Mumbai: "We moved from blackboards to interactive boards and from there to laptops and now, it is the iPad2." (Vandana Lulla, Director, Podar International School)
The government may be patting itself on the back for creating the world's cheapest, Android-based tablet Aakash at not more than Rs 3,000, but the homegrown gizmo is clearly not the Apple of this posh city school's eye.
The middle and high school education at Podar International School in Santacruz seems ready to integrate Steve Jobs' legacy in daily learning. In a recent circular dated December 9, the school management informed parents that it has decided to introduce iPad2 in classrooms from the next academic year. While some parents welcomed the move, others feel the fancy tablet is not feasible for children.
Podar International School wants VI to XII students to buy iPad. Parents feel the Rs 40,000 expense is unnecessary.
The second edition of the iPad, which costs Rs 40,000, is being introduced for the 840 students of Std VI to XII. But, says director and principal of the school Vandana Lulla, the tablet is not mandatory. The school's circular, however, mentions no alternative for parents who are not entirely sold on the idea, activists point out (see box).
The circular states, "We are pleased to announce that the decision taken by the school management of using Apple iPad2 in the classroom by the students has been welcomed by the parent community. Parents now have the choice of either purchasing the iPad2 from the school on an outright basis or avail of a finance scheme on offer. You also need to indicate if the iPad2 will be purchased by you on your own. You are requested to mark your choice... to take further steps to initiate the process and negotiate the bulk order purchase."
But officials said that wards of parents who do not wish to buy it would have the option of learning on interactive boards, that will continue to be used after the iPads are introduced. Those in favour of the idea can buy it on an EMI of Rs 1,400 or on their own.
Some parents have their reservations about the concept. K Mahesh (name changed), a parent of a pupil at Podar school, said, "I was a student once and I know what education is. If you change the syllabus, that is digestible. But if you change the system with some weird logic, it is problematic. I want my kid to follow the existing method of education that millions in this country are following, and setting a benchmark for others. I am not against the use of iPad. But I do no find it feasible for my kid."
Another parent, Sushma Shah (name changed), said, "I use an iPad and I know how difficult it is to handle."
Others argue the opposite. Tannu Kewalramani, PTA chairperson, Podar International School, said, "In a meeting last month, we were given a glimpse of how the iPad2 works and student reviews on it were mostly favourable. Introducing it is a good concept and a majority of parents are ready for it.
"When we use modern technology for even household chores, why not use it in education? As it is, students are more familiar with gadgets than we are."
Lulla said, "After observing how gadget-savvy students have become and how they are familiar with iPads, I took the initiative to introduce the iPad2. It will help students to retain the content. They can download as many textbooks as they want. Further, a research by a laptop manufacturing company concluded that more use of technology has improved the performance of students in subjects like Biology, Chemistry, History, and Earth Science."
But why the iPad? "Because of two reasons. One, we have a parent working for Apple and, two, the iPad2 has the best applications," Lulla said. "We moved from blackboards to interactive boards and from there to laptops and now, it is the iPad2."
She continued, "The games application will be blocked in school when a child enters with the iPad2. After we took the decision to bring in the iPad2 earlier this year, we provided training to all our teachers, including me."
Acknowledging that a few are not in favour, Lulla said, "There are only 5-10 per cent of parents who do not want the iPad2. It is not mandatory and children of parents who do not buy it can learn from interactive boards."
Jayant Jain, president of Forum For Fairness in Education and All India Federation of Parent Teacher Association, said, "If the school is so keen to bring in technology, parents should be given a choice to buy any company's tablet. But nowhere did the circular mention this. Nor did it say that parents who do not wish to buy their child an iPad2 could learn from interactive boards. This implies that it is mandatory for all. Also, the parent will have to bear the cost if the child drops and damages the expensive gadget. They are in a learning process, so why can't they be given cheaper tablets which can be updated by the school."
On an average, there are 30 students in one class in Podar and each class has four divisions. As such, there are approximately 840 students in the school from grade VI to XII.