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TMCNet:  No free software for school textbooks this year [Thiruvananthapuram] [Times of India]

[December 09, 2013]

No free software for school textbooks this year [Thiruvananthapuram] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THIRUVANANTHAPURM: The school curriculum steering committee's visionary move to set school textbooks in copyright-free format has been rejected by an expert committee appointed by the state council of education research and training (SCERT). The committee has also recommended not to set textbooks in Unicode format citing that change of script would confuse students.

SCERT has backtracked from its revolutionary move to follow the recently-issued national policy on universal electronic accessibility, which would have put an end to discrimination against the disabled.

The expert committee comprises educationalists George Onakkoor, V P Mohammed Kunju Methar, Rosamma Philip, K S Madhavan and curriculum committee members M Shajahan, J Sasi and A K Sainudeen, SCERT curriculum head S Raveendran Nair and SCERT director K A Hashim. It has reviewed the revised textbooks of classes I, III, V and VII and recommended not to set the textbooks of classes V and VII in Unicode format. Arguing against the change of script, the committee suggested, "it must be introduced in a phased manner".

K Satyaseelan, a blind teacher from Government School for Blind, Kasaragod, termed the decision unfortunate. "The problem with the expert committee was that all they could focus while considering Unicode was the script aspect. They didn't consider that only Unicode could support software such as Espeak, which will enable blind students to learn without the support of scribe. Conversions to e-texts, EPUB (for e-book reader), PDF, etc are easy when it is in Unicode format," he said.

Satyaseelan said the expert committee decision was against the national policy in universal electronic accessibility, which facilitates equal access to electronic and information and communication technologies (ICTs) to all irrespective of their disabilities.

K A Hashim, SCERT director, said SCERT was not going to shelve its decision to set text in Unicode format. "We have decided not to take any hasty decision. We will bring changes from the next academic year," he said.

Director of public instruction (DPI) Biju Prabhakar said that though he personally favoured a release of educational contents in creative commons licence, concerns were raised by some sections against the commercial misuse of the copyright-free license. "Textbooks will be set in Unicode format from smaller classes, like I and II, in the coming years so that students will not have any confusion about old and new scripts," he said.

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