A Study on the Permeation and Scope of ICT Intervention
at the Indian Rural Primary School Level
Shrabastee Banerjee
, Kalyan Sankar Mandal
and Priyadarshini Dey
Department of Economics, The University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, U.K.
Centre for Contemporary India Studies, Lund University, Paradisgatan 2, 221 00, Lund, Sweden
Social Informatics Research Group, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Joka, Calcutta, 700104, India
Keywords: ICTs in Education, Tribal Communities, Remote Teaching, e-Learning.
Abstract: The provision of education for all in India remains a distant dream, despite substantial amounts of
government and state investment going into it. The objective of this study is to highlight an alternative
learning model that makes use of the e-revolution that has proliferated into every aspect of our lives.
Although there have been attempts to incorporate ICT into rural classrooms, most of the focus has been on
video-based digitized learning and has not efficiently addressed the best ways in which learning can be
achieved. Our aim is thus to design a model that not only makes e-learning effective, but replaces the under-
qualified teachers in remote areas and allows for the free permeation of education in ways that might bridge
the digital divide amongst students of various socio economic backgrounds. In this context our intervention
focuses on a class of 16 students, 10 to 11 years of age (class 5) at Ma Sarada Shishu Tirtha, a school for
tribal girls, located in Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India. The intervention involved a remote teacher
delivering Math and English lessons in a class-room setting, (via the video conferencing software Skype,
and PowerPoint Presentations) while also making the session interactive.
Elementary education of underprivileged rural
children residing in remote regions is the primary
focus of the study, since only a robust elementary
education system can solve chronic problems of low
literacy and educational deprivation. Even though
global demand tends to be focused on higher
education and technical skills, there are backward
linkages with elementary education in several ways.
On the one hand, achieving universal elementary
education is expected to raise productivity and
incomes and strengthen the domestic market, seen as
a condition for continued economic growth. On the
other hand, the growing concern with basic
education is seen as limited in the current economic
scenario as it does not adequately consider the
education and skill requirements needed to enhance
productivity and incomes in a changing economy.
Development theory in recent years has taken
note of the importance of education as an index of
development of a nation, and with its myriad
positive effects on the functioning of a society, the
outreach of education to every stratum of society is a
subject of great concern. The connection between
universalisation of elementary education and human
development is one of the most widely
acknowledged issues in public discourse across the
globe. Elementary education thus plays a pivotal
role in reducing social inequalities by expanding
human capabilities. (Sen, 1989)
Four features that have characterized India since
Independence continue to characterize India’s
elementary education system: incomplete enrolment,
inequalities, poor quality, and ineffective school
performance. Further, despite aggregate
improvements in education levels, glaring
inequalities in basic education continue to persist.
Disparities between regions (states) and across
gender, caste, class, religious groups; and other
marginalized sections of society continue to present
the biggest challenge for policy makers and
educationists (Dreze and Sen, 2002). For instance,
about 53 % boys complete primary education
compared to 34% girls. Recent interventions have
helped in bridging the gender gap but the drop-out
rate among girls, especially in primary classes, is
still a cause for grave concern. This is reflected, for
Banerjee S., Sankar Mandal K. and Dey P..
A Study on the Permeation and Scope of ICT Intervention at the Indian Rural Primary School Level.
DOI: 10.5220/0004763303630370
In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU-2014), pages 363-370
ISBN: 978-989-758-021-5
2014 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
instance, in the differential in the median years of
schooling which is 5.5 years for boys compared to
1.8 years for girls.
Marginalized groups such as the scheduled castes
(SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) (two groups of
historically-disadvantaged people recognised in
Constitution of India) as well as religious
minorities continue to fall out of the loop of
schooling. In addition, there are striking gender
differentials in school attendance among children 6–
14 years belonging to SC, ST, and rest of India. The
gender differential is most pronounced among the
ST communities—a gap of almost 12 percentage
points (Kumar and Rustagi, 2010).
School performance is often marked by
absenteeism, inadequately trained teachers with
indifferent attitudes, non-availability of teaching
materials, inadequate supervision, and little support.
