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Monday, March 31, 2014

Computer Science Education - a Historical Perspective

Balaji V, Reg. No.1345001.


The electronic computer was developed in 1940s, and has changed in many ways the functioning of the world. It is undoubtedly one of the top ten greatest inventions of mankind without which today, we cannot even think to live.

The history of computers in education has been characterized as an “accidental revolution” or “unthinking man and his thinking machines”. The computer has changed the saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” to “in a computer world, invention is the mother of necessity”. Some of the most provocative and inspiring ideas in the history of education have been created by the creators of the computer science field.

Prof. V Rajaraman, the renowned Indian author of many programming languages text books, in his article on “Computer Science Education in India” [1], highlights the goals of an education program in Computer Science, with the following statements:

  • To fulfil the manpower needs in the field of Computer Science to ensure the Country’s economic advancement.
  • To popularize the use of Computers in engineering design for applications like, design of Civil Structures, Electrical Machines and Chemical Plants. This will accelerate the development of the design process and end up in improved productivity.
  • To become self-reliant in Software Development, which demands intellectual labour and India is abundant in this factor.
  • To create the manpower for Designing, Manufacturing and Maintaining Computer Systems.
  • To facilitate the use of Computers in Research & Development in India.
  • To develop special continuing Education Programs for Managers, Engineers, Scientists, Administrators and General Public to learn the potentials of Computers and facilitate them to use the same as they had had their formal education in the pre-computer era.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing
  • Computer Networks – Performance modelling
  • Computer Graphics, Computer Vision and Image Understanding
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Systems
  • Intelligent Systems
  • Medical Imaging, Digital image processing, Medical Informatics and Multimedia Databases
  • Assistive learning for the physically challenged
  • Cryptography and information security
  • Technology for VLSI CAD
  • Software Engineering
  • M.Sc. Computer Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • B.Tech. Computer Science and B.Sc. (H) Computer Science through its constituent colleges.

He has provided indicative syllabi for many of these courses and concludes this article mentioning the potential of the Computer Science field be utilized in the rapid industrial development of the country and for achieving our social goals.

This article discusses the applications of Computers, the impact of Computers in the field of Education and how the penetration of computers into institutions happened in the chronological order.

Computer’s entry into India

India bought its first computer in 1956 for a high sum of Rs. 10 lakh. Named HEC-2M, it was installed at Calcutta’s Indian Statistical Institute, where India’s weather forecasting model, based on statistical analysis of meteorological data, was developed. The same machine was used to design the next generation of computers, including India's first indigenous computer, the ‘TIFRAC’ (or Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Automatic Computer), in 1962.

By world standards, India is behind many countries in the field of Education. Central and state governments make consistent efforts to raise the literacy rate. The main obstacles are the huge population and lack of good teachers to reach out to this population. Computing technology comes handy to solve these kinds of problems.

Need: The Scientific Information Explosion

We are experiencing a scientific information explosion, which has not been sensed in the other disciplines. Today, scientists and engineers use computers to access the rapidly growing data bases that store numbers, words, maps, chemical and physical structures and they search them millions of times a year. The base of scientific knowledge today is huge. It is estimated that it would take 22 centuries to read the annual biomedical research literature or seven centuries to read a year’s chemical literature [2].

An unmanned Soviet satellite, Sputnik was launched on October 4th 1957 in the orbit around the Earth, which provided scientists with valuable information. The propagation of its radio signals gave information about the ionosphere and the density of the upper atmosphere. More such information stirred national interest in educational reform and thus began the “golden age” of education. Major national efforts were made to reform education.

Fresh modes of communications such as radio, film, television and computers created an information-rich society. Schools were no longer the only center of information, but had to compete for student attention. Additionally, the new emerging educational technologies were to become an important catalyst for rethinking education. The rethinking started some time in 1960s though the inventions in Computers and Computing had started in 1940s.

Computers in Education

At Dartmouth, USA, in 1963, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz transformed the role of computers in education from primarily a research activity to an academic one. In the same year, at Stanford, Patrick Suppes and Richard Atkinson established a program of research and development on computer–assisted instruction in mathematics and reading. They sought to create a new system to free the students from group–paced instruction and use individualized, instructional strategies with feedback. These programs facilitate students to take an active role in the learning process and Mastery was obtained through drill–and–practice.

Computer–aided Education this way proceeded to the MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University and other well-known institutions. The penetration of computers into Education as an aid has been facilitated by many reputed Indian institutions which are discussed below.

Role of the IITs:

The Indian Institutes of Technology at various locations in the country have been the pioneer to bring in Computer Science in to the formal education stream in India. They offer both graduate and post graduate courses in Computer Science & Engineering, and facilitate active research through MS, PhD and Post-Doctoral programs. Following are the specifics of each of the institutes.
1.   Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur
This was the first Institute in the country to start Computer Science education in August 1963 on an IBM 1620 system. The department continues to lead the nation in terms of excellence in research and teaching in Computer Science and Engineering.
2.   IIT Bombay
The first computing activity in IIT Bombay started with the arrival of the Minsk II computer in 1967, which had 2nd generation discrete transistor based circuitry, paper tape input-output, and off-line printers. Prof. J.R. Isaac spearheaded the initial efforts in setting up the Computer Center. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering was officially formed in 1982. Active research areas of the department are:
3.   IISC Bangalore
The Department of Computer Science and Automation (CSA) is a pioneering academic centre for higher education, research, and innovation in computer science, which was created in 1969 and was initially called the School of Automation. The department states its vision as “To enable India’s excellence in the world of computer science and automation”. The “Supercomputer Education and Research Centre (SERC)” functioning at IISc conducts research in the following domains:
4.   Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Madras

