Microsoft catches them young in India

Microsoft Corp. has opened an IT academy in the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it will provide IT training for school teachers from across the state, the company announced Friday.

Under an agreement signed with the state government, Microsoft will also set up two further academies in Karnataka. Over a five-year period it plans to train about 20,000 teachers and, indirectly, 400,000 school students. It will also create a localized IT curriculum for students and set up teacher and student scholarship programs. The first academy is Karnataka’s Gulbarga district.

The curriculum is being developed at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters with the help of Indian educational institutions and state governments, said a spokeswoman for Microsoft India.

“The focus is on IT training, although we do use Microsoft products,” she said. Microsoft has also introduced an annual, subscription-based licensing program to reduce the cost of Microsoft desktop software offerings for primary and secondary school students.

The academy in Gulbarga was set up as part of Project Shiksha, which Microsoft introduced across the country in 2002. Backed by a US$20 million investment from the software maker, Project Shiksha aims to train 3.5 million students and 80,000 teachers in government schools by 2007. Microsoft has set up IT academies in a number of Indian states, and has so far trained more than 37,000 teachers and 1.8 million students across India.

The Indian federal government, as well as state governance, have declined to take a position favouring either open source or proprietary software in education and e-governance projects. Project Shiksha as well as Microsoft’s involvement with several state government projects, may help to give the software maker a head start over Linux and other open-source software in these areas.

Related links:

Microsoft aims for students in Africa, Middle East

The IT talent ‘crisis’

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