Many poor families, having lost faith in government
schools, are forced to send their children to private
schools even when they have access to ‘free’ public
schools. Several cases of discrimination are reported
– against girls, against children belonging to socially
disadvantaged and minority communities, and
against the poor. Corporal punishment is common
and many children are afraid of going to school for
fear of being beaten, if not publicly ridiculed or
rebuked by teachers and other students. (Kumar and
Rustagi, 2010)
Although the proportion of GNP allocated to
education (revenue and capital accounts together)
has grown from a very low level of 0.67 % in 1951-
52 to reach the all-time high of 4.4 % in 2001, mass
illiteracy continues to flourish. Education is by far
the largest capitalized space in India with $30bn of
government expenditure (3.7% of GDP; at global
average), and a large network of around one million
schools and 18,000 higher education institutes. Yet,
the public education system is ‘insufficient’ and
‘inefficient’. A break-up of government expenditure
shows that only a miniscule 0.82% component goes
towards capital expenditure. A whopping 80% of the
revenue expenditure on teachers’ salaries leaves
little to be spent on infrastructure creation, which
eventually translates into ‘ineffective’ infrastructure/
quality of education. (Vora and Dewan, 2009). It
indicates that a higher allocation of funds on
education is not the only criterion to solve our
literacy problems.
Although, various schemes and programmes
have been started by the State Governments and the
Ministry of Tribal Affairs to promote universal
primary education among tribals such as- scheme for
establishment of Ashram schools in tribal sub-plan
areas, scheme for establishment of boys hostels for
the Scheduled Tribes, scheme for construction of
girls hostels for the Scheduled Tribes, and scheme
for development of Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG),
but in reality very few of them have percolated down
to the tribal and benefited them. Many of the
programmes did not benefit the tribal community
because the programmes were not contextualized
and localized considering regional, geographical and
physical differences and barriers. (Kumar, 2008)
ICTs are a potentially powerful tool for
extending educational opportunities, both formal and
non-formal, to previously underserved
constituencies—scattered and rural populations,
groups traditionally excluded from education due to
cultural or social reasons such as ethnic minorities,
girls and women, persons with disabilities, etc.(Roy,
ICT based distance education in India has
primarily been confined to university-level
education and is often considered being sub-par
when compared to traditional courses. The long-term
purpose of the present study is to develop a
sustainable model of distance-learning that is cost-
effective, and leads to a more fulfilling learning
experience for the children.
The objective of this study is to highlight the
importance of working with constrained resources,
and proposes an alternative learning model that
makes use of the e-revolution that has proliferated
into every aspect of our lives. The study examines
whether it can be utilised to overcome infrastructural
bottlenecks in the provision of quality education in
inaccessible rural areas, and thus bring about a
concomitant increase in the population’s educational
levels. The internet-based social media revolution of
the present age has the possibility of transforming
education and knowledge as one knows it. By
exploiting this, it may be possible, via a model that
combines the correct elements of distance learning,
to bring forth a knowledge revolution and spread
education to the remotest corners of the country. Our
aim is thus to design a model that not only makes e-
learning effective, but replaces the under-qualified
teachers in remote areas and allows for the free
permeation of education in ways that might bridge
the digital divide amongst students of various socio
economic backgrounds.
2.1 Computer-Assisted Learning
The wide use of Internet has affected the methods of
education, giving us the concept of global classroom
where any number of students can interact with each
other at any time. ICT is currently widespread in
schools and colleges of developed countries (DG
Communications Networks Report, 2013). In the
developing countries, it is being primarily used to
support education in the form of “E-Learning”
applications. There is still some amount of
scepticism among the schools in adopting ICT
because it is still a relatively new feature and its
impact on student achievement is not known. Also
such technological solutions are thought to be not
very cost effective (Rajesh, 2003).
