It does not need us to tell you the high percentage of viewership that television programming gets from non-adult viewers in India and elsewhere. What perhaps is relatively new is what type of programming has started capturing children's eyeballs these days.
Cartoons (of various kinds), children's movies, sports other children specific programming are expected to be popular among children. The new type is the cooking shows of various kinds. Currently there are at least two channels which show significant amount of food programming, and there are at least five more at least one two food related show a day. There is news of another dedicated food channel coming up. Food is about creativity, and is as much a pleasure giver as it is a necessity and thus makes for very interesting watching for many people. Take that a few levels higher, and Anthony Bourdain refers to it as "food porn". Since parents watch, children watch too.
MasterChef, both the Australian edition and the Indian is quite popular among children of various ages in India. However, there are shows that you perhaps do not want your child to watch e.g. the cartoon series called Shin Chan. MasterChef Australia, in our opinion, borders on being another.
There have been taints and allegations of racism on the show earlier, but the behaviour of the contestants on the episode broadcast in India on 28/10/2011 left plenty to be desired. The chief guest in this episode was H H the Dalai Lama, who was his usual effusive and bubbly self. Some of the contestants behaved with him as if they were meeting another of the celebrity chefs. For heaven's sake, there is a difference between another chef and His Holiness whether one believes in Buddhism or not. One is expected to show some respect, and not address him as "Dalai Lama", say "...pleasure meeting you", or mention that one has to cook whatever as long as its something.
Aussies are known as boorish as a people, racist (as evident from continual attacks on Indian students) but proving that on a much watched television series is another thing altogether. If only adults were to constitute this shows viewership, it would be somewhat different. In this case children watch the show and this is what they will get to learn since they are watching their (cooking) heroes demonstrate inappropriate behaviour.
The hosts (especially food critic Matt Preston) behaved very differently, and showed the kind of respect The Dalai Lama deserves not just as a world figure but also as a superb human being. It might have helped if Mr Preston coached the contestants a bit, or if the producers of the show demonstrated a bit of decency and did a better job of editing.
It has been a couple of months since Kapil Sibal announced the $35 Indian tablet Aakash which the government will make available for 10-12 million children by the end of 2012. This indeed is a bold dream which can leapfrog the internet penetration in India. It will put technology in hands of children who will drive the next generation. Hopefully, we will have citizens who are not in awe of technology but understand the its capability and how they can leverage it.
The demo device seems to have got good reviews from leading technology site:
While we applaud the government in making such a bold move, some doubts remain.
1. The device completely depends on the software library that exists for it. What progress has been made on that front ? For example, can all NCERT and state board books not be pre-loaded on these devices? After all the government owns the Copyright to them.
2. The power of these tablets really lies with the internet. The device has WiFi and GPRS capability. How will internet connectivity work in government schools in rural areas? If the Telcos do not provide connectivity for free, will the government hand out massive contracts to Telcos to subsidize the connections. Scope for scams yet again.
3. Meanwhile the Tamil Nadu government has been able to procure laptops from Lenevo for around $200. A laptop is still much more powerful than these tablets and probably more rugged. Maybe the central government could follow a similar scheme and make these available throughout India.
4. With the device available, how can private publishers make their books available? What kind of education software would be available on these devices?
In our opinion, the government's job should be to setting up direction and letting private players implement a scheme. It has done a good job by setting Android as the OS and tablet form-factor. Now it should let private entrepreneurs innovate on that further.