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Primary schools get hi-tech labs in Kerala

9,941 lower primary and upper primary schools in Kerala will be equipped with hi-tech labs this month, under a project by the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE).

This project was inaugurated in July and by August already over 80% of it had been completed. KITE has made arrangements to supply the equipment to the remaining schools by September.

KITE is a government-run establishment set up to foster, promote, and implement the modernisation of educational institutions in the state.

The project is funded by the Kerala Infrastructure and Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), the apex body for monitoring all government-run projects.

This initiative is a continuation of the Hi-Tech school programme, through which 45,000 classrooms (grades 8 to 12) were made hi-tech, under the Public Education Rejuvenation Mission of the State government.

55,086 laptops and USB speakers along with 23,170 multimedia projectors plan to be deployed at the primary schools in the first phase. By August-end, KITE had distributed 37,842 laptops, 32,225 USB speakers, and 13,513 projectors.

The equipment provided as part of the project carries a five-year comprehensive onsite warranty and insurance coverage.

KITE has also set-up a call centre and web portal for complaint management. The suppliers are liable to pay a penalty if the issues reported from schools are not resolved within the stipulated time frame.

KITE is the first SPV (special purpose vehicle) of the state’s Education Department. An infrastructure division has also been set-up under KITE for upgrading the infrastructural facilities in schools.

The spectrum of KITE includes ICT, capacity building, content development, connectivity, e-learning, satellite-based education, support and maintenance mechanism, e-governance or other related activities.

According to KITE, the scope of the general education sector has been extended further with KITE being positioned to fuel ICT support to the higher education sector.

The government launched the IT@School Project in 2001 under the General Education Department, to inculcate IT activities in higher school sections in the state.

The first breakthrough of IT@School came in 2005 when IT was introduced as a subject into the grade 10 curriculum.

By effectively making use of the centrally sponsored ‘ICT at School’ scheme, IT@School provided ICT infrastructure to 4,071 schools during 2007-2012.

In 2016, IT@School re-initiated the IT intervention in lower primary and upper primary sections, by launching exclusive ICT Textbooks. As many as 150,000 teachers from grades 1 to 12 have been trained, enabling them to transact their subjects more effectively using digital tools.

Under IT@School, the ‘Hi School Kuttikootam’ programme was launched. Over 100,000 students received specialised trainings in five different areas such as animation, cyber safety, hardware, electronics, and Malayalam computing.

In this year’s interim budget (2019-20), the government allocated IN ₹93,848 crores (approximately US $13.15 billion) to the education sector, which is 3.3 percent of the total budget expenditure.

Although there is no clear budgetary allocation plan, a part of the finance will go toward implementing AI courses in schools. The Minister of Corporate Affairs said that the government plans for a National Programme on Artificial Intelligence, which will be catalysed by the establishment of the National Centre on Artificial Intelligence as a hub, along with other centres of excellence (CoE).

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