All Plus-Two students of government schools and aided schools will soon have laptops, thanks to an initiative taken by the State government.
Hailing the scheme as a progressive move towards equipping the student community, experts say that it will have to be complemented by a sound curriculum that enables early exposure and understanding of computers.
In State Board at present, only students who opt for the computer science stream in class XI have a structured syllabus for the subject.
Last academic year, there was an attempt to introduce computer science in class VI and it was to be extended up to class X this year.
However, schools are yet to hear about textbooks or a syllabus for the same.
Access to computers is a crucial issue. Computer laboratories are available in government high and higher secondary schools.
However, only select primary and middle schools, with the support of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) wing, have computers.
Some IT companies partner schools in setting up a computer laboratory with educational CDs, but the number of such schools is small.
On the other hand, most schools following the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or the Matriculation stream introduce computers either as a subject or in practical sessions, right from class I.
K.V. Krishna Kumar, head of the Computer Science Department, P.S. Senior Secondary School, says it is important to orient children to computers when they are young.
The National Curriculum Framework 2005 recommends early exposure to computer education. Schools affiliated to the CBSE have the freedom of designing their own curriculum based on the recommendations.
“In our school we have evolved a curriculum for students from class I. It is entirely hands-on. Children visit the computer lab once a week, and play simple games on the system that ensure they learn how to use the mouse and keyboard.”
Gradually, they get to use specific tools and design greeting cards or work on simple animation. In middle school, they are exposed to word, spread sheet and presentation tools, in addition to lessons in Logo and Basic. Students in classes IX to XII learn C, C++ or Java.
“By the time a student is in class III, she operates a system quite comfortably,” he says.
Teachers like him feel an early exposure to computers through a structured curriculum and relevant teacher training will make the free laptop scheme more meaningful.
However, there are others who think early exposure need not be through a textbook or lesson-driven.
Ramchandar Krishnamurthy, who has been training government school students in using computers, says a rigid curriculum is not necessary. “In fact, children learn to use a system in no time. Do we ever teach them how to use a mobile phone?
They are very quick to figure it out as a tool or a gadget. It might be useful to orient them to use it for specific tasks such as writing an assignment,” he says.
School teachers observe that though children learn to use systems fast, only a structured curriculum will ensure repeated access to a computer and allow them to explore its features.
N. V. Gowri Shankar, computer science teacher at the Chennai Girls Higher Secondary School, Nungambakkam, says: “It is a wonderful initiative that will empower students. If we have a curriculum from the lower classes, students can maximise the uses of a laptop by the time they come to class XI.”
At present children opting for the computer science stream in Plus-Two learn C and C++, but those in other streams may not be confident of operating a system.