The OLPC Model and Nepal's Schools


Yesterday, I had an opportunity to read an Academic Commentary by our Education Director at OLE Nepal, Dr. Saurav Dev Bhatta titled "Tackling the Problems of Quality and Disparity in Nepal's School - Education: The OLPC Model." While I had developed a relative comprehension of the OLE Nepal's work on OLPC, Dr. Bhatta's article truly captured the project, providing the necessary context for it to make sense. The article is quite comprehensive, and while I highly recommend you read it in entirety, I will summarize a few key points below.

Four crucial changes taking place globally and nationally make this the right time for Nepal to leap into the world of ICT-based education. The first is the increasing integration of national economies in a global economy that is "high speed, knowledge driven, and competitive..." The second is the progressive increase in quality and rapid decline in price of computers and other ICT hardware...The third is the declining cost and continuing expansion of the internet, which is making it increasingly feasible for people in poorer countries to have access to up-to-date information from all over the world. And the fourth is the continuing expansion of a global community dedicated to contributing open-source software and open content digital materials for public use.
pg. 4

Dr. Saurav Dev Bhatta
Effective use of ICT in education means, among other things, creating adequate digital content for schooling purposes and integrating it in the regular teaching learning process.
pg. 9

It needs to be emphasized that one key difference between traditional approaches to educational quality enhancement and the ICT-based approach is that the latter puts special emphasis on the student-level processes...Thus a notable virtue of using the ICT-based teaching-learning approach is that it prepares individuals to "fish on their own" rather than simply "teach them to eat the fish someone else has caught for them."
pg. 9

If we want to make a significant impact on the education sector using the OLPC model, the distribution of laptops to children must be accompanied by careful planning and implementation in four key areas: (i) development of digital educational content, (ii) training of teachers to integrate ICT-based educational materials in the teaching-learning process, (iii) design and installation of supporting network and power infrastructure, and (iv) development of the government's capacity in the above three areas.
pg. 13

It is important to point out that project evaluation should be an integral component of both the test phase and pilot phase and should be done periodically during the lifetime of the entire project.
pg. 18

This commentary has attempted to dispel some of the main misconceptions about the OLPC concept and discussed how the OLPC model can be systematically and effectively implemented in Nepal. It has been suggested that Nepal is already ahead of most other countries in developing and testing a viable approach for implementing the OLPC concept. And that the test so far has yielded encouraging results.

It is not yet clear whether the OLPC project will yield enough benefits to justify the expected increase in education expenditure associated with the project. This issue can only be resolved through a careful evaluation of a comprehensive OLPC pilot project.
pg. 25

I cannot emphasize enough how critical I think the message of Dr. Bhatta's commentary is. There were many numbers and models presented which clearly demonstrate that while Nepal has come a long way, it still has further to go. Furthermore, I have long believed in Education as one of the primary solutions to problems faced by developing countries. My belief in education developed first through my upbringing. I am the fortunate recipient of an upbringing by two highly educated individuals that place great emphasis on education (my mother completed post-graduate work in education and my father who completed everything but his dissertation for a PhD in Rhetoric is a college professor).

This value in education was re-enforced by my high-school Anatomy and Physiology teacher Mr. Winstead who told us before every test "Today you will be taking two tests. The first is on this course. The second, and more important, is a test of honesty. While I care about your comprehension of the course material, I care far greater that you are honest and that you internalize that education is not about specifics, but about learning how to learn. Good luck!" Twelve years later, I have not forgotten, nor will I ever forget this lesson. It is quite apparent that at some point Dr. Bhatta learned this same lesson. It was his emphasis on "preparing individuals to 'fish on their own'" that spoke to me most.

I am a somewhat confused individual, confused meaning that I haven't quite figured out what to do with my life. I do, however, love education, and it is quite possible that this summer with OLE Nepal could have a greater impact on my life than I could ever have predicted. The main reason being that Education is so important - more specifically that the OLPC model opens up this global problem to monumental possibilities.

I hope you can find the time to read this outstanding assessment of the OLPC model, and it's specific applicability in Nepal. You can find the article here.

Doug Mayeux is a student at the University of Texas and interning for the summer at OLE Nepal in Kathmandu.

Full Disclosure: One of the co-editors of this site, Bryan Berry, is his boss.

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Dr. Bhatta's thoughts resonate with the reality of education in many places besides Nepal. I guess I could simply do a find-replace and have the document be valid for more than one country I've been in.

BTW, UT? too bad I didn't find out about you before your trip, I'm located in Austin

> I could simply do a find-replace and have the document be valid for more than one country I've been in.

Just writing my diploma about Ethiopian's OLPC project at this moment and had the same thought - would make my life much easier :-)

Gregor, take a look at the Academic Papers page in the l.o wiki, and please, please, add, fix, improve. I'm sure you have great material you could add there, and by all means your diploma paper when it's approved.

Thanks for sharing the Dr. Bhatta's article. I enjoyed reading it.