Enhancing Internet Connectivity In Schools In The 12th Plan
In the 12th Plan, the Education ministry aims for the 'ICTisation' of the curriculum in schools.
By Yangchen C Rinzin | Kuensel
To equip schools with better computer labs and ICT facilities, the education ministry has prioritised enhancing internet connectivity in schools in the 12th Plan.
The ministry is already discussing with the department of information technology and telecom to increase the megabits per second (Mbps) to at least 3Mbps in all primary schools and to a maximum of 15Mbps in secondary schools.
Going textbook-less and its challenges
The school education’s deputy ICT programme officer, Yeshey Lhendup said that in the 12th Plan, the ministry aims for the 'ICTisation' of the curriculum.
Going textbook-less in the teaching of World History was one of the plans. However, he said that in order to achieve these goals, good internet connectivity is essential.
“But the existing 1 Mbps or below internet speed provided to schools wouldn’t be enough nor effective to carry out the class,” he said, adding that the current speed is also not enough to carry out daily administrative works.
Source: Project Kadinchey/ Chris Tan
Today, 42 higher secondary schools, 76 middle secondary schools and 62 lower secondary schools are connected with 1 Mbps while 60 primary schools (except Laya school) are connected with the Internet through lease lines. Some schools are provided with data cards or broadband internet.
According to the annual education statistics of 2017, about 92 percent of the private schools and 46 percent of public schools are connected with the internet.
Whereas, roughly 95 percent of the public higher secondary schools have access to the internet while only 44 percent of the public primary schools have access to the internet.
Yeshey Lhendup said that there are financial challenges with the dzongkhag or schools paying about Nu 10,000 a month for one Mbps. The ministry spends almost Nu 29 million a year on providing internet connection for schools.
“Spending Nu 29M was too much and even after the cost was revised to Nu 8,000, it still cost the ministry about Nu 23 million,” he said.
“Other external challenges are geographical for both wireless and wire internet connectivity.”
Some solutions proposed to address the challenges faced
Yeshey Lhendup added that currently some schools are provided with an internet budget separately while some are not. However, in the 12th Plan the ministry plans to centralise the budget.
“We’re also planning to connect all the schools’ internet to the government Intranet, which means that any link ending with dot bt would be made free for all schools,” he said.
“If this works out, teachers would be able to connect to different education networks and be able to collect all the resources for references.”
He said that the success of the plan would entirely depend on the internet providers and their services because the proposed Mbps should be able to support internet facilities in schools.
However, the ministry is yet to submit the details of each school’s location to the DITT to work on providing the enhanced internet services.
The 12th Plan would also look into decentralising the supply of computers to the schools to enhance ICT education. The dzongkhag administration can purchase and supply computers based on the need of the schools.
“This was there in the 11th Plan but we couldn’t achieve it because of a lack of budget,” Yeshey Lhendup said.
More details about the 12th Plan
“This time we’re taking it to the 12th Plan and the local government would ensure that all schools get computers.”
The computer ratio target is 1:10 for secondary schools, which means one computer for 10 students, and 1:30 for primary schools.
About 183 public schools and 27 private schools have computers according to the education statistics 2017. 34 of the 296 public primary schools are equipped with computers.
The report also stated that this was because most of these schools are located in remote places, and some do not have access to electricity.
As of 2017, the average computers per student for schools are estimated to be one computer per 22 students.
For public schools, middle secondary schools have the lowest student computer ratio - one computer for every 22 students.
As for the primary schools, they have the highest student computer ratio with one computer for every 39 students.
Currently, only eight percent of the primary schools have a student computer ratio of less than or equal to 1:30 while 11.8 percent of the secondary schools have a student computer ratio of less than or equal to 1:10.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.