Towards an ICT-Literate Bangladesh

Current status of IT education in Bangladesh

Formal education in computers was first started in 1984 with the foundation of Computer Science and Engineering Department in Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. ICT education thereafter gradually extended to the bachelor’s degree, higher secondary and secondary school levels. In Bangladesh, there are about 83,796 primary level institutions, 5,694 and 15,748 junior and secondary level institutions respectively, 2,339 higher secondary and degree colleges and more than 1,000 ICT training centers.

At this time Bangladesh has more than 10 public and 54 private universities, 4 BITs and some (almost 50) national university-affiliated postgraduate institutes and colleges, which are offering courses related to computer science and information technology. Some other institutions have also initiated research programmes in IT-related fields. These include machine learning, pattern recognition, speech recognition, automatic translation, computational algorithm, VLSI and 3- D vision. Consi-derable research work has been done in the use of Bengali in computers.

The government formulated a National Education policy in the cabinet, which was endorsed by Parliament. In this Policy, introduction of ICT education at the primary and junior secondary level has not been included in the implementation period of 2010. A majority of schools in the country cannot afford to buy computers for their students. Though a small number of city-based schools

150 million people, literacy rate of 62.5 percent, and the challenge is how to become a learning society! ICT revolution imposes particular challenges on education systems in Bangladesh. These challenges reduce to three broad areas. The first has to do with participation in the information society, the second considers how ICT impacts on access, cost effectiveness and quality of education, while the third is to do with the way that ICT changes the education process. However, ICT is contributing to ever-increasing inequalities in Bangladesh through the so-called “digital divide” that splits the Bangladesh between those who are “ICT-literate” and the majority who are not. This article suggests a way of increasing ICT literate people. It also gives an outcome of a research on the means of providing ICT access to a large number of people at the grass root level in Bangladesh every year. The operational structures of the ICT education in school level are outlined.

have very limited computer laboratory facilities, yet they fail to make their students familiar with Internet, e-mail and related technology because of the lack of nationwide telecommunication infrastructure and Internet facilities. In addition, the teachers at the school levels lack the minimum level of training on IT. Secondary and higher secondary Education Board incorporated IT education in to curriculum.

Some IT Institutions (such as APTECH Ltd, BJIT, ECIT, DIIT, Genetic School of Computing, IBCS Primax, IBM ACE, IIT Bd Ltd, Infinity IT, NIIT) offer the IT diploma courses to all level students in some category of IT.

Government has reduced the usage charge of Internet services for both dial-up and leased line to encourage the people to use more Internet. Government is also encouraging private ISP’s, universities and educational and research institutions, software exporters and corporate offices to lease Internet access at a very reasonable price. Bangladesh has signed the consortium of SEAME- WE-4 to lay the submarine cable in order to have connectivity with the Information Super Highway. The price of ICT equipments has been falling sharply due to ICT-friendly taxation measures taken by the government with a view to play positive impact for enhancing ICT capabilities of the country. Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has been formed to take appropriate measure, which will help to create conducive atmosphere for ICT investment and contribute to narrow the digital divide. Government is committed to provide ICT education and training to its people and ensure affordable access to computers and the Internet facilities.

In order to facilitate the computer education in the Secondary and Higher Secondary level, the Government has undertaken a programme to provide computers and other accessories to about 15000 (Fifteen thousand) institutions of rural areas in its first phase. Other institutions will be brought under this programme in the subsequent phase.

Necessity of IT education in school level

Students should learn the basic concepts of IT, identify further study paths based on individual ability, gain knowledge on related employment opportunities, discover the importance of IT in national development and become aware of the technologies’ social, ethical and safety issues. Poverty will be reduced through a “social venture capital fund” for social and rural development. The school level students make a large part of the country’s total population. Students from the local communities who generally learn computer skills rapidly could be trained to serve as information intermediaries for the older generation.

The drop out rate of our country is very high at the school level which is understood from the following table:

If we fail to include the basic IT education in school level, we will miss to face the ICT challenge, which is playing worldwide. By using the Internet the students can be practiced the foreign language as a communicative vehicle. They will be getting a good use of multimedia. There will be spreading and exchanging knowledge and culture. With the introduction of BTTB’s mobile telephone along with private operators, rural telecommunication infrastructure will also be developed and the rural people will be able to get the facilities of ICT. Government is playing very positive role to expand Internet services throughout the country. What we need now is a large workforce or human resource who are familiar with computers and aware of the necessity of IT in our life. The compulsory IT education in school can play the major role in taking ICTs to the doorsteps of the general community.

Suggested steps

Application of computers in industry, business, communication, and education and in every other sphere of life demands the extensive introduction of computer education at grass root level. The Integration of IT education or computer education with the formal curriculum in school education can play a major role in meeting this requirement.

The strategic plans or steps to be taken for extending IT education in school level May be as follows:

Curriculum development
Currently the students of primary, junior secondary and secondary schools can know a very little about computer through their existing syllabus. So a sustainable and enhanced IT literacy should be incorporated with our general education through designing a new curriculum for school level. Recently the government has formulated a national policy to introduce ICT education at the primary and junior secondary level, which should be included in the implementation period. Computer science was introduced as an optional subject for secondary level students from the beginning of 1994, and about 150 schools were permitted to start up the subject. Many more schools have shown interest, and the quantitative expansion of ICT education at the secondary level is phenomenal.

Trainer development
A national college for IT education can be established for teachers training. Or the teacher training college should incorporate compulsory computer literacy in their curriculum that they currently provide. Some IT education resource centres may be set up to facilitate  teacher training. Innovative means of training like mobile laboratories may be provided.

Evaluation system
To get the best quality of proposed education system there  should be an authorised evaluation team who will try to find the best  way to make IT education easier and interesting to the children. They  may incorporate some extra curricular activities related to ICT. A group of IT professional will work in  this team. Bangladesh seeks to build an ICTdriven nation comprised of a knowledge- ased society. To meet this overall vision, the nation must  develop a country-wide ICT infrastructure to give all Bangladeshis  access to information. This will empower citizens, enhance democratic values and promote sustainable   conomic development. By the   implementation of the above steps discussed, the school level students can understand the cultural similarities and differences from their point of view; they can interact to the other students from other schools. The parents and local communities who are not ICT literate can share the knowledge through their children’s  experience. Technological development will give the  competencies as critical thinking, decision- making, handling of dynamic situations, working as a team member, communicating effectively to the children. 

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