A year ago, One Laptop Per Child was lambasted by India's Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee who called Nicholas Negroponte's idea of Constructionist learning through XO laptops "pedagogically suspect."
Now I suspect that a portion of that rejection was due to the MIT India backstory and India's own laptop fantasies. But not matter the reason, India has been a sore spot for OLPC. As Nicholas Negroponte says:
India has more child population than any other country and will benefit greatly from a creative society of them. India needs to take a role of world leadership in the concept of one laptop per child, even if it is ahead of its time and seemingly daunting.And yet it has a massive education problem. A problem that OLPC now hopes to solve using an alliance with Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG) to provide logistics to the OLPC's India initiative:
Currently, the first pilot of the XO laptop is supposed to be in tribal village at Khairat (near Karjat, Maharashtra). By March 2008, OLPC Foundation with the Reliance network aims to cover over 25,000 towns and 60,000 villages.Now that sounds really impressive, eh? Like OLPC India is going to be a massive educational movement. A One Laptop Per Indian Child on the magnitude of millions that Negroponte has always dreamed of. Well, take a closer look at that dream, like Brian Bergstein has:
Sumit Chowdhury, CIO, RCOM, stated, “We will facilitate this system by getting all the players together like Government agencies, NGOs, content developers, translators, teaching community and project managers to create successful ecosystems.
We plan to approach state governments who have an education agenda and see if any public-private partnership can be worked out for the mass adoption of these laptops.”
A pilot test began recently in which 22 children in first through fourth grades in a rural, one-room school in the Indian state of Maharashtra are using the computers.Wait, OLPC India is starting with only twenty-two laptops? You mean like just one classroom of children in one rural school? In a country of 1.something Billion? I know I was hoping for OLPC to start local, small even, when I wrote about OLPC Mongolia but not 22 XO laptops small.
Carla Gomez-Monroy, the education consultant who launched the test, said One Laptop Per Child has learned that working with local partners will be crucial in India, where dozens of languages are spoken.
But I guess they have to start somewhere and 22 is greater than zero. Too bad it will only confirm Atanu Dey's Rube Goldberg thoughts about One Laptop Per Child and disappoint the hopeful OLPC India listserv.