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At a recent public ceremony former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif recently praised a recent initiative of its Punjab province to distribute free laptops to school children.

The laptop scheme is the brainchild of Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, where 300,000 laptops — in addition to the 100,000 already distributed — are being handed out as a "weapon against poverty and ignorance."

How exactly are laptops to combat poverty and ignorance, or improve education is not clear. There are no locally-developed programmes and teachers have not been trained to use computers as a teaching tool.

In the 1980s, Apple-II C computers were purchased in bulk for schools, but many of the machines were junked 10-15 years later without ever being turned on

A digital utopia cannot be constructed on a shaky educational base. Most Pakistani schools do not have blackboards, toilets, library, or wall posters. More importantly, they do not have competent teachers

In Pakistan, exams stress memorisation rather than internalisation of concepts. Revamping the examination system will do more good than buying a million laptops.

Good education requires planning, organisation, integrity and resources. Techy hi-fi stuff has glitz, but it is really the sub-stratum of thought that matters.

Link to full article in the Express Tribune: