Thursday, February 02, 2006

Free Electron - free software to your liking Free Electron - free software to your liking


Here is how open source software can be used as an educational resource for the benefit of all, particularly resource-starved institutions.

In a significant attempt to promote innovation and help educational institutions conserve resources and overcome the limitations arising from the use of proprietary software, the Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE) and the free software cell of Government Engineering College at Barton Hill in Thiruvananthapuram have jointly developed Free Electron, a GNU/Linux distribution package, mainly meant to meet the creative pursuits of electronics engineering students and teachers.

Free software

The proponents of free software have taken up the project to make it a valuable resource in education. The curbs imposed by proprietary software companies often hinder young talent from innovating. Either they would have to go for innovation ignoring the rules set by the companies or relinquish such ventures for want of funds.

A boon

Free Electron has come as a boon for all those who strive to make unique contributions in this realm. Setting up an electronic laboratory is rather a tough proposition for Government educational institutions and it is here that the Free Electron package comes to their rescue.

According to R. Deepak, a lecturer in electronics at the Government Engineering College, Barton Hill, in addition to the typical desktop applications, Free Electron has the professional typesetting tool TEX, computer numerical application suite `ocatave,' computer algebra system `xmaxima,' electronic design automation suite gEDA and many more simulators, emulators and compilers required for various kinds of electronic design and simulation.

The use of propriety software often limits IT education. Hence, the Government should adopt a policy against using proprietary technologies in educational institutions. Sensitising students should be the first step in creating an empowered society with free software and the creation of packages like Free Electron would set the trend in securing for the students more freedom to break new ground, he says.

They can design tools and by having the customised CD they can practise at their convenience. They can also distribute the software among themselves totally free of cost.

The software

Free Electron comprises editors, electronic design tools, graphics, Math, a high-level language primarily meant for numerical computations, a multi-platform office productivity suite, `,' programming, typesetting, tools and viewers.

Along with the customised CD, a detailed installation guide has also been prepared for the users. It is also available as an OpenOffice file in the directory `doc' in the CD.

Academicians have made remarkable contributions for the development and popularisation of free software and Free Electron too is a step in this regard, says Vimal Joseph, an activist of SPACE. It gives the students as well as the teachers the right to copy and use it as one's own property, to study, modify and also to redistribute in an unrestricted manner.

Highly adaptive

Free Electron being highly adaptive, can be put to various uses without incurring any financial burden, says Joseph.

SPACE is planning to widen its network on the campuses in an effective manner and make it accessible to more people within a very short span of time.

As part of its awareness drive among students, the society has decided to give an assistance of Rs.50,000 each for the projects taken up by students.

The society also has plans to set up cells in more educational institutions in the State. The society is encouraged by the warm response from the students and teachers.

Almost all institutions would soon have such cells, says Mr. Joseph.

CII Shiksha... computer education, and Goa

Antonetta Noronha <> a principal from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour school in Cortalim informs about the visit to Goa of Narinder Bhatia of Shiksha CII <> in mid-January.

In Panjim, the Goa Chambers of Commerce and Industry hall is expected to be the venue on January 18, 2006 for the meet, focussing on schools, and computer education.

If you'd like more details, contact Antonetta (above) or check out the Knowledge Initiatives Trust mailing list in Goa, which is at

Below is an note written some time back:

Daryl Martyris <> an expat in the US informs us that he has made contact with CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), which provides educational software relevent to the Indian curriculum free of charge to schools. Says Daryl: "If interested, please email the address below and inform Narinder Bhatia <> where to send the academic content curriculum."

Earlier, Narinder Bhatia wrote in to say that CII has an initiative known as Shiksha, which "assists schools in integrating technology effectively in their teaching-learning process".

Shiksha, he clarifies, is a not-for-profit initiative and all the resources are offered totally free to the schools. "We have divided the CII-Shiksha >programme into various components which are mentioned below: 1. Shiksha content Computer Basics (Mouse & Keyboard) - Academic content (lessons in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Geography) 2. Coaching, whereby we conduct workshops and trainings for headmasters/principals, teachers on various I.T. topics 3. Communication, where we try connecting Shiksha schools through our bi-monthly newsletter."

Bhatia says there's a lot CII-Shiksha offers to schools to aid the Technology Integration Process which could be explained better through personal interaction. He writes: "Would be great if you can forward me some local contact address of India where i can send in the Shiksha details alongwith demo Cd. We would certainly be keen and willing to help the cause of ICT enabled >education. Please feel free to seek any further clarification." His mobile number is 09810698688 (and I hope it's okay to share this information with other educators across India).

Offtopic: Do check out this network from Goa trying to promote IT education in schools: KITrust mailing list

Hope this info-sharing is of some use to someone, somewhere. FN

Ever since 1995 CII's Social Development Council has undertaken modest steps to work in the area of Education. Since Education is the hub of all human development, it has been a high priority concern for CII as well.

CII works very closely with the government, industry and the community. In the area of Education CII has a National Committee on Primary Education and Literacy. The members of the Committee include Corporates, International Organisations, NGO's and representatives of the Government. CII's platform is thus a very unique vibrant platform that mobilises Public- Private partnership for the achievement of common goals in the area of Education

CII's perspectives, strategies and initiatives are all aimed at sensitising, motivating and empowering the Corporates to contribute by way of expertise, technical assistance and financial support for strengthening Primary Education. CII also aims at establishing business norms that instill a responsible attitude and above all cultivating quality lives of people. CII has been focusing on not only motivating Business Houses for the achievement of 100% Literacy for the industry's workforce but has also gone one step further by motivating Industry to to strengthen Integrated Education Programmes for underprivileged community people.

The CII literacy Program, in association with various NGOs, offers reading and writing skills through professionally trained volunteers, to adults and children whose literacy skills are inadequate for them to be able to find employment. These programs allow students to advance in their occupation, acquire skills and participate as informed and active members of the community.

Recent Inititaives:

Shiksha has associated with Hindustan Times through its HT PACE program and is reaching out to 12 government schools (in the initial stages) for implementing Shiksha project

Shiksha has pilot tested its content at NIIT's Madangir kiosk and the results have been very encouraging. As per the feedback, Shiksha was at no. 2 spot in the list of ten most accessed applications at the kiosks. Now talks are on to have the content deployed at other kiosks being run by NIIT

Shiksha has tied up with DPS (Delhi Public School) Society for deploying the content in 32 of their Shiksha Kendras (afternoon schools for the underprivileged children ) spread across India as a pilot and also for broadcasting Shiksha's content over their satellite based programme "Edu Links"

Shiksha is working out on an association with NDMC for deploying the content in their schools. NDMC has approved to implement the Shiksha project in 5-6 schools as a pilot beginning the new academic session.

Shiksha has worked out an association with Azim Premji Foundation (Wipro) where Shiksha would help them in their content deployment in government schools in Delhi and other states as well.

Shiksha is working on an association with NIC (National Informatics Centre) where Shiksha content would be deployed in various CICs (Community Information Centres) being run majorily in North-Eastern States and also in few schools under NIC's supervision.

Shiksha has tied up J&K state government to deploy the content in various schools. In the pilot phase the project would be carried out in 5-6 schools.

Best wishes, FN


A lot of "learning" that happens in our schools and children today, turns out to be rote memorisation with very shallow introduction to ideas. To contribute meaningfully in tomorrow's world, students and schools need to shift from FACTS to SKILLS.

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This December it will be 4 years since the ASSET tests were launched. If ASSET were just a test, there would be nothing very special about this. But ASSET is more - it is an attempt to genuinely understand what children need to learn? What they are learning well? And what they are not? What are the causes? And how the problems if any, can be solved? ASSET is an attempt to genuinely understand the above mentioned questions... More..

ASSET is a unique test that gives you specific feedback that helps you to improve. With a detailed analysis of performance on the different skills in different subjects. This information gives a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses and helps the student focus on improvement. An overall analysis of how the student has performed based on the difficulty level of the questions is also provided. But How does a student interpret the ASSET Results!!!! Let's begin our journey into the analysis which will answer some of your questions. More..

Unesco's new literacy portal

Literacy today is a world preoccupation

Literacy empowers and nurtures inclusive societies and contributes to the fair implementation of human rights. In the case of mothers, literacy leads to an enhanced quality of life for their families and improved education outcomes for their children. Nevertheless literacy remains a low priority for national governments and the donor community. Worldwide, 771 million adults are illiterate and about 100 million children are out of school.

A large number of those who enrol drop out before attaining literacy skills and some of those who complete primary education remain illiterate.

Literacy is an indispensable means for effective social and economic participation, contributing to human development and poverty reduction.

The Literacy Portal aims to provide a platform for information-sharing on literacy projects and activities undertaken around the world and enhance UNESCO’s capacity in coordinating the United Nation Literacy Decade (UNLD) in building partnership at all level.

This portal will be developed progressively through the contribution of all literacy actors; including UNESCO Field Offices, UN Agencies, bilateral and multilateral Organizations, Member States, Institutions, Non-governmental Organizations and Literacy workers. It will be a working tool to provide them more visibility and networking possibilities.

News Inter-regional cooperation in promoting mother tongue literacy programmes December 6-10, 2005 - Officials from African and the Caribbean region participate in a workshop in Asia More

Round table of UNLD Resource Persons: Literacy Strategies and UNLD Action Plan for Africa November 18, 2005 - Participants discussed innovative approaches to expand literacy, adult education and NFE programmes in Africa within the UNLD framework. More

gmr.jpgLaunch of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: "Literacy for Life" October 26, 2005 - Literacy suffers severe neglect in national and international policy, keeping hundreds of millions of adults on the sidelines of society and limiting progress towards the six Education for All goals and overall poverty reduction, says the new edition of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, to be launched in London on November 9. More

Just Published: Study of Literacy and Secondary Education in Botswana

justpublished_botswana.jpg “Improving the Quality of Literacy Learning in the Content Areas: Situational Analysis of Secondary Level Education in Botswana” underscores the importance of continuous literacy development in order to maximize secondary school students’ learning opportunities.

The study sheds light on the critical issue of transitional challenges between primary and secondary levels of education. It argues that solid competencies in literacy are required for a truly participatory and student-centred approach to learning at the secondary level. * Improving the Quality of Literacy Learning in the Content Areas (in PDF)

* UNESCO’s Literacy Portal

* UNESCO has just launched a new Literacy Portal for sharing information on literacy projects and activities around the world. Literacy Initiative For Empowerment -- LIFE

* Find out more about UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment, a 10-year initiative that targets the 34 countries that are home to 85% of the world's illiterates. United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) (2003-2012)

* UNESCO is the lead agency in the United Nations Literacy Decade. 2006 Global Monitoring Report: Literacy for Life

Read the 2006 edition of the Global Monitoring Report dedicated to the topic of Literacy.