Although there are several studies that indicate
how ICT can benefit various stakeholders, what is
certain is that ICT is not the ultimate solution rather
an aid to achieve the maximum that can be derived
out of educational experiences at school. While the
debate on the impact of ICT on learning outcomes
still goes on, there seems to be a consensus that ICTs
in education can increase access to information
inside a classroom as well as increase motivation
and efficiency throughout the system. (Haddad and
Jurich, 2002) (InfoDev Report, 2010)
Government of India, as part of its 11th Five
Year Plan, continues to support federally sponsored
scheme, known as “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, (SSA)”
with the objectives of providing school education to
every child between the age of 6 and 14 years and
improving the quality of school education in the
country. Under this policy GOI aims at fostering
ICT based Education in India. Under the Sarva
Shiksha Abhiyan, several Computer Aided Learning
(CAL) programmes have been created by
developing multimedia content
The objectives of CAL are as follows:
1. To facilitate effective delivery of curriculum
2. To act as an effective supplement for teachers to
improve learning levels in the school since it
facilitates practical and experimental learning.
3. To serve as a means to attract children to schools
with the multimedia i.e. audio-visual form of
learning on various subjects of classroom
teaching and thus hold their attention, hence
tackling the challenge of dropouts and
achievement of enrolment.
SSA has introduced many CAL projects across
states in India. 27,289 schools with about 5.3 million
students were beneficiaries of this program.
two major ICT related projects in schools are
Multimedia in K-12 (for affluent private schools)
and ICT in public schools. The leading players are
Educomp Solutions, Everonn and NIIT. Educomp
which is the pioneer in this field has a product called
“Smart Class”. Smart class is a product offered
under Multimedia in K-12. The objectives of this are
as follows:
1. To use multimedia modules to effectively teach
students across Kindergarten to 12
2. Content delivery through multimedia i.e. digital
content and LCD TVs/Projector assisted
whiteboards. It has been universally accepted that
this content delivery scheme improves teaching
and learning experience.
However, the focus of these efforts was more
towards computer-aided learning than Distance e-
Learning . Distance E-Learning is the combination
of Distance Education and e-Learning which is
characterized by the extensive use of Internet
enabled web technology in the delivery of education
and instruction and the use of synchronous and
asynchronous online communication in an
interactive learning environment or virtual
communities, in lieu of a physical classroom, to
bridge the gap in temporal or spatial constraints
(Garrison, 2011). A recent development in distance
e-learning is Massive open online
courses (MOOCs), aimed at large-scale interactive
participation and open access via the web or other
network technologies.
But, MOOC is usually non-interactive, i.e. the
students will be viewing the recorded videos by the
instructors, followed by off-line question-answering.
Our focus in this study is to use Distance e-Learning
in a synchronous mode, which implies real-time
interaction with fixed-time-fixed-place virtual
classroom over the Internet for primary students.
The McKinsey report (Madgavkar et al, 2012)
states that there will be 330 million Indian users of
the internet in 2015, thus making it the second
largest connected population in the world. Rural
access to education can be vastly improved by
means of exploiting this revolution, and creating a
networked virtual classroom system.
2.2 ICT Interventions in Rural
Some efforts in the sphere of remote learning
already undertaken in rural India are summarised as
Hole-in-the-Wall (HitW): Hole-in-the-Wall is a
‘Shared Blackboard’ which children in
underprivileged communities can collectively own
and access,” to express them, to learn, and to explore
together.” In an experiment conducted first in 1999,
a computer was placed in a kiosk created within a
wall in a slum, and children were allowed to use it
freely. The experiment aimed at proving that
children could be taught by computers very easily
without any formal training. Sugata Mitra, the
inventor, termed this as Minimally Invasive
Education (MIE). The experiment has since been
repeated in many places, HIW has more than 23
kiosks in rural India. This work demonstrated that
groups of children, irrespectively of who or where
they are, can learn to use computers and the Internet
on their own with public computers in open spaces
such as roads and playgrounds, even without
knowing English.
