internet news blog founded by Pete Cashmore) opined that the project has not
yielded the desired results. The project also did not impact the scores of the children positively.

The Economist newspaper has quoted the project as “Error Message” in its headlines dated 09-
04-2012. In-fact, the paper has said that it’s a disappointing return after huge investments in

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of OLPC program are mentioned below:

Pros of One Laptop Per Child

       Regardless of gender, race, social and financial status, every child will get access to a
       Children can hone their basic skills such as reading and writing skills to succeed in
       professional and personal life.
       Children will get a chance to keep abreast of the latest developments of the technology.
       Computers will connect people with each other. Children can exchange their ideas and
       learn along with others.
       Children will have a better understanding of various cultures of the globe.
       An array of applications such as video, photo, music creation, writing, measurement, web
       browsing, drawing, chatting, painting, memory games and programming are available for
       the children.
       Skills in individual interests such as science, art, music can be honed through computer
Cons of One Laptop Per Child

       Poor monitoring and updating of knowledge of the teachers is posing a serious problem.
       Children who don’t know how to use the laptop will not be benefitted in anyway.
       Inadequate training to both the teachers and children will not motivate them to use the
       As the laptops have tiny keyboards, it is difficult to type.
       Systems take long time to start.

Regardless of a laptop, one-to-one, shared computing or a desktop are secondary for the
Information Communications Technology (ICT) education. They are not magic boxes to solve
the education problem. Proper guidance and methodology to the teachers and the children is very
much needed to achieve the best results through OLPC.

And therefore, the ambitious OLPC project will not solve the problem of illiteracy, just by
distributing these laptops. Things are not going to change dramatically with it. Apart from it,
solid foundation should be laid and background work should be done to bring ICT adaptation
into the fold of education. It’s also essential to consider that attending classes by children is
essential for better understanding of the concepts and also for their overall growth. Let’s hope
that things will fall in place and this huge project will become successful in due course of time
by crossing all the hurdles.

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