The value of a decent education
Posted Jul 27, 2006 3:21 UTC (Thu) by xoddam
In reply to: India rejects One Laptop Per Child (Register)
Parent article: India rejects One Laptop Per Child (Register)
Of course good teachers come first, and good teacher education. As long
as education has to be cheap, then no good education is affordable.
The budget of the average village school doesn't extend to this kind of
technology -- yet. But if the Rs5000 price tag -- once per student or
teacher, for her whole school career -- isn't affordable, then that
student's education as a whole is already seriously underfunded.
Education budgets *will* increase, if only because of India's rapid
But with textbooks retailing at Rs1500 per year per student, the OLPC
*already* looks like an attractive alternative. It brings the price of a
child's laptop down by an order of magnitude. It will be as affordable
to many Indian schools (ok, not the ones that pay a teacher Rs1000/month
to teach 50 kids, but *many* schools) in 2008 as Apple laptops were to
Maine schools in 2000. If it was a good idea for them, why isn't it a
good idea for India?
> What is essentially needed is teacher, a blackboard,
> chalk pieces and good books.
The laptop is supposed to supplant the textbooks, not the rest of the
recipe. It is expected to have a working life of many years and its
(wholesale) cost is not more than the (retail) price of four years' worth
of mandatory primary school textbooks for one public school pupil.
For all I know the school's retail markup on the textbook price goes
towards the teacher's wage; so let's generously allow that the real cost
to the school of the textbooks is half the price the pupil pays. But
doesn't the Indian publisher of those books make a hefty profit on even
that wholesale price?
You're right that the money will be going to a manufacturer in Taiwan and
not to Indian publishers -- but the profit margin on OLPC hardware is
so low that it is rather disingenuous of you to say that it does 'nothing
other than fatten the pockets of private companies'. What it does do is
drive technology innovation -- the companies are in it for the spin-offs
much more than for direct profit -- and it has the potential to foster
development of unprecedented information networks amongst populations who
have never had them before.
Skepticism is healthy, but providing teachers and children with personal,
portable networked computers might not be quite as 'pedagogically
suspect' as you may think:
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