September 02, 2010

Guest Post: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in South Asian Education

This is a guest post by Alexis Bonari.

The World Bank’s infoDev program has conducted a 2010 Survey of ICT for Education in India and South Asia, exploring the ways in which technology is used in both formal and informal education. Based on survey results, infoDev has isolated several themes of ICT for Education (ICT4E) that will continue to play a strong role in the development of ICT4E programs in South Asia. While educational programs tend to be thought of as addressing students, ICT in the training of teachers is an important concept, especially within the area of building capacity through basic computer literacy. If teachers don’t understand technology and how to use it, they can’t teach students about it, so future ICT4E initiatives should include this aspect of teacher training. Another essential ICT4E theme observed by infoDev was that of public-private partnerships aimed at providing and sustaining ICT infrastructures in schools. Perhaps the most important components of ICT4E are Distance Education (DE) and open universities, which allow students challenged by geographic or financial barriers to access the education they need.

ICT4E in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has made great strides in the area of mobile phone use and accessibility, with coverage reaching over 90% of the population, but ICT in education remains an area of focus that demands more progress. A significant challenge for any ICT4E initiative would be the high cost of Internet access, which cripples Internet use for a majority of the population in Bangladesh. There is also a significant disparity across gender literacy, with males at 54% and females at 32%, which would present some difficulty in educating students and teachers on how to use ICT. However, among the younger population, there are more literate females than males, so if there has ever been a time to equalize gender literacy for ease of education, it is quickly approaching. Bangladesh has had some success with ICT in non-formal education, with programs dedicated to the spread of libraries and village computing and Internet centers. Within the realm of formal education, Bangladesh is focusing on teaching ICT courses in higher education to promote the industry, but using ICT to guarantee an education to all students is an idea that merits more attention. Because Bangladesh does not currently have an ICT in education policy, that is the first step to be taken toward incorporating ICT into the nature of teaching and learning.

Important Components of ICT in South Asian Education

In countries like India and Sri Lanka, ICT in education has taken the form of traditional media such as television and radio. Stations provide 24-hour educational material to viewers and listeners, taking advantage of existing technology to promote teaching and learning. Innovations like the Simputer and corDECT have also been instrumental in the ICT4E development of these countries. The Simputer addresses the educational and communication needs of the illiterate by including functions that read handwritten text and provide audio translations, among other capabilities. corDECT is a wireless local loop that provides Internet access within a 10-km radius, which can be easily expanded to a 25-km radius. By taking advantage of these technologies in distance teaching and learning, South Asian countries have made significant progress toward using ICT in education.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching accredited online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Photo: Public Domain


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