The Department was started in 1973 with the acquisition of an IBM 370 Mainframe Computer, the then most powerful computer in India. It offered M.Tech, M.S and PhD degree programmes and started the B.Tech degree programme in the year 1983. The student strength of the department has now grown to about 400, with 50 full-time engineers working on R&D projects. Vision of the department is stated as “Global Excellence and Local Relevance in research, teaching, and technology development”.
5.   IIT Delhi
The department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi started Computer Technology as a course in 1976, which was even before the establishment of Computer Science & Engineering department. Courses offered were PhD, M.S. (Research) and M.Tech. The later established department of Computer Science and Engineering is now renowned for cutting edge research and for imparting state of the art education to the students of B.Tech, M.Tech, M.S.(Research) and PhD.
6.   IIT Kharagpur
The Department of Computer Science & Engineering was initiated in the year 1980 and it has played a pivotal role in developing and deploying the technology for one of the largest telemedicine networks in India. Apart from the graduate and post graduate programs, the Department has been engaged with considerable research work in
Pune University

The Department of Computer Science of Pune University is one of the earliest CS Departments started in Indian Universities. When computer science was little known and the word IT did not exist, the department started a one–year programme [B.Sc. (Applied) degree in Computer Science] in 1980. Other programs include, M.C.A. in 1983, the M.Tech. in 1985 and M.Sc. Computer Science in 1986.

University of Delhi

In the year 1981, University of Delhi with an objective of imparting quality education in the field of Computer Science, established its department of Computer Science. The Department started the three year MCA program in 1982, which was one of the first in India. Following are the other courses offered by the department:
University of Mysore

In the year 1986, the University of Mysore with the support of DRDO, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, started the department with a Post Graduate programme in Computer Science (M.Sc.) mainly to cater to the demands of good software engineering in DRDO labs all over the country. The Department of Studies in Computer Science was formed in the year 1991 and subsequently, MCA was started in 1992.

Bangalore University

The Department of Computer Science & Applications was established in the year 1986. It started with a P.G Diploma in Computer Science followed by MCA program in 1989 and M.Sc Course in 2006.

Computer Science in School Education

CBSE, the Central Board of Secondary Education, India, has included Computer Science in its Curriculum 2005, for students of XI and XII standards. Earlier in March 2004, the board’s proposal for “Work Education in Schools” included “Computer Applications” as an elective for class VI–XII[3]. Many state governments[5] have also incorporated similar changes in their secondary and higher secondary curriculum for the inclusion of many flavours of this subject like, Computer Science, Informatics Practices and Multimedia and Web Technology.

The Department of School Education & Literacy under the ministry of HRD, Government of India has framed “The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Schools” Scheme in December, 2004 to provide opportunities to secondary school students. This is to mainly build the necessary ICT skills in students and make them learn through computer aided learning process.  The Scheme provides support to States/Union Territories to establish computer labs on sustainable basis.  It also aims to set up smart schools in KendriyaVidyalayas and NavodayaVidyalayas.


Computer Society of India is the first and largest body of computer professionals in India. A group of computer professionals started it on 6th March 1965 and has now grown to be the national body representing computer professionals. Across India, it has 71 chapters, 418 student branches, and more than 90,000 members.

Summary & Conclusion

The information and data provided in this write–up though not exhaustive, is expected to serve the reader as a ready reckoner into the topic of “permeation of Computers in to Education in the Indian Scenario”. It starts with the very basic history of invention of computers, describes their importance to and applications in human life, and discusses how various educational institutions explored the opportunities to include into their curriculum and operations. It has also examines in short the impact of Computers in school education and described one popular professional organization, CSI and its activities.

1.      The Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers, “Computer Education in India, Past, Present and Future”, Edited by Dr. Utpal K. Banerjee, Concept Publishing Company, 1996.
2.      Bernier, C. L., “Reading Overload and Cogency”, Information Processing and Management, 14, (1978), pp. 445-452.
3.      Work Education in Schools, published by CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), March 2004.
4.      Websites of CBSE, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Bombay and IISC, Bangalore.
5.      Official Website of School Education, Govt. Of Uttarakhand.
6.      “Computers in Education: A Brief History”, THE Journal, Date: 06/01/1997.
7.      Makarand Bhonsle, “Computer Technology in India”, web resource accessed on 30th March 2014: Technology in India.pdf.


Anonymous said...

The chronological order is maintained.Included all the major stepping stones in the history of Computer education india

Siji said...

The chronological order is maintained.Included all the major stepping stones in the history of Computer education india

Roopashree H.R said...

1.All references are not cited.
2.Good Information about History of Computer science education in India you could have add Impact and history with respect to Karnataka state also.

Balaji said...

To both the reviewers:
Thanks for the comments.
Roopashree H.R : I have added 2 more citations. But, reference no.4 cannot be cited as it is a general reference to more than one website.

Sreeja said...

1.The write up gives an overview of how computer became an integral part of education.

2.While talking about “Computer Science Education in India” text books by Prof. V Rajaraman are ineluctable as his books gives history about how computer evolved as a discipline and its impacts in India and its nicely mentioned in this write up.

3.How computer is utilized in other fields such as astronomy also mentioned in this write up which is one of the major applications of computer science.

4.Core concepts are mentioned.

dolly jose said...

- Good comprehensive work. Good effort has taken to collect all the available information.
-The first part of the paper has given more space for education goals. While searching historical roots of higher education, it is better to keep the goals of higher education in short.
-In-text citations are good to add.