Monday, January 14, 2008

Microsoft Trains 200,000 Teachers in India

Microsoft has trained 200,000 teachers in India on the use of computers, ahead of its original target to train 80,000 teachers in the country during the five-year period ending December this year, it said.

The company introduced the program, called project Shiksha, in 2003 with the objective of raising the computer literacy of Indian teachers and students in government-run schools. The 200,000 teachers trained so far have in turn trained about 10 million students, a spokeswoman for Microsoft India said on Monday.

The moves by Microsoft to offer free or subsidized software in India have however come in for criticism from the Free Software Foundation, which compared Microsoft's philanthropy to that of a cigarette manufacturer handing out free samples of cigarettes to students.

The communist-run state of Kerala in south India is actively promoting open-source software in schools, but most other states and the federal government are beneficiaries of Microsoft's programs.

Microsoft works with state governments to help teachers use its technology in school administrations and also to include it in their curriculum and teaching methods, she said. While the state governments provide the classrooms, Microsoft provides the hardware and software, and a team of trainers for the teachers.

Although the company has reached its training target, it's not stopping the program yet. It did not say how many more teachers and students it plans to cover under the program, though.

The company has introduced low-cost, starter editions of its Vista operating system, as well as local language versions of its Office suite to target both the academic and e-governance markets.