IT practical tests on ‘open’ platform

IT practical tests on ‘open’ platform
 Anand Parthasarathy
 IT@School project of Kerala has developed an operating system based on the Linux
 Akshaya had raised popular expectations
 Kerala, first State to use Edusat satellite channel
 — Photo: Special Arrangement
 IT WORKS: Students of the Government Girls High School, Ernakulam,
 doing self-paced computer ‘practicals.’
 BANGALORE: In the largest such simultaneous deployment of
 ‘free-and-open’ software in India, over 15 lakh Kerala schoolchildren
 on Friday start taking their quarterly practical tests in Information
 Technology on personal computers using a special Linux version.
 The IT@School project of the State Education Department has developed
 an operating system based on the Linux version Ubuntu. Called
 IT@School GNU Linux Version 3.0, it was distributed to 2,832 high
 schools — over a thousand of them government schools, the rest aided
 and unaided ones.
 Between September 7 and 22, children of Classes 8, 9 and 10 will use
 some 30,000 PCs to do their quarterly practical examinations in IT.
 Test skills
 In Class VIII, for example, the examination will test skills in the
 use of the mouse; the ‘Tux’ paint software for drawing; word
 processing and spreadsheets. A trained cadre of over 70,000 teachers
 will help them.
 The project has created a whole ecosystem of computer-aided tools for
 self-paced learning, online testing, instant evaluation, marks
 generation and so on. All this is done using royalty-free Open Source
 For example, the Open Source picture editing tool Gimp, rather than a
 pricey proprietary option like Photoshop, is in use.
 The State’s path-breaking e-learning initiative Akshaya had raised
 popular expectations, but the cost of proprietary software licences in
 bulk was unaffordable. This led to the State emerging as a pioneer in
 the use of Open Source resources in a host of education and
 e-governance projects.
 In July 2005, Kerala was the first State to use the Edusat satellite
 channel to connect schools in all its 14 districts under the Virtual
 Class Technology on Edusat for Rural Schools, or VICTERS, programme.
 IT@School executive director K. Anvar Sadath, a veteran of the Akshaya
 programme, said on Thursday that the Central Government had
 underwritten almost the entire cost of the school computerisation
 programme to the tune of Rs. 6.2 crores, while the State had spent Rs.
 75 lakh this fiscal year.
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