The application of IT is fairly widespread by now in India in the
private sector. However, when it comes to public governance, India
has been a laggard in the utilisation of IT.
There are several reasons for this. One is the monopolistic nature
of public governance. It is the customer, in this case the "aam
aadmi", who has to like or lump whatever is offered by the public
institution. He has no alternative. A second important reason for
the slow start off the block, particularly of e-governance, is that
it enables transparency and cuts down avenues of corruption.
The common man has benefited from the e-governance measures
implemented so far. Perhaps the best example in India of how
e-governance can lead to order out of chaos and put paid to the
machinations of the ungodly is the replacement of the old ballot
system by electronic voting in elections.
Despite these advantages, e-governance has not yet made much headway
in government in India. Government spending on IT accounts for only
about 15 percent of India's $12 billion domestic IT market. Out of
30 "Mission Mode e-governance projects" totalling $6 billion in IT
spends that were drawn up by the centre back in 2006, only three
have been awarded so far.
Education as a sector has remained relatively untouched by
e-governance. This is most distressing, considering that education
is the cornerstone of our efforts to build up the future generation.
Even in the Right to Education Act there is little mention of
implementing e-governance in our education system.
As it stands today, our education system is chaotic, to say the
least. It is characterised by a high dropout rate, teacher truancy,
obsolete syllabi, inadequate infrastructure, unemployable graduates
and the lot. The tiny proportion of quality output that emerges from
it is more a case of serendipity and the determination of the
students belonging to this micro-minority. This is because the
present system lacks means of continuous monitoring, meaningful
evaluation of the teacher and the taught, constant feedback to the
players concerned (administrators, faculty, parents and students)
and appropriate timely control and correction mechanisms.
If the quantity and quality of output from our education system have
to be substantially improved, then there is no alternative to
introducing e-governance in this sphere. However, to be really
effective, the e-governance system deployed will have to go beyond
mere computerisation of records or processes. It has to be able to
provide the management of the educational institution information
about the Why of a happening or a trend besides the What, When and
Where, so that adequate prophylactic action can be taken. It should
be able to provide answers to queries like: Why is the performance
of a class dropping in a particular subject? Why is a particularly
bright student lagging in performance in the last two terms? Which
teacher has produced the best consistent results for her class?
Then again, considering the paucity of funds in our state-aided
educational institutions, an e-governance system which is
inexpensive to install, simple to use, easy to maintain and can be
conveniently expanded will be much more acceptable.
One such e-governance system for educational institutions -- the
M-Star Education Expert System -- has been piloted in scores of
schools in India. This system currently runs in a variety of schools
and colleges in the country.
M-Star has been developed by MGRM NET after a deep study of
educational systems. It is highly flexible in that it can apply to
any educational system and yet be customised to a very high degree
to fit in with all the required parameters and diverse needs of an
It takes the life cycle approach and works all the way up the
education chain -- from kindergarten right up to the university
level -- for all kinds of curriculum and structures. The system
bridges the gap between different stakeholders in a school, such as
students, parents, teachers, principal and education administrators.
For administrators like school boards and education directorates,
which have to keep tabs on the functioning of many schools, M-Star
offers immense value to monitor academic performance of individual
schools as well as impact of schemes like mid-day meal or Sarva
Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All Campaign).
The application runs on proprietary OmVcard or an Online
Multi-domain Value Card, costing just a few hundred rupees. Every
child and staff member are given the OmVcard which they can insert
into any computer where the application is loaded.
Incidentally, the card can be used to check the oft-quoted issue of
teacher truancy. Teacher performance in a 'single teacher' school
can be monitored by his supervisor remotely, not merely by looking
at his or her attendance records, but by gauging the effectiveness
of teaching as borne out by the academic performance of the pupils.
Ultimately, if the Education Expert System gets linked to other
national e-governance systems, such as the national ID project
headed by Nandan Nilekani, then the possibilities are endless. It
could analyse the reasons of dropping out from the system and the
teachers become more accountable. The Right to Education could thus
become a reality through technology.