Pratham’s Computer Aided Learning: This is a
school based program which caters to school going
children from 6-18 age groups with about 40%
children in secondary school age. The objective of
this program is: 1) To impact children’s basic
learning levels using IT and 2) to give them relevant
IT knowledge and skills. Through its school based
computer labs, this program reaches out to close to
90,000 children across 7 states. This program also
tries to improve schools performance by
encouraging them to adopt various IT solutions like
MIS, Database etc and to get teachers to adopt
technology through teacher training. The curriculum
includes software developed by Pratham in local
languages that helps build the reading and math
skills of the children.
Some other interventions have been observed in
the sphere of remote teaching and learning, though
the focus of the following is not rural:
1. Board of Open Learning School: This was
intended to be a medium for making distance
learning easy for students who are unable to
attend regular classes.
2. iPerform: It is a web-based e-learning platform
that works as an extension of the classroom and
provides a personalised self-learning
environment for students. It has been designed to
meet differential learning styles, engaging
students in activities like homework, revision
and even help in preparation of exams.
However, all these methods are mostly focusing on
asynchronous learning based on preloaded course
material and scope for real-time interaction are
absent. As discussed, our focus is synchronous, i.e.
virtual classroom over internet, where teacher should
be present at remote location during teaching..
2.3 Critical Evaluation of ICT
A variety of constraints (Rajesh, 2003) dodge
India’s efforts to deploy technology in education:
1. Policy and Government commitment are existent
but all is lost on the road to implementation.
Educational projects, set up by conventional
governments as part of a broad educational
agenda, tend to reflect the conventionalism of
existing institutions with their hierarchical and
bureaucratic systems of administration when the
need is for creative and innovative management.
2. Access and availability of technology is another
issue as various implementing agencies that need
to cooperate are not coordinating enough. Lack
of stable electric power, non-existent or
unreliable telecommunication lines and a
mismatch between funding allocation and actual
needs all add to the problems.
3. Sustainability is also a major obstacle, with many
initiatives failing because Governments have not
anticipated the cost of maintenance and
upgrading of technology and services.
4. Geographic, Demographic and Climatic factors
affect the access, reach and implementation of
5. Ethnic and Cultural factors have an influence on
the teaching or pedagogical methods. Language
barriers are major obstacles as well.
Most importantly, however, the proper means for
implementing an ICT-backed educational model has
not been developed, with undue attention being paid
simply on the process of setting up ICT labs. Our
study tries to approach this issue in a manner that
can solve these basic problems to bring about the
complete benefits of an ICT intervention.
The long-term purpose of the study would be to
develop a sustainable model of distance-learning
that is cost-effective, and leads to a more fulfilling
learning experience for the children. The study
focuses on a class of 16 students of class V and 28
students of Class I of Ma Sarada Shishu Tirtha,
hailing from the tribal community in Krishnanagar,
India. The undertaken intervention involved a
remote teacher delivering Math and English lessons,
(via the video conferencing software Skype, and
PowerPoint Presentations shown during the video
conference) while also making the session
interactive and addressing individuals students
directly by name, which brought the additional
dimension of familiarity and added to the success of
the intervention. The survey finds sufficient
evidence to suggest that ICT intervention can
significantly enhance and improve their academic
attainment and leads to a more fulfilling learning
experience for the children. Further, the present
model is not one of distance learning in the
conventional sense, in that it combines elements of
traditional classroom teaching in a virtual form,
enhancing it with tools as and when required. The
main aim is to design a model that not only makes e-
learning effective, but to replace the traditional
model to save recurring expenses on local teachers
and allow for the free permeation of education in
ways that might bridge the digital divide amongst
students of various socio economic and other
geographical barriers.
For a preliminary understanding of the current
level of the children, tools developed by Pratham, an
NGO based in Mumbai, India were used. The
ASER Centre of Pratham seeks to use simple yet
rigorous methods to generate evidence on scale on
the outcomes of social sector programs. (Vagh,
2009). We have also conducted written and oral
examination to assess the effect of ITC intervention.
The before study comprised of usage of the
ASER tools, a questionnaire to assess the academic
achievement of the children. The children’s past
school results were also used to assess the baseline
standard. Upon using the ASER tools, it was
discovered that, while the children were fluent
readers in Bengali, their mathematical ability was
below average, with only 50% of the students being
able to solve Class 2 level division problems. The
questionnaire further revealed that English and Math
remained a major concern for the students.
