India's rejection of the OLPC $100 laptop

India’s Ministry of Education has said that India will not take part in the $100 laptop project [The Register]. Quoting the news article:

Education dismissed the laptop as “pedagogically suspect”. Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee said: “We cannot visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyone the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools.”

The Playground, as well as many Internet commentators, think this is “fair reasoning.” I don’t see how–who ever said the laptop would replace teachers or classrooms? How exactly would they do that–is this supposed to make any sense?

Yes, the $100 laptop is a “fancy tool.” It is a fancy tool to facilitate a new age of electronic learning. Funds used to purchase these laptops should not be taken away from providing facilities and teachers, but instead on school supplies such as paper, pencils, and textbooks which themselves are generally expensive.

While India and much of the developing world may need more teachers and classrooms, yes, it’s a completely different problem that the $100 laptop isn’t meant to address. I’m waiting to see if there is valid criticism from India’s government in the future.


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Hsien Lei's picture

I have no idea what the situation is like over in India with their education budget (but I suspect it falls short of their military one :P ). I think the best solution would be for some of the elite rich or businesses in India to pitch in and buy the laptops for the children of India and for the government to take care of the basics. Or even one of those programs where people could buy one laptop for a child in need. I don’t think computers are fancy tools for people in developed countries but they sure are for others who don’t even get enough to eat or a clean place to sleep.

Thanks for the link to Play Library and the intelligent conversation! :)

Samat's picture

I’m not sure whether the elite rich and businesses would foot the bill; if India’s rich are anything like those in the United States, they tend to not help the poor unless they are involved in something like a disaster.

The point I don’t think I made clear in my original blog post with the $100 laptop being a tool: the monies spent on classrooms and teachers are not the same as those spent on supplies. If more money was spent on classrooms and teachers, would they not buy textbooks for that year?

There are a lot of people who don’t have something to eat and a place to sleep, but there are even more who do. The lower middle-class is huge, often-forgotten part of society, who just don’t have the money to purchase a normal PC. And if they did, what would they do with it?

A thing that a lot of press ignores about the OLPC $100 laptop is that it’s not just hardware, it’s content and software as well, a complete electronic learning platform–this is not stuff you’d get without spending thousands of dollars or a huge amount of time if you just went down to your local compuer store. The OLPC $100 laptop could be considered more a “gadget,” it’s designed to perform a specific task and run specific software very well. It’s not meant to be used the same way as conventional laptops in industrialized countries use them, which is probably why industrialized countries at this point are not a target for the device.