Ankara's digital education project sidelined

A state-funded project to put millions of tablet computers into the hands of primary school students was sidelined for a second time when Ankara said it would take more time to choose a main contractor for the project.

Ankara's digital education project sidelined

A state-funded project to put millions of tablet computers into the hands of primary school students may promise to transform public education in Turkey, but the program was sidelined for a second time on Friday when Ankara said it would take more time to choose a main contractor for the project.

State authorities said on Friday that they would delay naming a contractor for the program, known as the Movement to Increase Opportunities and Technology (FATİH), and promised to choose a one from a long list of tech giants -- which include Apple, General Mobile, Samsung and other international firms -- by June 24. Those companies are competing for a massive production deal that would see them make an initial order of 10.6 million low-cost tablets for the government. Ankara originally said it would announce which consumer electronics maker had won the contract by April 29, but later pushed the date back to May 27, before it again rolled back the decision on Friday until June 24.

The second delay in naming a maker comes after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited several IT giants and potential contractors in the San Francisco Bay Area's Silicon Valley this week. Erdoğan told the Turkish press during his Silicon Valley tour that the project was aimed at creating a “digital classroom” which could increase students' access to interactive, multimedia learning experiences. “Production of all these materials, both by the main producers and their partners in Turkey, will enable the young generation of engineers to seriously benefit from the research and development process of the project,” he said during the visit. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer meanwhile made the unexpected gesture to Erdoğan of offering Microsoft's closely protected operating code to any potential Turkish partners involved in the contract, saying that the company was willing “share its code … because we've worked hard for this project.”

A pilot program for the Fatih project was launched in 52 schools at beginning of last year, and currently involves around 85,000 tablet PCs and 1,500 “smart boards” -- touch screen TVs that are meant to replace classroom chalk boards. In March, the weaknesses in the pilot program were taken up by an Education Ministry report that drew on the opinions of 20 academics from four universities. After interviews with instructors, parents and students at the pilot schools, those experts said that the visual and auditory elements available for the tablet program were insufficient. The Ministry of Education said in March that it plans to increase the size of the program to 120,000 tablets by the end of the school year. While the ministry awaits a decision from Ankara on who will make students' tablets, it also planning to greatly expand its existing set of smart boards -- for which Ankara contracts a variety of domestic and foreign electronics producers -- to a total of around 350,000.

Cihan

Last Mod: 25 Mayıs 2013, 12:04
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