During the intervention, Math and English
lessons were conducted for class V and English
lessons were conducted for class I remotely, via the
video conferencing software Skype, and PowerPoint
Presentations shown during the video conference.
(The intervention was preceded by a short
introduction session to make the students feel at
ease.) After the intervention, a follow-up
questionnaire was used using some exercises
covering the topics taught via ICT, to gauge their
interest, retention and possible improvement.
Figure 1: Children Being Taught Remotely (Inset: The
Remote Instructor).
3.1 Methodology
The research is Quasi-experimental in nature and has
undertaken before after studies to evaluate the
impact of the intervention. The before study
entailed the students being ranked on the basis of
their performance in class (more specifically on the
basis of school examination results). The ASER
survey questionnaire for wellbeing assessment and
educational assessment of English has been used.
Next, the students have been ranked on the basis of
their performance after the intervention in English
through ICT. The impact analysis comprises of
assessments and interactive observation with the
3.2 Evaluation
Figure 2: Relative performance of four students of Class-V
based on Results of school exam. and evaluation done
after ICT intervention
It can be seen that those who had been near the
bottom of the class benefit the most from this
intervention (fig.2). A majority of the others perform
at the same level as their class performance. Among
the five students of class V who have a normalized
score of 1 in their school exams, three (i.e. 60%)
achieve a normalized score of 3 in the evaluation
conducted post-ICT intervention. Although the
sample size is small, this is a significant finding.
Fig 3. shows the examination performance of 28
Class-I students in (i) the regular school examination
before remote teaching, and (ii) an examination
taken after a month-long remote teaching
intervention in English (20 hours total). The students
have been indexed on the basis of their rank in the
school exam. The chart shows marked
improvements in student performances. Specially,
the students who received very poor marks in school
examination (student number 24 to 28) have shown
significant improvement in their English language
skills. The classes were conducted using Google
plus and the teaching learning materials were video
based and PowerPoints. The method of teaching was
interactive and it was made sure that the children
interacted with the instructor.
Figure 3: Performance Improvement of Class-I Students
after ICT-enabled Remote English Teaching.
The intervention has generated positive results both
in nature of change in attitude towards technology
and learning outcomes. The children were aged
between 6 to 11 years and it was earlier assumed
that it would be difficult for them to cope with
remote teaching due to their lack of attention span.
However during the intervention it was observed
that the children on the contrary did not lose their
attention. The social difference that if often created
between teacher and student due to several
disparities was not observed in this context, the
children were quite aware of the instructor’s
presence online but they did not have any hesitation
in interaction. There was no fear of punishment
although the instructor observed discipline in the
class, but the children did not shy away from the
instructor. Interactive sessions created a positive
learning environment for them, leading to increased
interest in the topics taught.
It can be deduced that technological aids, along
to low/no teacher absenteeism and low social
difference has lead to creation of a better learning
environment. The teacher student ratio being
comparatively low, and the regular interactions with
the teacher also lead to faster learning of concepts.
Video based teaching created better cognitive
understanding of the topics taught. Children were
able to freely interact amongst themselves, and this
also created a positive interest in the topics taught.
Lastly the expectancy created in the children,
increased interest for both instructor and the children
in the classroom.
To summarize, one can make the following
hypotheses about this intervention and, based on the
data obtained, examine whether the nature of results
for each has been positive or negative:
1. The Children Enjoy the ICT-enabled Classes
More in Comparison with Their Usual Class:
We have received positive response from most
of the students on the basis of the questionnaire
and observations. 70% commented that they
found the pictures/videos shown to be very
engaging and interesting. This is natural, since
an audio-visual presentation is more engaging
for children and keeps children attentive longer
than a routine class.
2. An ICT-based Remote Teaching System
Serves to Bring about Higher Teacher
Acceptability: We have received positive
response from most of the students on the basis
of the questionnaire and observations. 89%
students stated that they found the remote
teacher to be highly acceptable. Further, since
there is no physical threat from a “remote”
teacher, the children feel more relaxed in
presence of the teacher. 81 % students have
stated they were mostly able to understand the
remote teaching. There were no negative
responses. Hence, acceptability is generally
high during remote class.
3. An ICT-based Remote Teaching System
Serves to Bring about an Improved
Performance in Many, in Comparison to
School Performance: Although the data set is
small, and time of intervention was short to
draw any definitive conclusion about this, fig. 2
and fig.3 nonetheless shows marked
improvements in student performances.
Specially, the students who received very poor
marks in school examination have shown
significant improvement in their English
language skills This could be because the ICT-
aided material that was taught was better
understood and retained by the children.
4. The Children Will Fear or Be Skeptical of
New Technology: We have received negative
response from most of the students on the basis
of the questionnaire and observations. Rather,
the children have shown a reasonably ready
acceptance of it, and 81% interviewed have
stated that they are open to change and would
like to be taught in a different way.
5. The Children Would Offer Some Resistance
in Opening up to Outsiders: We have received
negative response from most of the students on
this. Being a close-knit tribal community at a
remote village, with little interaction with the
outer world, it was assumed that the children
would not be open to the idea of complete
strangers instructing or interacting with them.
However, not only did the children show
incredible openness to the idea, they also
engaged very freely in all interactions and
showed extreme enthusiasm.
Teachers are expected to enrich a child’s learning
and schooling experience. But this is often not the
case in rural India. Studies have shown that teachers
frequently beat children, terrorize them, and
humiliate them publicly. Many forms of
discrimination and biases enter the classroom. A
recent survey of rural schools, for example, carried
out in West Bengal found disturbing evidence of
primary school teachers showing much less regard
for the interests of children belonging to Scheduled
Castes. Teachers tended to perceive themselves as
belonging to a different and higher class, often the
result of earning much higher incomes than most
parents. They rebuked children for not coming
properly dressed to school, for being obviously dirty,
for being stupid because they belonged to a certain
community. Children were ridiculed for their eating
habits. In some instances, they were made to sit
separately. (Kumar, Rustagi, 2010)
Better-off sections belonging to higher castes are
able to send their children to the fee-charging private
school, which they can afford, for better quality of
education. The poor belonging to lower castes, not
being able to afford private school, are destined to
send their children to inferior quality government
schools. Studies indicate that first; most of the
children enrolled in private schools are from general
caste group, whereas most of the SC and ST children
attend government schools (Aggarwal 2000; Kumar
et al 2005; Mehta 2005; PROBE 1999).
ICT is a significant step in this direction, which
eliminates barriers of regional and gender-based
discrimination by facilitating a high degree of
permeability of education. Since this was a pilot
study, the scope was limited by several constraints,
but we certainly plan on using more sophisticated
tools of e-learning for future interventions.
With regard to the survey conducted at Ma
Sarada Shishu Tirtha, one probable reason for the
ready acceptability of ICT, and the improvement in
performance, could be that, if the teachers in a face
to face teaching situation are from non-tribal
background, a 'social distance' may be created which
operates as a hindrance in learning. This is however
more applicable with respect to weak students. ICT
teaching being neutral to 'social distance' is more
helpful for disadvantaged groups. It is clear that a
long-term intervention is in order, and could prove
to be immensely beneficial if implemented in a
systematic manner.
While “digital inclusion” programs usually tend
to focus on teaching people the usage of computers
and the internet, the approach presented in this study
takes a different perspective. According to this
approach, the entire process of learning should be
oriented towards developing abilities to connect to
the global knowledge network of the cyberworld
with a specific social context and purpose in mind.
This makes it possible to improve the
underdeveloped communities by obtaining social
inclusion through digital inclusion, and creating
selfsustainable forms of social development.
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Board of Open Learning School: www.bolsd.in/Computer
Aided Learning under SSA: www.ssa.tn.nic.in/
ICT in schools: http://mhrd.gov.in/ict_school
iPerform: www.iperform.classteacher.com