Rethinking the Asian ICT and Education Agenda | digitalLEARNING Magazine
March 2007

Rethinking the Asian ICT and Education Agenda

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One Objective- ICT and Education- Opportunities for Digital Asia Several approaches- online and offline discussions, paper presentations, plenary, round tables, interviews, and many more

a study on the Asian minds on education technology, a reference note towards policy level preparations, and an approach for the development of the education community.

The journey starts: The Minister of Water, Energy and Communications, Malaysia accompanied by others to join the conference
Digital Learning Asia 2007, which was a part of the three days umbrella event eAsia 2007, was the culmination of five months of planning and collaborating among CSDMS, Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications, Malaysia (KTAK) telecentre.org, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and key partners like, Microsoft, Nokia, SEAMEO, National University of Singapore, Universiti Technologi Mara, University of Uttara Malaysia, and several others to bring together the key stakeholders from Asia and beyond. The Digital Learning Asia planned as a consultative forum for discussion and collaboration was designed to engage the participants representing organisations involved in or interested in ICT and education activities in and around Asia.
Digital Learning Asia 2007 is the third in the series of such consultative forums organised by CSDMS in Asia. While for some participants this was the first time, they met the Digital Learning community at large, for many, it was a place to meet old friends, make new acquaintances and forge news partnerships. The three days of the forum saw participants engage in several planned and adhoc discussions on the way forward for the ICT and education community in Asia.

Breakthrough!

Cognitive gaps among different stakeholders in ICT in education continue to be an area that needs attention. The call is for strengthening of cooperation and linkages between educational institutions and organisations across the globe.

Governments need to form smart partnerships with vendors and non-profit organisations to help bridge the digital gap between students from urban and rural schools.

Dedicated classroom technology has to be promoted rather than moving from one classroom to the other as practiced in several countries.

Leadership within the schools has to be emphasized.  Recognising, training and supporting teachers who are champions within the schools system will be a boost to promote digital learning.

The first day also saw the launch of the ITU-Universiti Uttara Malaysia partnership on Asia-Pacific Centre for Excellence for Rural ICT Development. The Minister along with Dato’ Dr Nordin Kardi, Vice Chancellor, Universiti Uttara Malaysia inaugurated the launch.The inaugural day saw a key session by the Government of Malaysia on Malaysian ICT vision that included key experts from KTAK, and Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

Breakthrough!

Continuous professional development of teachers is very important to ensure that they are being updated with new ICT tools and innovative teaching methodologies. There is richness of content available for schools to purchase and use, and governments should seriously consider whether there is any need to do in-house development of materials for schools. There is a need to reveal and revise the mode of assessment, and set mechanisms within the evaluation system that are representative of the changed environment.

The Global Knowledge Partnership had put together a plenary session drawing expertise from Microsoft, Ministry of Communication, Government of India, Omar Dengo Foundation, Costa Rica, EPFL, Switzerland, Foundation ChasquiNet, Ecuador, Community Informatics Research, Network, Training and Development, Canada and Friday Solutions, India. The session hosted by Walter Fust was framed around experiences of multi-stakeholder partnerships and addressing three key questions of poverty reduction, scaling models and government policy involving multi-stakeholder partnerships.
As a part of the overall eAsia themes, the Digital Learning Asia 2007 conference took prominence due to the importance of ICT-enabled learning in an increasingly knowledge driven global economy.  In the next two days of the conference, the participants tried to learn about experiences that have enabled change conducive to the new environment of knowledge society as the instruments to bridge the knowledge and education divide. The purpose of this conference was to identify new ICT and education related questions, roadblocks, progress, and debatable issues, and to provide new impetus to the digital learning discussions. The second day began with the plenary session titled ‘ICT in Education: Opportunities for Digital Asia’. The forum participants learnt about national level ecosystem of ICT-enabled education. Understanding the fact that the developing countries are facing today the challenge of preparing their societies and governments for globalisation and the information and communication revolution, this plenary session showcased some emerging application areas and the new potentials of ICTs that can bring in dramatic changes in There emerged a number of methods of re-skilling educators to adopt roles of an administrator, facilitator, technical support and evaluator, to build buy-in and ownership qualities among educators and motivate them to spearhead the ICT-based education process. Many models and practices of teachers’ training and capacity building industrial requirements, challenges of inter-ministerial collaboration, and private sector participation.
With the scope of varied digital opportunities available or can be made available in learning, the hunt for the best of technologies and best of practices intensified in the following session ICT in education: Theory and Practice that resulted in a number of shared experiences on what exists, the availabilities, preparedness, various practices and the shortfalls on the front of ICTs and education influencing the education system of many countries. MyGfL (Malaysian Grid for Learning), a national e-Learning initiative by National IT Council (NITC) and undertaken by MIMOS Berhad to promote and support the lifelong learning agenda in Malaysia reflected some very useful pilot observations and outcomes.

Dr Norrizan Razali, Senior Manager, Smart School Department, Multimedia Development Corporation Sdn Bhd (MDeC) spoke on optimising digital content in classrooms by demonstrating the Malaysian Smart School experience. The challenges with digital content this flagship project of Ministry of Education experiences can be a lesson for others. Pedagogical aspect in digital content encourages teachers to adopt only. Teachers and students find cosmetic aspect attractive; and although cosmetic aspect is attractive, teachers are not compelled to use the digital content. Other challenges include the curriculum-based and exam driven content, and some technical challenges.

Dr Ashish Garg, Programme Coordinator, India, Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI) founded by the UN ICT Task Force, pointed out that adhoc policies that never have explicit connection with the national goals and visions often hamper the ICT in education process. She emphasised that  all the best education practices with ICTs can work wonders only if supported by purposeful end-to-end policy.

Zainab Hussain Siddiqui, Sr. Asst. Director (Programmes), COMSATS Headquarters in Pakistan discussed on status of e-learning in Pakistan by citing a case-study: Alliance Fran

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