In the mid-1980s, semiconductor manufacturer Texas Instruments (TI) spotted India’s potential as a hub for research and development, and heralded a wave of tech multinationals moving into India. A few years ago, it expanded its operations in the country and stared looking at India also as a market for its semiconductor products.

Now, the company has taken a further step: Globally, TI has been in the education technology space for more than two decades, and a few weeks ago, it brought this to India. TI sees India not only as a strong market for its education technology solutions, but also believes that these can help the country to address the constraints it faces in the education sector.

TI has tied up with Indian firm CORE Education and Technologies, which focuses on content creation and teacher education to offer an integrated solution called STEMpower. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) This includes laptops for teachers, networked handheld devices for students, software and content. “Some of the recent reforms in the education sector in India, like the focus on continuous and comprehensive evaluation and formative assessments, have interested TI in bringing our classroom training technology solutions here,’’ says Jagan Chelliah, director of sales and marketing, education technology at TI India. He adds: “Our intention is to refine [these solutions] over time to address the specific needs of the India market.”

During a press event, Sanjeev Mansotra, chairman and global CEO, CORE said: “STEM is about more than just education. It is about our economic future. The viable jobs of the 21st century will require high degrees of STEM literacy, and if our communities don’t have a STEM-literate workforce, those jobs can and will go elsewhere.”

Another technology multinational which recently introduced a new initiative in the Indian education sector is chip-maker Intel. In collaboration with the Karnataka government in September, Intel announced the launch of Computers On Wheels, an e-learning pilot program, in five districts across the state. It is based on the Intel Learning Series and includes infrastructure, hardware, software, content, training and support. The program is designed to deliver one-on-one e-learning in classrooms that is matched to local needs. “Advances in technology continue to transform how we live, work, play and learn. Intel is committed to making education accessible and engaging for all students,” says R. Ravichandran, director of sales, Intel South Asia.

Visvesvara Hegde Kageri, minister for primary and secondary education in the Karnataka government, sees the Intel initiative as a “very useful mechanism to enhance student learning by integrating innovative teaching methods” and by providing “a more engaging, interesting and experiential form of teaching and learning through smart use of technology.”

But how much of a role can technology really play at present in India’s education sector? S. Sadagopan, director at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, points out that there are four parts to learning — lectures, library, laboratory and life. “Technology plays a critical role in all these,” he says. Sadagopan cities an example from the laboratories: “Frog dissection is completely gone…. Many expensive instruments can be made available to school children in less endowed places through technology.”

But Dilip Ranjekar, co–CEO of the Azim Premji Foundation, which focuses on primary education, offers another perspective. Technology, Ranjekar says, can play an important role in education but only when the basic infrastructure is place. “In a vast number of schools in India, basic facilities like water, power and sanitation are inadequate. The teacher quality and involvement is also abysmal. These basic issues have to be addressed before there is any scope for technology to create any meaningful impact.”