Kindle to Replace Text Books: Is Karnataka’s Proposal Feasible?
The proposal comes after the government faced severe criticism on the weight children have to carry to school.
The Karnataka government was considering replacing text books with the Kindle. Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Tanveer Sait, after inspecting colleges in the state that have turned to using e-book readers, said the government was looking at making text books digital.
The ambitious proposal comes after the government faced severe criticism on the weight children have to carry to school. While states like Telangana have set a limit for how much a student’s bag can weigh, Karnataka has no such measure.
Although the Karnataka government had recently tried to divide textbooks into two parts, the weight of school bags remained on the higher side. The digital alternative was being considered to resolve the issue, but is it really feasible?
Already Available Online
All the textbooks are available on the government website. According to Sait, this would make conversion to e-book readers easier.
“A few educational institutes have partnered with Amazon, and they are already teaching us how to use Kindles. They had approached me about the same, so we want to explore this further,” he said.
The Minister said that if the plan was implemented, it would bring a radical change to the education sector. “We have already started planning and working out the budget and I am hopeful that the project can be implemented,” he added.
Only for the Government Schools
Karnataka has over 1 crore students, and providing Kindles for every student would set the government back by Rs 6,000 crore, as the cheapest Kindle costs Rs 6,000. However, the Minister said that as per the current plan, the government was looking at providing e-readers only to government schools.
The number of students studying in government schools was around 60 lakh, which means the project would leave a large hole in the government’s pocket. Sait, however, said that the government can afford the same by cutting down on other sops given to schools.
He added that if the printing cost of textbooks was diverted to providing e-readers, the project could be financially feasible.
Hitesh Shah, chairman of Cresta PU College, Mysuru, had recently started replacing college textbooks with Kindles as part of a pilot project. The college approached Amazon to provide 50 Kindles.
“More than 80 percent of the syllabus has been digitalised. We think this is the right step towards the future, and we are hopeful that the entire college library can be digitalised soon,” he said.
Why Kindle, Why Not a Dedicated App?
While digitalisation has been appreciated by many, its cost remains a sore point. However, there have been several other proposals made to the government. A dedicated app with all the content could reduce the cost.
However, Shah said the Kindle, a dedicated reading device, was ideal for the job. “Staring at a mobile phone for a long time can have its side-effects, and technology like Kindle makes it easy on the eyes. Also, a mobile phone can be a distraction,” he added.
Not Without Glitches
A bureaucrat working with the Department of Public Instruction said such a change would be a logistical nightmare, on the lines of GST and demonetisation.
“If the plan is to supply Kindles and make the content available online, it will take time before the students and teachers get used to it. Then there will be simple problems such that who will pay for the service for the device, if damaged, or what if there is no electricity to charge the device. We should remember that many schools in rural Karnataka are still struggling with basic requirements,” the officer said on the condition of anonymity.
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