Friday, June 8, 2018

Research Paper: Can OLPC Approach Improve Quality of Basic Education in Nepal

IDEAS Overseas Fellow, Nepal


This paper analyze that the OLPC model can improve quality of basic education in Nepal or not. In Nepal, the OLPC project is jointly implemented by the Department of Education (DoE) and Sajha Sikchya Epaati (Open Learning Exchange Nepal – an NGO) since April 2008 as pilot project. Some evaluation survey of OLPC showed that OLPC model hasn’t significantly improved the quality of basic education due to lack of awareness and motivation of school teachers and administration. Anyway, OLPC model is very good for developing country especially for remote village students for quality improvement and mitigate disparity, absenteeism as well digital divide. Hence the strong M&E mechanism of OLPC implementation, well coordination among Government of Nepal (GoN), schools, community and OLE-Nepal as well as reward/incentive mechanism to teachers might be milestone to improve quality of basic education in Nepal.


The formal education structure of Nepal is basic education (grade 1 to 8), secondary education (grade 9 to 12) and tertiary education (6 years). The quality of basic education is very crucial in Nepal. Specially the students of remote villages are lag behind in terms of quality education, disparity, absenteeism and digital divide compare with urban schools. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is one of the popular Model of ICT-based education which is adopted by many developing countries and also effective model to improve quality of education, to reduce absenteeism and to minimize disparity as well as digital divide of education in Nepal.   
In Nepal, the OLPC project is being jointly implemented by the Department of Education (DoE) and Sajha Sikchya Epaati (Open Learning Exchange Nepal – an NGO) since April 2008. The program is currently running in 34 schools in ten districts. Overall, the program covers students from grades two to six benefiting more than 4000 students. All the schools have local servers containing digital library and interactive learning resources, and the schools are equipped with power backup and access points for students and teachers to easily access the materials in the servers. The program has already trained nearly 200 teachers on integrating ICT in classroom teaching and installed networks at the schools to facilitate ICT-based education.
GoN has a three-tier committee to implement wider OLPC program under Ministry of Education (MOE): Steering Committee, Coordination Committee and Task Force. DOE has already developed interactive digital learning materials to grade 2 to 6 students for the subjects – Nepali, Mathematics, English and Science with the involvement of some NGOs. In this scenario, “Can OLPC model improve quality of Basic Education in Nepal?” is the research question of this paper. Addressing the issues of disparity, absenteeism and digital divide of education in Nepal by the means of OLPC program is also assumed as sub-research question.

Theories of education and development

Among several Pedagogy theories of learning and child development - Maturationist, Environmentalist and Constructivist are three important theories perspectives of development. I focused on Constructivist perspective theories such as theories by Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner and Maria Montessori. Cognitive developmental theory, the Constructivist perspective, proposes that intellectual development results from the interaction of motivational and environmental factors. Knowledge is created by interaction. The environment is a constant source of feedback which guides the tendency to explore and the developmental stages represent successive levels of stabilization or adjustment to it. (Sarafino, E.P. and Armstrong, J.W., 1986)
Jerome S. Bruner devised a model called theory of instruction which has four major principles: motivation, structure, sequence and reinforcement. He believed that a child has three means of achieving understanding: enactive (action-based), iconic (image-based) and symbolic (language-based) (Bruner, 1960) which is different from Piaget’s Cognitive Theory (Piaget, 1945) in the terms of child’s age division for development.
OLPC approach supports cognitive theory of Piaget and Bruner as well as has a flavor of Montessori theory because it focused on interaction, motivation, child centered; sharing laptop enables mutual cooperation, creativity, innovation, audio and video. Finally the expected outcome of OLPC model will be creating skillful and capable human resources to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and post-2015 Development Agenda i.e. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nepal by providing ICT and internet based education.


This study uses the secondary data and information from previous studies of OLPC program of Nepal. I will comparatively analyze the positive and negative feedback given by researchers on their previous studies.

OLPC Model

In this model, one laptop is distributed to each child such that s/he can learn new concepts and explores new ideas easily as well as use it as an ICT tool.
The four major activities of OLPC model implementation in Nepal are:
  1. Development and distribution of free and open digital educational content
  2. Preparing teachers on effective integration of ICT in classroom teaching
  3. Research and development of appropriate technology and network infrastructure
  4. Building local capacity to monitor, support and sustain the program (ICT in Education).

The five core principles of OLPC model are child ownership, low ages, saturation, connection and free and open source. (One Laptop per Child, 2010)

Can OLPC Model Improve Quality of Basic Education in Nepal?

