SMS-based tutoring system for public schools’ students soon

LAHORE: Showing sensitivity to the students need for after-school academic assistance, the Punjab is set to launch an SMS-based Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) in public schools through two different programmes starting from Nov 15, this year.

Under the programmes, the Class-VIII students will be able to get answers to their questions related to English and Maths subjects through the ITS. Similarly, the system will also be launched for the Class-IV and V students at a later stage by April 1, Dawn has learnt.

Under the e-learning initiative of the SMS-based Information and Technology University’s Centre for Technology in Education (CTE), technical and financial assistance of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and Department for International Development (DFID), UK, respectively, Punjab’s 30 public schools would formally be connected with the system, enabling the students and their parents to get assistance in having answers of their academic questions.

The programme’s pilot project, which has already been implemented in 30 public schools a couple of months ago, is helping improve the students’ learning outcome.

The project delivers quality educational content for science and mathematics using LED screen and tablet PCs.

“Currently in its initial phase, the project has already improved the performance of some 1,800 students, and will soon expand operations across the country, with the stated aim of reaching 100,000 students by December 2018,” claims Amna Raja, Project Manager, DFID e-learn initiative.

The CTE was established to serve as a world-class applied research centre, with a view that provision of quality education was critical to meaningful progress in Pakistan, she told Dawn on Thursday.

She said the funds were arranged through the donor supporting the “Ilm Ideas 2 Education Innovation Fund’’ as part of the wider UK Aid support to Pakistan. The Ilm Ideas 2 project has been awarded to Mott MacDonald Ltd. It is managed by the Mott MacDonald’s team based in Islamabad, she added.

According to project brief, its primary objective is to improve learning outcomes through technology-mediated study materials.

Talking to Dawn, PITB’s Director General (IT Solutions) Waqar Naeem Qureshi said the department was set to launch the SMS-based Intelligence Tutoring System in 100 public sector schools by April, 1, 2017 in association with the school education department.

“This programme is exclusively for the grade-4 and 5 students, whose parents will receive a call during evening hours to review their children’s study on a daily basis, Similarly, the parents or the students themselves can get assistance through a dedicated SMS service,” Mr Qureshi said.

He said the system would guide the students to reach the answer for themselves. “The system will drop hints four times in order to enable a student to get the answer. And if the student fails, the system wouldn’t respond to further query,” he added. He said the PITB had prepared the software, applications etc and started contacting the telecom companies to implement it.

Talking to Dawn, the ITU Vice Chancellor and PITB Chairman Prof Umar

Saif claimed the system was being introduced in Pakistan for the first time. “And the system is also unique, in view of its coaching method,” he said, adding the technology would be expanded gradually.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2016