Apr 26 - May 2, 2010

Government is determined to give all school children the IT skills they need to compete in the global market for employment. The government of the Punjab is deploying the Microsoft Partners in Learning curriculum across the province. The project includes the rollout of 4,286 IT laboratories that provide 3 million students with 2007 Microsoft Office system applications, supported by the Windows Server 2008 operating system and Microsoft Forefront Client Security.

The government of the Punjab-the most densely populated province of Pakistan, with more than 72.5 million citizens—sustains its growing population with progressive policies that contribute to a stronger economy. As part of this goal, the government aims to promote the use of technology in both public and private sectors.

The government aspires to spread IT-based education to students across the entire province-by training students in IT and exposing them to modern learning methodologies recognised worldwide.

The government's project began in 2008 with the development of a project to deploy 4,286 computer laboratories with 15 computers in each, to all schools across the province-from kindergarten level to the 12th grade (K-12). While the project showed early promise in the urban areas of the province, K-12 schools in the region's more remote areas were far less equipped to develop these laboratories. Few had any existing IT infrastructure in place around which to build the laboratories, or many staff members with knowledge of IT.

To deliver the new curriculum effectively, the government had to find a way to help teachers and administrators develop crucial IT skills to transform their teaching methods and manage the infrastructure.

Javed Aslam, Chairman Planning & Development and Project Director, government of the Punjab, says: "Our project team was asked to provide state-of-the-art technology to students in rural areas. It's imperative these pupils receive the same quality of education as those in urban schools."

The Chief Minister's project team, led by Aslam, comprised highly qualified officers with extensive experience in IT. They evaluated multiple technologies, including Linux Edubuntu and Open Office, IBM Lotus Symphony, Cisco Systems, and Google Apps. After a 14-month search, Microsoft solutions were chosen as best fit for the project. The Punjab government selected the Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative, designed to help schools access technology and use it for more innovative teaching.

Partners in Learning are provided as part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Punjab government and Microsoft. This five-year agreement provides software for 65,000 thin-client devices in all 4,286 laboratories across the province under the Microsoft School Agreement licensing option. "Under Partners in Learning, Microsoft used 400 certified trainers to instruct the teachers of Punjab in the internationally recognised curriculum," says Aslam.

The 2007 Microsoft Office system is the key software component at the centre of the government's strategy, supported by the Windows Server 2008 operating system and Microsoft Forefront Client Security, for protection against viruses and spy ware. The easy-to-use suite of applications and tools offers students, teachers, and other members of staff everything they need for creating and marking papers and assignments, building presentations, and collaborating with one another. The project is already using more than 68,000 Microsoft Office Professional 2007 licences, 17,000 Windows Server 2008 licences, and 17,000 Forefront Client Security licences.

Joudat Ayaz, Additional Project Director, Punjab government said that the support offered by the Microsoft partner ecosystem was also a key factor in the decision to choose Microsoft over open-source alternatives. "Our Partners in Learning agreement opens up career opportunities for students within this vast partner ecosystem," he said. "We also wanted the local IT industry to benefit from the project, so we asked four local systems integrators with proven experience to develop the initiative."

Working with Microsoft, the government deployed all 4,286 laboratories in just 90 days.

Students use cutting-edge technologies that support learning, while giving them an essential experience of IT. "The laboratories will be accessed by more than 3 million students, helping to strengthen their skills and open up a wider selection of employment opportunities," says Aslam.

The training by Microsoft has helped more than 4,000 school teachers develop the skills to raise the standard of education, using an internationally recognised curriculum.

The familiar, user-friendly interfaces within Microsoft Office system applications provide students with intuitive features and tools. Teachers also benefit from using the suite of applications to enhance their teaching methods, reduce their reliance on paper, and increase overall productivity.

The MoU, combined with the Microsoft licensing agreement, offers the government the assurance that its strategy for education is backed by a sustainable and supported infrastructure. "By choosing the Microsoft Office system and Windows Server 2008, we've been able to deploy easy to use, flexible, and widely recognised software that clearly meets the needs of our education strategy," says Ayaz.

The new IT laboratories are easy to administer with seamless, integrated management tools and automation available in Windows Server 2008. For schools that have limited in-house skills, Microsoft partners offer support centres in local districts.