The GoN has introduced ICT in Education Master Plan in 2013 with the vision to ensure extensive use of ICT in education sector and contribute for access to and quality of education for all (Ministry of Education, 2013). The OLE-Nepal is localizing software and creating new content in Nepali. E-Paath (i.e. electronic lessons) and E-Pustakalaya (i.e. electronic library) are two major contents for learning developed by OLE-Nepal. Another private organization named MiDas Education is also working to create an interactive learning material for children which can be used on OLPC model. So these digital contents, organizational structure, interest of GoN and OLE-Nepal can make OLPC model successful to improve quality of basic education in Nepal. Moreover, OLPC model also helps to build ICT friendly human resources in long term.
OLPC model uses the audio and visual methodology for learning which can attract the students easily. As the laptop is also allowed to take home, students can learn a lot both in school and home. Students can discuss about the digital contents with their parents and friends in home. The teaching and learning process will be easy and understandable by the use of ICT/Internet and digital contents which helps to immense the knowledge and skill of students faster. The efficient use of this model will improve the education quality, school enrollment and absenteeism and digital divide of remote/poor students of Nepal. Childs are quite impressed by laptops which helps increase school enrollment; OLPC model is interesting and child friendly rather than traditional way of teaching and helps to reduce absenteeism of students; poor students of remote village can learn using ICT/Internet that helps to minimize digital divide from rich and urban students. A study by Bhatta[1] showed that OLPC model helped to tackle the problems of quality and disparity in Nepal’s school education. (Bhatta, 2008)
But the research conducted by Mr. Sharma related to the OLPC model pilot test in Nepal during 2009-2010 has shown that no statistically significant positive impact on student learning, non-cognitive skills or attendance as reported in school records. (Sharma, 2014). He also stated that no significant improvement on English and mathematics by OLPC approach on his study. Mr. Sharma pointed the following reasons of ineffectiveness of OLPC model:
           i.       Students spent more time playing games on the laptops rather than reading digital contents
         ii.       Teachers expected incentives for extra work of OLPC implementation but they don’t get. So they became unmotivated and not utilized their full capacity.
        iii.       More than 25% of the teachers weren’t trained on computer assisted learning. Even though the trained teachers didn’t want to teach using computer assisted learning and the school administrators also didn’t believe that the training is essential to teach effectively.
       iv.          Teachers didn’t motivated students to use digital materials in the classroom.

According to Hall[2], “It would cost over $1 billion - Nepal’s entire educational budget for the next four to five years-to give a laptop to each of Nepal’s 6 million school-going children. For this price you could rebuild and modernize every school.” (Hall, 2007). He suggested that one laptop for one teacher or one computer network per school might be a good idea rather than OLPC program in terms of learning and cost effectiveness.
By studying OLPC related several reports/documents and articles, I realize the following good impacts:
Ø  Student interaction increased via student-centric approach
Ø  Student’s curiosity and eagerness to learn highly increased
Ø  Team work and mutual cooperation spirit to use laptops together for learning
Ø  Interaction between teacher and student increased
Ø  New way of teaching: effective, interesting, innovative and ICT friendly
At the same time following issues/challenges evolved:
Ø  Teacher’s workload heavily increased. They expected compensation to be motivated.
Ø  The digital contents are just been as extra course of national curriculum. So, digital contents must be developed as compatible to national curriculum.
Ø  Student didn’t get proper guidance to use digital contents by teachers. So, students spent playing games in laptops which is unproductive.
Ø  OLPC is implemented just as accessory tool for education but not necessary/compulsory tool compliance with national curriculum, hence, didn’t show effective result and also difficult to measure real impacts.


The OLPC is one of the best approaches for better education because it strengthens not only the students and teachers but also the family of students and community for better use of ICT. Of course, to be successful, there must be joint effort of teachers, students, school administration, family, community, project implementers and GoN for systematic implementation of OLPC model. The discussion on previous section clarifies that the strategic plan of OLPC is quite good but the problem in its implementation. So, this realizes that there is a need of strong monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and rewarding system in order to well-tracking the implementation. For that any authorized and inclusive M&E committee should established and do work properly.
Since 5 years in Nepal, there is a problem of unable to provide textbooks timely to all students in every new academic year due to lack of proper coordination and management of authorized agency. This OLPC approach may be solution on this scenario. The computer laboratory can also be integrated with this system for computer subject learning. GoN should prepare digital content fully based on national curriculum of basic education with coordination of OLE-Nepal or other organizations. The OLE-Nepal should regularly monitor the OLPC program; motivate/reward teachers and school administration to maximize the use of digital contents; solve the operational and maintenance problems promptly and well coordinate with GoN.  
However, there are numerous possibilities to improve the quality of education, disparity, absenteeism, digital divide and long term benefits through OLPC approach. The reason behind not getting positive results might be too early to evaluate the program and infant stage of OLPC implementation in Nepal. As GoN, OLE-Nepal, schools and community are giving more priority for OLPC approach; it has very high possibility to show good results in coming days soon. Hence, OLPC approach can improve quality of basic education in Nepal.


Bhatta, S. D. (2008). Tackling the Problems of Quality and Disparity in Nepal's School Education: The OLPC Model. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point.
Bruner, J. S. (1960). The Process of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hall, P. (2007, August 9). Instead of one laptop per about one computer network per school, one laptop per teacher? Retrieved from Nepali Times:
ICT in Education. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from OLE Nepal:
Ministry of Education. (2013). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education: Master Plan 2013-2017. Kathmandu. Retrieved from
One Laptop per Child. (2010). OLPC: Five principles. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from The OLPC Wiki:
Piaget, J. (1945). Play, dreams and imitation in childhood. London: Heinemann.
Sarafino, E.P. and Armstrong, J.W. (1986). Child and Adolescent Development. San Francisco: West Publishing.
Sharma, U. (2014). Can Computers Increase Human Capital in Developing Countries? An Evaluation of Nepal's One Laptop per Child Program. Agricultural & Applied Economics Association's Meeting, July 27-29, 2014. Minneapolis, MN.

[1] Mr. Saurav Dev Bhatta is an Education Director of OLE-Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Urban Planning and Policy Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.
[2] Prof. Pat Hall directs the Bhasa Sanchar project at Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya and is a visiting professor at Kathmandu University.